February 3, 2022
Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month 2022, we are honored to have Jazz Hampton, a former Foley and Mansfield attorney and Director of Diversity and Inclusion, share with us his thoughts on the meaning of this month, diversity in the profession, and racial justice. After leaving the firm in 2020, Jazz has been featured in a number of articles for co-founding TurnSignl, a Minnesota-based tech company that provides real-time legal guidance from an attorney to drivers, all while their camera records the interaction. It's always great to see a Foley and Mansfield alumni succeed in their career.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is a time when I personally reflect on all of the great strides the Black community has accomplished in this country. It is a time to learn about the contributions made by heroic Black Americans, honor those people, and identify what we can do to move the needle forward.
Why did you start TurnSignl and how has TurnSignl moved the needle forward in racial justice?
Over the years, Minnesota evolved into an epicenter for social change, namely, after the deaths of Philando Castile and George Floyd. I participated in the peaceful protests and the vigils. I believe the people around me were aware of the need for social justice and change. So I began to ask myself, as a Black lawyer in Minnesota, what am I doing beyond creating awareness? What solutions am I putting forward to make a difference now? That is when I knew I needed to start TurnSignl, an app to help bridge the gap and address racial justice.
We have already seen TurnSignl being used as a tool to move the needle forward on racial justice. For example, we partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS). BCBS identified racism as a public health crisis and is dedicated to helping combat racism. BCBS of Minnesota is funding TurnSignl as part of a five-year engagement strategy with the city of Brooklyn Center with the aim of improving racial and health equity for its over 30,000 residents. This new pilot program will provide up to 3,000 residents of Brooklyn Center free access to the TurnSignl app.
What advice would you give your former colleagues at Foley and Mansfield on what they can do to move the needle forward in racial justice?
I think it is a simple three-step process for moving the needle.
Step 1) Identify a place where you can personally help based upon what you bring to the table (i.e. a law degree, connections to capital, or donating your time).
Step 2) Find an organization to work with and listen to the people doing the work. Ask them how they could utilize your skills to help them.
Step 3) Begin as soon as possible, you do not need to wait!
If you could have dinner with someone who was a pioneer for civil rights, who would it be and why? What would you ask him/her?
I would select U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. After an unbelievable career as a civil rights lawyer, and then being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1967, he was a true pioneer for civil rights. Just three years after segregation ended in this country. I would ask him about what motivated him, and the most challenging civil rights cases he argued before the Supreme Court. Since Justice Marshall passed away in 1993, after bringing him up to speed on where we are today, I would also ask him about what he would have done in response to some of the recent tragedies and events impacting the Black community.