Introducing Jessica Clingerman, the ERC’s New Intake Coordinator
Earlier this month, we welcomed Jessica Clingerman to the ERC into the newly created position of Intake Coordinator. In this role, Jessie will conduct intakes, advocate on behalf of individuals alleging discrimination, and use intake data to inform civil rights testing projects and investigations. She recently joined Outreach and Engagement Coordinator Nick Adjami (virtually, of course!) for a quick introductory conversation.
NA: Hi Jessie, and welcome to the ERC! We’re so excited to have you joining us. Can you tell our members a little about yourself?
JC: Good afternoon, Nick. My name is Jessica but I often go by Jessie or Jess. I grew up in Maryland and I graduated from Catholic University with my degree in German Studies and Catholic theology. My original plan was to teach German and theology in high schools. Obviously, I ended up going another direction. I’ve worked with a variety of organizations including the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, and the International Rescue Committee. I volunteered full-time in a medical clinic, and most recently conducted intakes at a law firm, so I have a diverse background.
What got you interested in civil rights?
When I was volunteering in a medical clinic in Portland, we hosted a bimonthly free legal clinic that was frequently booked. In most places in the U.S., there is a financial barrier to legal services. Sadly, the adversarial parties can take advantage of that, engaging in illegal activities because it’s too costly for the other party to obtain legal services. We as a society have made steps forward to ensure fair treatment for everyone. To see laws being disregarded due to socioeconomic status is, to say the least, frustrating. I want to work with others to continue implementing these protections. That includes raising awareness and advocating for people when they have rights that aren’t being honored. At the end of the day when individuals are sick at a clinic, facing homelessness, or hungry, it doesn’t matter who they are. They are a person that is entitled to and needs health and safety.
What will you be doing in your role at the ERC?
I’ll be stepping in to take over the intake and advocacy program currently being managed by Susie McClannahan. I’ll be communicating with individuals who have been impacted by potentially discriminatory practices and working with them to resolve the issue favorably and in accordance with the law. This will allow Susie to focus her attention on systemic advocacy and investigations to identify unfair housing practices.
In your role, how will you (and the ERC more broadly) help those who allege discrimination in housing?
Great question. When an individual contacts the ERC, they will be put in touch with me. I go over the details of the potentially discriminatory incident(s) with that person and analyze what options a person has. If it appears that the person is facing discrimination as defined by local and federal laws, there may be several different options available. For example, I could send a letter to the landlord, advocating on behalf of the individual and their fair housing rights. If it appears this is a larger issue, we may investigate the matter using civil rights testing. Or, if necessary, we may be able to assist someone with filing a complaint.
What do you hope to achieve in your first year with the ERC?
This year I would like to successfully manage the intake program so the organization can put more effort into systemic work. I have big shoes to fill from Susie, so I’d like to keep things moving smoothly. To me, that means providing insight and advocacy to those who contact us. For some years, the ERC’s intake program has been focused on housing discrimination, but the plan is to explore opening it up to complaints of discrimination in public accommodations and maybe even employment.
And finally, a topic of utmost importance at the ERC, which breakfast food reigns supreme in your opinion; pancakes, waffles, or french toast?
I’m glad you asked. I have strong feelings on the topic. Since I was a child, pancakes have been my favorite food. I have fond memories making them with my father and telling him that his were THE BEST pancakes, even though they were from a boxed mix. Things to love about pancakes: You can put fruit or chocolate in them; they can be thick or thin, they’re easy to make vegan; and they are very easy to make. Top them with coconut milk whipped cream and syrup, and I’m in heaven.
Thanks for sharing, Jessie, and for the pancake tips. I can’t wait to see what you achieve!
The ERC is a civil rights organization that identifies and seeks to eliminate unlawful and unfair discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in its home community of Greater Washington DC and nationwide. The ERC’s core strategy for identifying unlawful and unfair discrimination is civil rights testing. When the ERC identifies discrimination, it seeks to eliminate it through the use of testing data to educate the public and business community, support policy advocacy, conduct compliance testing and training, and, if necessary, take enforcement action. For more information, please visit www.equalrightscenter.org.