BCCC Holds Fifth Annual MLK Celebration
Resuming its recent tradition, Beaufort County Community College held its Fifth Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Celebration on January 16. The event brought together elected officials and community members from churches, organizations, and educational institutions. In 2022, the college moved the celebration to June due to COVID-19 precautions, and the event was held online in 2021. Attorney Evan Lewis discussed the disparities in access to legal representation for civil issues which include veterans’ benefits, employment, wills and estates, immigration, housing and eviction, consumer protection, and family law. The Kingdom of Life Community Church Praise Team performed at the event and Renell’s Café and Catering provided the meal.
Evan Lewis runs a solo law practice in Washington that specializes in non-profit and small business creation and compliance, consumer protection, social security claims, and civil litigation, with much of his working being pro bono. He was formerly chief executive officer of Martin Community Action, Inc., an anti-poverty organization that provided Head Start, family self-sufficiency, and weatherization assistance in Martin, Pitt, Beaufort, and surrounding counties. Lewis was the managing attorney of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s New Bern and Greenville offices for 14 years. He was also LANC’s Community Economic Development Practice Group Manager, coordinating and supervising the work of its advocates with non-profits and other community groups throughout the state. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law.
Lewis is the board chair of the Inner Banks STEM Center, president of the Beaufort County United Way board, and secretary of the board of Disability Rights North Carolina. He is also a member of the executive committee of Churches Outreach Network, and a board member of Beaufort County 360, and Inner Banks Legal Services. He is co-convener of the Beaufort County Homelessness and Housing Task Force and a member of Washington Noon Rotary and the Washington Beaufort County Chamber of Commerce. He received the NC Bar Association’s 2020 Citizen Lawyer Award.
Lewis discussed how while legal representation is guaranteed in criminal cases, it is not in most civil cases, even though these cases can have significant impacts on someone’s safety, family, or economic situation. While organizations such as Legal Aid are available to provide legal support in these cases, they can only provide them to a fraction of the people who need these services. Especially in eviction hearings, defendants have minimal representation. Victims of domestic violence rely on civil hearings to obtain protection orders, even as they are coping with a traumatic situation. Civil hearings are often stressful as people navigate bureaucracies surrounding veterans’ benefits, immigration, and debt protection. Having a negative judgement in a civil case can make it difficult for people to access credit for buying a house or a car and impact their ability to rent, get a job, or connect their utilities. Even for middle class families, accessing legal services can be out of reach as they require a large amount of money upfront which may exceed a household’s monthly income.
The event was dedicated in memory of Cornell McGill, an outstanding member of the BCCC Board of Trustees from 1982 until his untimely death on October 13, 2022.
BCCC is committed to equity and inclusion, which is a foundational element of our institutional mission. As an open-enrollment, public, community college, Beaufort works each day to provide educational opportunities designed to enhance economic and social mobility for the residents of our diverse service region. Its faculty and staff continue to teach content and engage students in a manner that emphasizes the basic rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a complex, pluralistic society.