The Rev. Elizabeth V. Coleman, a Bay Area attorney, lifelong children’s rights advocate and an associate pastor at McGee Avenue Baptist Church in Berkeley, died Tuesday, Nov. 9, at her home in Concord.
Coleman always had a passion for serving the needs of children and youth by helping to rebuild the family unit. She utilized her talents as an attorney in the service of children and families in the Juvenile Dependency Courts of Alameda and Contra Costa court systems as a court-appointed advocate and through multiple nonprofit organizations.
In addition to her work with the court systems, she established and ran multiple community programs through the church to encourage, empower and educate the community on various vital issues which impact individuals and families. This included programs focused on restorative justice, food security and healthy living.
Most notably, Coleman was instrumental in developing the Justice Rising Youth Court at the Berkeley Technology Academy to reduce the increasing suspension rate of high school students at this alternative school. The Justice Rising Youth Court has successfully created a fundamental change in the school’s disciplinary action procedures for students by utilizing restorative justice, civic engagement and other non-violence training to promote a safer school community.
Coleman was born in 1965 to parents Mariah and Herman Coleman in Oakland. She grew up in San Pablo, California, and attended Richmond Unified High School before beginning her journey into the legal profession. She graduated from the San Francisco University Law School in 1999 and began her career as an attorney shortly thereafter. After working some years as a corporate lawyer, she found her calling in the service of children and the church. She subsequently went into private practice and enrolled in the seminary. Coleman graduated from American Baptist Seminary of the West in 2010 with a Master of Divinity as well as a Master of Arts in Community Leadership. She was ordained as a reverend in July 2011.
As a student and in her career, she was awarded the Claiborne M. Hill Award for achieving the highest academic grade in her graduating class; the Pro Bono Advocate Award of 2018 from Legal Services for Children for her dedication to disadvantaged children and youth in the Bay Area; the Luminary Women of Faith Walking with the Lord by the Golden State Grand Chapter Order of the Eastern Star in 2016. This distinction brought with it recognition and commendations from the US Senate, US House of Representatives, CA State Legislature, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, and the City of Oakland.
Coleman is survived by two sisters, two brothers and a host of nieces, nephews and other extended family who will miss her dearly.
Memorial Service: Thursday, Dec. 2, 4 p.m., Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Drive, Pleasant Hill
Viewing: Friday, Dec. 3, 1-5 p.m., Harris Funeral Home Legacy Center, 1331 San Pablo Avenue, Berkeley
Interment: Saturday, Dec. 4, 2 p.m., Memory Gardens Cemetery, 2011 Arnold Industrial Way, Concord