A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Washington Bar Association's Annual Law Day Dinner as a scholarship finalist (I didn't win...shout out to Nicole Julius at Howard who won). The Honorable Damon J. Keith of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Legal Defense Fund were honored. As we celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2013, the themes of their speeches that night continue to echo in my head. As attorneys (and soon-to-be attorneys), we are a highly-educated group of people in relation to the population at large. According to someone on my Twitter timeline (yes, Twitter timeline), only 1% of Americans have any sort of doctorate degree. I've done no independent research to validate that claim but I feel like it's probably not far from the truth. The opportunity alone to pursue a law degree is an opportunity that many people won't have and even fewer black people will have. To have the opportunity is a huge accomplishment and blessing. "To whom much is given, much is expected." Whether you're about to graduate law school because you worked 30 hours per day to put yourself through college and law school or you've had the fortune of attending because your parents worked 30 hours per day to put you through school, we've all been given a lot in the opportunity alone and we must make sure to always remember that. As black attorneys (present and future), we are the legacy and the legatees of the Civil Rights Movement. It's important that we understand and appreciate our status as such. However, we must also understand that the rights we have today are not guaranteed for our children and we must remain engaged, active and steadfast in securing and ensuring equality.
Congratulations to the Class of 2013! I'm excited to see the great things you all will do in the legal profession and in our communities and I'm honored to be associated with you :)
Last week was absolutely insane. I can be a little dramatic but I think that many people share my sentiments. The Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt in Watertown. The fertilizing plant explosion in Texas. Sinkholes in Chicago. Congress' disobedience to the will of the American people. I normally prefer to read my news, as opposed to watch, but I was glued to the television last week. I was also glued to Twitter.
I grew up with computers and AOL's crazy chatrooms. I had a MySpace page. I was in the inaugural Facebook class. I feel pretty comfortable with social media and am very rarely surprised by new outlets. I think Twitter is something special, though. Twitter is the rumor mill on a very powerful stimulant that has the changed the parameters of journalism. Twitter was ablaze with criticisms of major news networks and how they reported on the developments in Boston last week. To many of us tweeters, it seems that news networks are more concerned with getting the news out first instead of getting it out right. News networks and their coverage are being driven by ratings and not substance. Integrity and ethics in journalism shouldn't be an afterthought in the race to first place. If most viewers are like me, it's the angle from which they report the news that keeps me engaged--even with the kinds of breaking news stories that happened last week. Am I an anomaly? Does speed matter to you just a little bit more?
In law school news, finals are upon us (obviously). Here are my top 5 tips for keeping my sanity:
1. Don't sleep on your couch, desk or other study area. The psychological impact of waking up with your face in a book is horrible.
2. Enjoy a good, well-balanced meal. During finals we tend to reach for the fast, easy and cheap. While most law students can't afford to eat like royalty, treating yourself to an infrequent luxury meal will help you feel recharged.
3. Have normal interactions with friends and family. I wouldn't advise taking a week-long vacation in the middle of finals but catching up on the latest family/friend news is a nice, needed break from case law, statutes and UN conventions.
4. Get some sunlight! The sun always makes me feel better about everything in life.
5. Change up your study scenery. I find that I'm much more effective in my studies if I have a change of study scenery.
"What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal." - President Barack Obama during his January 21, 2013 Inaugural Address
This week we celebrated not only the birthday, life, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but we also celebrated the Inauguration of President Barack Obama. I celebrate because President Barack Obama is the first African-American to be elected as President of the United States of America, an accomplishment I embrace and honor. I honor this accomplishment because he is now stepping into the second term of serving as the leader of our country. This comes at a time when bipartisanship is a fight and civil rights issues are at the forefront of our communities and the courts.
Please do not let this be a time where you are asleep at the wheel! Do what you can to advocate for others, and stand for what is right. We are at a pivotal time in history. This year marks the 150 th year since President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, but we still have issues in our country that are marked by inequality. Be it policy, disparate impact, or elitism, issues plaguing communities of color must be addressed. Please do your part to ensure these issues remain at the forefront of the conversation so that we can ensure we carry on the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., JusticeThurgood Marshall, Frederick Douglass, and President Barack Obama.
