WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – For nearly a decade, Kansas native Lauren Bonds has used her profession as an attorney to fight for social justice especially in her current role as the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas.
When she steps into a courtroom, her goal is to give her clients a voice.
“It’s really about making sure that we’re advancing the cause and even if that doesn’t always look like a win in a court case,” Bonds said. “But even just being able to provide a vehicle for them to tell their story to the court, tell their story to the public, at least push us along in what the law recognizes is wrong and right, is success for me.”
Her passion to pursue a career in social justice started at a young age.
“Hutchinson was a great place to grow up,” she said. “It’s a really great community in so many ways.”
But the same town that raised her exposed her to racial inequalities.
“I think that there were a lot of disparities I experienced within the educational system and witnessed with law enforcement through my friends who were, you know, Latinx or Black,” Bonds said.
The experiences always stayed with her.
“I felt a responsibility to do something about some of the injustices I saw,” she said.
Bonds decided to become an attorney to advocate for change through the legal system, a profession she says has few Blacks and people of color. Her presence alone in the courtroom adds another layer to the fight for civil rights.
“You can provide a unique perspective and potentially see legal issues in ways you might not be able to if you benefit from white privilege or other types of privilege,” she said.
The cases and clients she represents feel familiar to Bonds. She describes many as similar to the things she experienced and witnessed growing up.
One current case involves a Kansas college accused of instituting a plan to reduce the number of Black student athletes by expelling them for alleged minor infractions.
“I think these things that people like to say don’t happen anymore or don’t like to talk about are very real unfortunately,” Bonds said.
She believes the recent unrest and protests for Black Lives Matter are helping to magnify the cries of those who have been working for equality for a very long time. Now that the world is listening, she hopes the heightened fight for social justice won’t end with 2020.
“You have to put in work in the in-betweens for us to have any kind of change or impact at these flashpoint moments when there’s something that wakes everyone else up,” Bonds said.
Since this is an election year, she hopes people will turn out and vote their values as another way to advocate for change.