Iris Johnson-Bright makes her transition
Legal Community Activist Social Justice Advocate
Longtime legal community activist and social justice advocate Iris Johnson-Bright, Esq. made her transition the morning of July 26, 2009 in Los Angeles. She was 57.
There will be a memorial celebration of her life and legacy on August 22, at 1:00 p.m. at the Academy Cathedral located at 3141 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.
Iris Johnson-Bright. Esq. had been a legal activist for the disadvantaged and the oppressed in Los Angeles for more than 30 years. She practiced law according to noted civil rights lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston’s credo which states that “A lawyer’s either a social engineer or he’s a parasite on society.”… A social engineer [is] a highly skilled, perceptive, sensitive lawyer who [understands] the Constitution of the United States and [knows] how to explore its uses in the solving of “problems of … local communities” and in “bettering conditions of the underprivileged citizens.”
Johnson-Bright was one of those exceptionally highly skilled, perceptive and sensitive lawyers who attempted to solve the problems of her community through her legal advocacy, involvement in local causes and volunteer activities with several organizations including the South Central Multipurpose Senior Citizen’s Center, Advisory Council of the Los Angeles County Department of Community and Senior Services Area Agency on Aging, the Coalition Against Negative and Discriminatory Law Enforcement, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers, also known as NCBL. It was primarily through NCBL, that Johnson-Bright sought a larger audience for the problems of her community and she continually networked with other NCBL lawyers locally, nationally and internationally who shared her passion for improving the conditions of the disadvantaged.
Johnson-Bright began her legal career working for the Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles as a staff attorney. She moved on to the Greater Watts Justice Center where she honed her legal skills working on police brutality cases. Eventually, Johnson-Bright established her own practice as a solo practitioner specializing in the areas of civil rights litigation, criminal defense and entertainment law.
However, she never missed an opportunity to infuse her legal practice with a “power to the people” mentality. Johnson-Bright championed the “little person” and it did not matter the situation. She applied her social justice advocacy to a variety of divergent legal cases: successful lawsuits against Coca-Cola and other employers for employment discrimination, successful lawsuits against the police department for police brutality, entertainment negotiations that served the interest of the artists and not the record companies.
Johnson-Bright’s desire to teach and educate led to various teaching opportunities. She served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine Division of Geriatrics and Gerontology at the Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science. At the time of her transition, Johnson-Bright was an Adjunct Professor of Business Administration and Ethics at West Los Angeles Community College.
Born on January 8, 1952, in Montgomery, Alabama to Gene and Vera Johnson, Johnson-Bright moved with her family to California and was raised in Hayward. She graduated from Tennyson High School in Hayward, California in 1970, as class Valedictorian. She continued her education at UCLA and in 1974, received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology/Political Science with honors. She went on to also receive a Juris Doctorate and Masters in Business Administration from UCLA in a joint degree program in 1979.
Johnson-Bright was preceded in death by her father. She is survived by her mother, Vera Johnson; her sisters, Ouida Johnson, Lisa A. Johnson and Karyn Johnson-Dorsey; nieces, nephews and a host of family and friends.