Derecka Purnell - Advancement Project - Advancement Project

Derecka Purnell

Skadden Fellow Staff Attorney

Derecka Purnell joined Advancement Project in 2017 as a Skadden Fellow Staff Attorney for the Justice Project supporting local and national movements that dismantle state violence, divest from punitive criminal measures, and invest in community control of safety.

Derecka’s previous work has supported educational and criminalization efforts, including: building school to college pipeline programs for youth of color in a city’s least resourced zip codes; conducting research that led to a local ban-the-box ordinance; revitalizing a state’s school funding formula to ensure more equitable and adequate funding system; waging a successful campaign against a ballot initiative that would have eliminated statewide affirmative action; and organizing with lawyers to build Law for Black Lives, a network 3,000 law students, lawyers, and legal works to support social movements.

In August 2014, Derecka was a part of the Ferguson Uprising. She was a legal observer or trainer in the later uprisings in St. Louis, Boston, and Baltimore, and helped organize legal strategy and clinics for police brutality victims. In 2015, she was invited to share experiences and tactics with protesters, academics, and journalists in The Netherlands and Belgium as an International Fellowship of Reconciliation “Beloved Communities” Fellow.
Derecka, a proud St. Louis native, has written for Boston Review, Huffington Post, Vox, and the New York Times. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she studied political science and Black Studies, and studied public policy and economics as a University of California Berkeley Public Policy and International Affairs Law Fellow. She is a Harvard Law School graduate.