Adam Segal, A&S ’03 (MA)
Adecade ago, Adam Segal heard a moving speech by the leader of the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA). The speaker, who was in the midst of an ultimately unsuccessful bid for a congressional seat, told of thousands of black farmers discriminated against by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s local farm bureaus, which were responsible for processing federal grants and loans. (A large class action lawsuit was settled in 1999, but many farmers weren’t included and didn’t receive compensation.) It was just the kind of injustice that spurs Segal to act.
“I’ve always been interested in the role government and the legal system can play in social justice for minorities,” says Segal, who runs a boutique public relations firm, teaches in the Johns Hopkins communication program, and heads a research project in the Krieger School studying how candidates and political parties reach out to Hispanic voters. Over the past 10 years, Segal has dedicated more than 1,000 pro bono hours to the NBFA as a communications consultant. He helps the group by developing message strategy; crafting press releases, speeches, and congressional testimony; and contacting national media organizations. He’s gotten coverage for the farmers in most of the country’s major news outlets, including ABC News, CNN, and The New York Times.
Though President Barack Obama has indicated that he supports settling the outstanding cases, the way forward is frustratingly slow, and much work remains to be done. But Segal is undaunted. “There’s something unique about what you gain personally from doing pro bono work and being able to leave your mark,” he says.
Photo by Sam Kittner