"Let us each of us now embrace with solemn duty, and awesome joy, what is our lasting birthright. With common effort and common purpose, with passion and dedication, let us answer the call of history and carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom." - President Barack Obama during his January 21, 2013 Inaugural Address
Finals have finally come! This is the most stressful time in a law student's life. Most of us have a grade contingent on one final exam, so it is understandable why law school finals bring out the best and worst in us. Not to worry, not to fret. I have a few tips for you as you for your finals preparation to ensure you make the best use of your time and maximize your preparation. 1. Be sure to get your rest. 2. Meet with your professors and talk over old tests with peers and your professors. Much more is gained when you have meaningful discussion and brainstorm sessions because just talking over the topics will trigger useful information. 3. Prioritize your take home finals to ensure you are actually ready to start and complete the examination well. 4. Obey the rules of your school relative to examinations. We want you to actually remain in school. Honor Code violations are not cool and are the fastest way out the door... 5. Stay away from social media. It is an opponent of productivity. 6. Continue what works for you. Don't give up your coffee regimen the week of finals... 7. Resist the urge to complete holiday shopping.... 8. Build in short breaks so that you do not burn out. 9. Manage your time wisely. This is the most important advice I can give. If this fails, all else may fail.... 10. Repeat # 6...
Remember that you can do well on your finals. It is possible. Study hard, rest well, and maximize your preparation.
"It always seems impossible until it is done." Nelson Mandela
This week many of us will be traveling to visit family and friends as we begin the holiday season. Others will stay close to school in preparation for the finals season. Whether you are on the road, in the air, or staying put, please be sure give thanks for the opportunities afforded to you. Everyone comes from a different place in life, but we all are grateful for mentors who have helped propel us to our current place, friends who bear this law school journey with us, and family who have supported us in the midst of our intense studies.
In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.
Albert Schweitzer asserts there are key individuals and events in our life that re-light our inner spirit to keep moving forward. We should be thankful to have those who care enough to encourage us to keep pressing toward the mark.... All of us are a result of those individuals and experiences along our life journey which have provided teachable moments. We are eternally thankful for these moments.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and in everything, give thanks!
Election Day is tomorrow! For those who will vote on Tuesday, be sure to arrive early and be informed of the issues on the ballot for your state. Have you taken a look at the sample ballot for your polling place? Do you know where the candidates stand on issues? If you have already voted, are you able to volunteer to combat voter intimidation? For additional information regarding voting tomorrow, please the Election Protection website of our partner organization, the Lawyer's Committee for Civil Rights: http://www.866ourvote.org/.
This weekend, I had the sincere honor of attending the Black Pre Law Conference in Houston, Texas. I spoke on a panel with the Regional Chair of the Rocky Mountain Region (RMBLSA) entitled "The Challenges and Rewards of Law School." The panel focused on what it is really like to be a law student - the academic expectations and the daily grind, as well as the competing demands and opportunities outside of the classroom. We provided strategies for achieving success in the classroom, during study, and on exams, as well as through involvement and leadership in co-curricular and extra-curricular activities. During the panel, we stressed the importance of both working hard, playing hard, and having a solid support system in place in order to achieve a positive and somewhat balanced law school experience.
During the past month, I have had the distinct privilege of traveling to many of our regions and have met with NBLSA students around the nation. In the Mid-West (MWBLSA) I attended a Voter's Rights Forum at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. The event was wonderfully planned and the information was extremely timely and relevant. Chapter leaders from the region were also on hand to meet and network with students and NBLSA's Title Sponsor, Theresa Cropper, Chief Diversity Officer of Perkins Coie.
I met with Western Region (WRBLSA) students in San Francisco during the Leadership Retreat and Alumni Networking Reception. In addition to beautiful weather, it was great to see so many students supporting an amazing day of events planned by the WRBLSA Board. WRBLSA was well represented and provided excellent programming for their membership.
