My parents met when they came to DC while working at a place called “Friendship House”. It was an interracial social justice organization. They served the poor and homeless of DC. They, then, both pursued their careers. My mom, a chemist, went to the American Chemical Society and my dad, a lawyer, went first to the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department and then to the Washington Bureau of the NAACP to be their legal counsel in DC. I am the youngest of five children.
Clearly, social justice and civil rights are woven into my DNA, hence my interest in being a member of the DE&I committee. I’ve introduced you to my parents, but I was a child raised by a village: my birth family, my Friendship House family and my Civil Rights family. My parents’ friends from Friendship House all seemed to marry each other and move into the same area of NE, DC. Although not related by blood, they were all Aunts and Uncles and their children were my cousins. They are today still my closest and most cherished friends. Some of my civil rights family have ties to this very campus. “Uncles” Clarence and Parren both have buildings named after them: the Clarence M Mitchell, Jr. Building and Art/Soc named after Parren.
Uncle Clarence was the Director of the Washington Bureau of the NAACP. It was Uncle Clarence and my Dad that secured passage of several civil rights laws. Dad drafted the legislation and Uncle Clarence took it to the Hill to lobby it. They were a two-man operation in DC as Headquarters was in NYC. Dad and Clarence were small in number but mighty in power.
Thurgood Marshall was a good friend and sponsor for my dad to try cases in front of the Supreme Court.
Roy Wilkins was Executive Director of the NAACP. Although HQ was based in New York and Dad in DC, Roy knew all of his NAACP extended family. I was always impressed that he not only knew me and each of my siblings by name, but also our interests.
Roy Wilkins & Joe Raugh were co-chairs for the March on Washington. Many Sunday afternoons were spent in Joe’s back yard pool. Unbeknownst to me, as I was just a kid, I was surrounded by the most influential Civil Rights activists of the 60s & 70s.
Finally, my dad, J. Francis Pohlhaus was legal counsel for the Washington Bureau of the NAACP. Dad was quite the wordsmith and drafted the legislation for the 1957, 1960 and 1964 Civil Rights Acts, the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1968 Fair Housing Act. More can be read about them here at : https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/naacp/the-civil-rights-era.html
Needless to say, I am who I am because of the village I was raised in. My current family reflects that village. We are Black, White, Hispanic, Native American and Asian. We are Christian, Jewish and Baha’i. We speak English, Spanish, French, Flemish, and Farsi. We are straight and gay. We are able-bodied, disabled and neurodivergent.
Although I can only claim to be bilingual English/Spanish, I have also studied Italian, French, Arabic and American Sign Language. My next language to study will be Korean.
I have an affinity for foreign students as I was one myself at both the University of Navarra and the University of Salamanca in Spain. I know how isolating it can be when your language skills are not perfect. Know that my door is always open if you need to come in and chat. If you’re struggling with the language, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to help.