2022 Symposium: Free the Land—Land Tenure and Stewardship Reimagined

Friday, January 28, 2022
9:00 AM – 12:00 PM ET

The NYU Environmental Law Journal (“ELJ”) and the NYU Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law present “Free the Land: Land Tenure and Stewardship Reimagined.”

The expression “free the land” is derived from Black social movements of the 1960s, whose leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer and Frantz Fanon saw land and liberation as one in the same. By freeing the land — tending land through common property arrangements — they hoped to secure the bread and dignity that their communities needed to thrive.

As evinced by settler colonialism, chattel slavery, exclusionary zoning and redlining, and environmental racism, land has long been an instrument of degradation. Yet land has also figured heavily in freedom dreams, whether it is “40 acres and a mule,” “land back” or the call to “free the land.” This tension is the point of departure for ELJ’s symposium.

“Free the Land” will examine environmental and socioeconomic inequities, critique the legal structures that foment these inequities, and amplify new, bold approaches to land tenure and stewardship with the potential to reverse them.

Join us for a conversation that explores land and liberation, the many connections between land and racial justice; land decommodification, opportunities to remove land from the private market and foster permanent affordability and shared use; and land rematriation, Indigenous land return and restoration initiatives that work to initiate the decolonization process.

“Free the Land” is funded in part by an NYU Office of Global Inclusion Faculty Innovation and Anti-Racism Microgrant.


Session I: Keynote – Land Theft and the African Diaspora

  • Keynote Speaker: Bernadette Atuahene, Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • Moderator: Margot Pollans, Pace University Elisabeth Haub School of Law

Session II: Panel – Practitioner Perspectives on Land, Law, and Social Justice

  • Akilah Browne, New York City Community Land Initiative
  • Mychal Johnson, Mott Haven / Port Morris Community Land Stewards
  • Sateesh Nori, Legal Aid Society
  • Çaca Yvaire, Northeast Farmers of Color Land Trust
  • Leo Figueroa Helland, New School Tishman Environment and Design Center
  • Moderator: Maggie Blackhawk, New York University School of Law

Registration and CLE Credits

The symposium is free of charge and will be hosted on Zoom. To attend, please register here.

Attendees will receive two (2) CLE credits. This event is appropriate for both experienced and new attorneys, as well as practitioners across disciplines.

This event has been approved for two New York State CLE credits in the category of Areas of Professional Practice. The credit is both transitional and non-transitional; it is appropriate for both experienced and newly admitted attorneys.

NYU School of Law is an accredited provider of CLE in New York State. If you are seeking CLE credit for a different state, we recommend you consult with your state’s CLE Board to ascertain regulations on reciprocity.


Please contact Krystle Okafor (kno235@nyu.edu), ELJ special projects editor, with any questions on this event.