Last weekend I attended an Academic Retreat hosted by the Southern Region (SRBLSA) in Atlanta, Georgia. The event was a success and gave students the opportunity to learn about building their brand and also how to succeed as a man or woman of color in the legal profession. Pre Law students were also in attendance to get a head start on the issues facing law students of color.
As you can see, NBLSA programming is in full swing. So whether you are a law student, pre-law student, alumni, supporter, or friend of NBLSA, please attend and support our national and regional events. Again, be sure to exercise your right tomorrow and VOTE!!!
Voting in any type of election, from local elections to Presidential primaries, provides an important way to voice your opinions regarding elected leaders and overall policies. Voting also helps you decide your own future by electing a person who may reflect your own views. The ability to vote exists as one of the most cherished Constitutional Rights that many fought for, marched for, and died for.
Various obstacles to the ballot box have been put in place, and you must be informed of your individual ability to vote. Be sure you have the proper identification needed to vote, and ensure you are present on the roster of eligible voters. Be informed, be educated, and exercise your right! For additional information on NBLSA's Voting Initiative, see: http://www.nblsa.org/index.php?pID=463.
Have you ever wanted to be an advocate for change? Or ensure your voice was heard? If so, the time has come for you to have a presence for what is sure to be a monumental Supreme Court decision. The case is important because it has the ability to strike down Grutter v. Bollinger, which allows schools to utilize race as a soft factor in education admissions decisions.
This issue is important to NBLSA because we are an organization of diverse individuals and people of color. We have to ensure a commitment to diversity remains a high priority. Diversity is more than race, it is diversity of thought, ideas, and perspectIves, which contributes to an education of value through interactive dialogue.
Please join with us as we unite with organizations committed to diversity and a shared desire to be a voice in the mobilization. NBLSA has pledged our support to the issue by filing an Amicus Brief on the case, but we all must unite on October 10th, the Day For Opportunity, to show our support of the value of diversity in education.
The global events of last week highlight issues affecting the world and our nation. These are issues of diplomatic dispute, varied religious ideologies, civil unrest, and unquestionable violence. These happenings highlight the need for change and peace in our world. Through our programming and initiatives, we are preparing the next generation of leaders for the legal profession. The timing of our events being held in Washington, DC this week in tandem with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference is extremely timely. Thus, as NBLSA continues developing talented, socially conscious Black lawyers, we are willing to answer the call to lead and serve or local, regional, national, and global community.
A brief overview of our events is listed below. We hope to see you there!
Stand Your Ground Symposium | Thursday, September 20th
NBLSA will discuss various Stand Your Ground laws and their implications for the doctrine of self-defense. Panelists include esteemed attorneys, professors, and community members.
Washington, DC School Visits | Friday, September 21st
NBLSA visits Washington, DC public schools to educate students about democracy, the importance of exercising one's right to vote, and how to fully participate in the political process.
Congressional Kids Day of Service, sponsored by Bowman & Partners, LLP | Friday, September 21st
Washington, DC students will come to Capitol Hill and learn about the legislative process and how laws are made. They will also journey to Georgetown Law School for lunch with NBLSA members.
College Accessibility & Affordability Forum | Friday, September 21st
NBLSA recognizes and understands the challenges students face in obtaining funding for higher education. This forum will feature members of the Obama Administration, a member of Congress, attorneys, and agency officials.
Charles Hamilton Houston Leadership Retreat | Saturday, September 22nd
NBLSA's Charles Hamilton Houston Chapter Leadership Retreat provides an opportunity for current and future chapter leaders to connect with national leadership and discuss best practices for fundraising, chapter management, and implementing NBLSA programming. Our panels addressing career paths and professional development help participants explore programming possibilities.
DC Monument Tours | Saturday, September 22nd
NBLSA students will embrace the history of our Nation's Capital by visiting the monuments along the National Mall.
