Skip to main content Menu Menu

Duke Forum for Scholars and Publics

Login   |   Signup

Interpreting and Social Justice

with Brian J. Hoffman and Roberto Tijerina
February 9th, 2016
11:45 AM


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m.

Forum for Scholars and Publics (Old Chem 011)

Light lunch served.

FB event

Despite the omnipresence of translation and interpretation in today’s globalized world, we often forget that without the skilled work of translators and interpreters, many people would simply be left out. Interpreters and activists Brian J. Hoffman and Roberto Tijerina will share their experiences and explore some of the ways in which lack of access to interpretation services derails efforts toward social justice in the United States. Advocates for social justice hold that everyone deserves equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities, and believe that the least advantaged and members of marginalized communities require protections to guarantee fair legal access.

In this conversation Hoffman and Tijerina will bear witness to the struggles that speakers of minority languages who are also members of other minority groups (among them immigrants, children, detained populations, the disabled, ethnic and racial minorities, and LGBTQ+ persons) face on a daily basis. They will also talk about the ways activists are working to ensure strides toward social justice in this country.

After a brief introduction, each speaker will speak about 15 minutes and then we will invite students to respond and ask questions. Finally, we will open it up to the room for discussion.  

This event is organized by Joan Munné and Melissa Simmermeyer, Lecturers in the Department of Romance Studies, and has been made possible with the support of Forum for Scholars and Publics, the Mary D.B.T. and J.H. Semans International Exchange Fund, Story Lab at Duke, Romance Studies, and Duke Service-Learning.

For more information:


Brian J. Hoffman

CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project

Brian grew up on a farm in rural northeast Ohio and studied Spanish from kindergarten through high school, followed by four months at the University of Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid, Spain. He spent his junior year of college studying Japanese at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. Upon his return, Brian worked as a translator, interpreter and teacher of English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) for a northeast Ohio-based community organization focused on education and advocacy on behalf of Ohio’s rural Latino/a communities. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in East Asian studies from Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, and his law degree from the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. Brian served for a year in the administration of Ohio Governor Ted Strickland before forming his own translation, interpretation, and legal services firm in 2012.

In August 2014 Brian traveled to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, New Mexico, to lend assistance during the at that time unprecedented influx of Central American families and unaccompanied children arriving at the US-Mexico border. He then resigned his firm and moved to Dilley, Texas, to represent the immigrants detained in the South Texas Family Residential Center. Brian Hoffman is the former Lead Attorney for the CARA Family Detention Pro Bono Project, an organization committed to ensuring that detained children and their mothers receive competent, pro bono representation, and developing aggressive, effective advocacy and litigation strategies to end the practice of family detention.

Roberto Tijerina

Southerners on New Ground

Roberto Tijerina is a Southern-based queer Latino of immigrant parents whose work focuses on language justice —building analysis and practice around language as a tool of power, as well as strategies for dismantling language barriers and creating linguistically level playing fields in social justice movement spaces. He has worked for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund supporting diverse LGBTQ+ communities around civil rights issues, coordinated the Highlander Center’s Multilingual Capacity Building Program (where he developed an interpreter-training curriculum that is used across the US to train community interpreters), set up language access for the US Social Forum in Detroit in June 2010, and served as the Director of Finance and Administration for the Audre Lorde Project. He was on the board of directors of Southerners on New Ground for seven years and is currently their Deputy Director.

In addition to English and Spanish, Roberto worked as an American Sign Language interpreter for 10 years. Throughout his activist career, he has maintained close ties to the immigrant community in which he was raised, working on issues of literacy, second-language learning, and civil rights.