Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services typically hosts Equal Justice University in September each year. This year, however, we decided to move it to October – for the life of me, I cannot recall why. In our staff meeting yesterday I said, “I prefer September for EJU.” After Lisa Primm said she “loves October,” I re-considered my statement. “Nah, I still like September,” I thought. Then, I walked into my office and looked out the window. I remember the unexpected visual delight as I drove to Paris Landing State Park. The leaves were beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and brown. Indeed, fall is my favorite time of the year.
The completion of EJU is also my favorite time of year. Well, not like that! I enjoy hearing the comments written on evaluation forms and laughing with co-workers about the multiple comments we received about the temperature. Aside from evaluations, I also have an opportunity to review the award nominations and reminisce about the awards dinner. My first thought – Was she a beauty queen?
Shayla Purifoy received the Advocate of the Year Award. I chuckled when I thought about taking her photo. She posed with such great confidence and an air of ‘beauty queen.’ And, she is a beauty both inside and out. Her compassion for women and children resonates from the work she does at Memphis Area Legal Services as well as her commitment to raising awareness about domestic violence.
In her nomination of Purifoy, Sonja White, managing attorney of the Family Law and Domestic Violence Unit at MALS, wrote: “[Attorney Purifoy] joined the Memphis Area Legal Services in 2008 as an entry level staff attorney in their Family Law Unit. Her area of concentration is representing victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking in contested orders of protection hearings. During her three years of service, she has demonstrated a strong dedication and passion for protecting the legal rights of domestic violence victims. In the past year, she has experienced a case success rate of 80% and has provided service to approximately 549 women and children.”
Purifoy is an active member of the Memphis Area Women Council, which also endorsed her for the Advocate of the Year Award. Her volunteer efforts include participation in the annual October Domestic Violence Awareness Month rallies organized by the Council and the Erase Domestic Crime Collaborative. She also supports the annual Walk a Mile in her Shoes event hosted by the Memphis Area Women’s Council and Memphis Men for Memphis Women that affords her an opportunity to recruit men to walk, collects high heels for men to wear (humm), solicits donations and participate as ‘walker.’
During her award acceptance speech, she was transparent about the work she does and her outward expression of sincerity nearly brought me to tears. As a domestic violence survivor myself, I tuned in carefully to her thoughtful words. She has discovered something, I think. She has uncovered how to combine her compassion for service with an apparent passion for seeing justice. This work means something to her.
Cheers! Congratulations, Shayla Purifoy! The women and children finding themselves in your service are certainly in good caring hands.
Coming soon to Peanut Butter and Justice: A snapshot of our B. Riney Green Awardees, Russ Overby and Beth Stricklin Bates