Networking Events | Wednesday - Friday, September 19th - 21st
NBLSA is partnering with CLEO and other organizations to continue to build the pipeline of diverse students in the legal profession. The networking events are meant to assist students as they build relationships and expand their professional network. Wednesday, September 19th features a networking social at MIA. Network with students and professionals on Thursday, September 20th as NBLSA partners with CLEO at Bar 7. Finally, the 9th Annual CBC Networking and Alumni Reception will take place on Friday, September 21st allowing students to interact with members of Congress, attorneys, and alumni.
It's that time! Summer positions have ended, OCI and Job Fairs are moving forward, call backs are underway, days are shorter...this only means one thing - you are closer to completing law school than you have even been before!
You may wonder how you have made it this far. Assuredly, this is a question we all ponder at some point in time. Do I really want to continue with this schedule, the reading, the intense studying, charting, and the flashcards? The answer: YES! I assure you, it is worth it in the end. The bottom line is this: The practice of law is not easy. Thus, the study of law cannot be easy. Law school is about hard work, tenacity, commitment, dedication, sacrifice, professional development, and time management.
The group Mary Mary sings a song entitled "Can't Give Up Now." This song embodies the stance I have as I head into my final year in law school, and the words directly apply to the start of law school. For those entering law school, you have endured the application process and it is now time to put your preparation into practice. For the upper-level law students, you have to keep moving forward! The words assert "nobody told me the road would be easy." Nothing about law school is easy - from the application process to the LSAT, studying, exams, the career-planning and the Bar, the process is grueling and is designed to prepare students for the tough nature of the practice of law.
You must keep the end result in mind - after you complete your course of study, you will be a part of the amazing field of law practitioners. Being a member of this field allows you to advocate on behalf of others, impact regulation, assist in the drafting of public policy, represent clients, and bring an overall increase to diversity in the law profession. So stay the course, don't quit, know that sometimes you will have to encourage yourself, and understand that you have what it takes to balance your course load, life, and responsibilities!
In conclusion, the great theologian, Howard Thurman, shows us how to reframe and balance in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life through the act of centering down. Please take a moment to read the passage below appropriately entitled "How Good it is to Center Down!"
How good it is to center down! To sit quietly and see one's self pass by! The streets of our minds seethe with endless traffic; Our spirits resound with clashings, with noisy silences, While something deep within hungers and thirsts for the still moment and the resting lull. With full intensity we seek, ere the quiet passes, a fresh sense of order in our living; A direction, a strong sure purpose that will structure our confusion and bring meaning in our chaos. We look at ourselves in this waiting moment -- the kinds of people we are. The questions persist: what are we doing with our lives? -- what are the motives that order our days? What is the end of our doings? Where are we trying to go? Where do we put the emphasis and where are our values focused? For what end do we make sacrifices? Where is my treasure and what do I love most in life? What do I hate most in life and to what am I true? Over and over the questions beat in upon the waiting moment. As we listen, floating up through all the jangling echoes of our turbulence, there is a sound of another kind -- A deeper not which only the stillness of the heart makes clear. It moves directly to the core of our being. Our questions are answered, With the peace of the Eternal in our step. How good it is to center down!(Excerpt from Meditations of the Heart, written by Howard Thurman, (reprint) Beacon Press, 1999).
The summer has begun! Students are working in summer positions, graduates are studying for the bar, and Pre-Law students are getting ready for the leap in to law school. For those in summer positions, I have a few words of advice:
To be early is to be on time.
Be thorough with your assignments.
Be cognizant of your "work image."
ALWAYS be professional!
Your summer employment really sets the stage for your career. This position can transition into an offer, can further your research pursuits, and can open doors for you down the road. Thus, be sure to be consistent and know that persistence and hard work are fundamental tenants of a successful career. Always remember a famous quote by Thomas Edison, "Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." Work hard and have a great summer!
The time has finally come! Finals are over, graduations and commencement exercises are taking place, and we are all shifting into the next phase of life. Our law students are starting Summer internships and positions and are volunteering with non-profit organizations. Our graduates are taking a few days to breathe before starting their bar studies and are preparing to enter the legal profession.
