Michigan Law Research Scholar Receives 2019 Soros Equality Fellowship

Bernadette Atuahene, a senior research scholar at Michigan Law, is the recipient of a 2019 Soros Equality Fellowship from the Open Society Foundation. The prestigious fellowship provides $100,000 in funding for fellows to take on projects that advance racial justice and equality in the United States.

Atuahene, a professor of law at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Chicago-Kent College of Law, “will use her fellowship to build on her academic research by creating a comprehensive guide and user-friendly, interactive information hub that communities can use to fight back against racially discriminatory property tax administration.”

Atuahene is the recipient of a 2015 National Science Foundation grant for a project that focuses on ending predatory property tax administration in Detroit. She also is a research professor at the American Bar Foundation, where she uses empirical methods to study land dispossession. She has worked as a consultant for the World Bank and the South African Land Claims Commission, and she has directed and produced an award-winning short documentary film about one South African family’s struggle to regain their land. She has received a Fulbright Fellowship, the Council on Foreign Relation’s International Affairs Fellowship, and Princeton University’s Law and Public Affairs Fellowship. Her first book, “We Want What’s Ours: Learning from South Africa’s Land Restitution Program” (Oxford University Press, 2014), is based on 150 interviews she conducted with South Africans dispossessed of their land by colonial and apartheid governments and who received some form of compensation post-apartheid. Atuahene holds a BA from the University of California, Los Angeles; an MPA from Harvard University; and a JD from Yale Law School.

During law school, she worked as a legal consultant for the World Bank and as a human rights investigator for the Center for Economic and Social Rights, where she received Amnesty International's Patrick Stewart Human Rights Award for her work with human rights organizations throughout South America.

After law school, Atuahene was in South Africa as a Fulbright Scholar. She served as a judicial clerk at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, working for Justices Madala and Ngcobo. She then practiced as an associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton in New York, where she focused on sovereign debt and real estate transactions.

“Although the activism I have been doing in Detroit is equivalent to a full-time job, I do not get a reduction in my teaching or service obligations,” Atuahene said about the Soros Fellowship. “The fellowship is an extraordinary acknowledgment of all of the uncompensated heart work I have been doing to end racially discriminatory property tax administration in Detroit.”
 

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