Ryan HaygoodPresident and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice Newark, NJ Award Year: 2020
Ryan Haygood, a nationally respected civil rights lawyer, is President and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, a team of racial justice advocates who seek to build reparative systems that create wealth, justice, and power for people of color. The Institute’s powerful advocacy in New Jersey recently helped raise the minimum wage, end prison-based gerrymandering, restore the right to vote to 83,000 people with convictions and create online voter registration, which more than 200,000 people in New Jersey have used to register in the last month. Ryan previously served as the deputy director of litigation for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF), where he litigated some of the most important civil rights cases of our time, including defending a core provision of the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. Ryan also led a successful challenge to Texas’s racially discriminatory photo ID law, under which a voter could present a concealed-handgun license as a form of identification to vote at the polls but not a student ID. A federal district court found the law was intentionally racially discriminatory and was an unconstitutional poll tax. Ryan received his JD from the University of Colorado School of Law and B.A. in American History and Political Science cum laude from Colorado College, where he was nominated for the Rhodes scholarship. He and his wife mentor young people through Newark’s C.H.O.S.E.N., a group that seeks to prepare young people for purpose-driven living by developing and supporting spiritual growth, character, educational excellence, leadership, advocacy, and community service.
With a rightly focus on urgently reimagining policing and what Black communities need to feel protected and safe, Ryan is using his award to ensure that his organization can do more advocacy than they would be able to do otherwise and to keep an eye on the larger picture — on the pressure that has built up from the widespread cracks of structural racism. The Institute’s ultimate goals are to ensure equity and opportunity in the state’s economic life, franchise and to transform the criminal justice system.
Ryan spoke with Verizon Community Partnerships Initiative on the Institute’s important mission, programs, and significant impact serving the New Jersey community. He also published an Op-Ed for Nj.com “Say ‘the word’ this Juneteenth,” and co-led a Juneteenth rally in New Jersey with multiple elected officials (footage: part 1 and part 2).