As for me, I am reflecting on the 3-year path which has brought me to this point. On May 19th, I graduated from Vermont Law School with my Juris Doctorate degree. I am now shifting to New York, New York to begin the Master of Laws program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. The path to law school was not an easy one, but it was a path I knew I had to pursue in order to fulfill my goals.
It began with the Charles Hamilton Houston Law Preparatory Institute at Georgetown Law School in 2008. There, I was taught courses such as Civil Procedure, Torts, and Legal Writing by individuals such as Vice Dean Everett Bellamy, Attorney Donald Temple, Judge Julie Long, and Attorney Kim Keenan. These individuals taught me how to think critically, pursue with passion, and how to achieve my goals. They prepared me for a successful law school experience at Vermont Law School, affectionately referred to as "VLS."
The motto of VLS is "Law for the community and the world." I have greatly enjoyed my matriculation through VLS as I have learned how to serve effectively by ensuring positive change, first in my local community. After the needs of the local community are met, only then can you begin to address needs of a national worldwide scope. Charity truly does begin at home.
I believe the largest component to my success in law school has been the individuals along the way who have given me advice and mentored me to success. If you are a student or new graduate, I implore you to find individuals who will mentor you within the legal profession to the accomplishment of your goals. A true mentor is not only someone you can call when you have a tough decision to make, but someone who will ensure you are doing what is needed to best position yourself on the path to fulfilling your individual purpose and preparing you for your career.
I have to personally thank my parents and family for giving me a firm foundation and teaching me to be a strong, spirit-led individual. Additionally, I have to thank my VLS family and friends, Dean Geoffrey Shields, Associate Dean Shirley Jefferson, and Academic Dean Gil Kujovich for always believing in me and making me push past my perceived boundaries. Lastly, I would like to thank and pay special tribute to my best friend, Beverly Downing, who passed away on Wednesday, May 9th. Beverly encouraged me to reach further, push harder, and stretch forward beyond difficulties. She always encouraged me to believe the best and find the positive component of any situation. Through her life I realized we must live each day to the fullest, so that our time here on earth is maximized and our imprint is felt by those whom we come into contact with.
I encourage you to leave your mark in the lives of others. Find a mentor who will speak positivity into your life. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who will add to you and not detract from you. Finally, do everything in line with your purpose and path into the field of law.
Vermont Law School | J.D. Candidate, 2012
Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law | LL.M. Candidate, 2013
We wrapped up our final Regional Convention (Midwest BLSA Region) in the great city of Columbus this past weekend and although every region is different, there is an underlying similarity with them all. The desire of our members to succeed and the amount of pride they have in their work. I love speaking with our members and feeling the energy communicated through their words. We may not always agree, but we will always love NBLSA, which is a great segue to the loss of one of the greatest voices of our time, Whitney Houston.
Are you going to be the change that you want to see in the world?
Happy MLK Day to you all! I hope that on this day we are being active members in our community, paying reverence to an individual who gave his life to causes that he believed in. Yesterday marked the 83rd birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Before he died, Dr. King fought tirelessly to address equal rights and justice for all, bring peace and end war, and aid working families in an effort to eradicate poverty. Many of us are familiar with MLK's world famous "I Have a Dream" speech on race relations in America. His cadence, honesty, and the picture that he painted in that speech still gives me goose bumps every time that I hear it. However, in light of our current economic situation, I would like to focus on the issue of poverty and economic inequality.
2011 was a very exciting year full of many a great blessing, new friends, new challenges, opportunities, and experiences that have made me a better individual and a better man. 2011 was also the toughest year of my life; full of many trials, tribulations, and obstacles that seemed to be never-ending. Without the grace of my Lord and savior and support of my loved ones, I never would have made it.
Its finals season! I want to send well wishes to every member of my board and all of the members of our great organization during this time of the year. It will be over before you know it and I am sure that everyone has done his or her best to be uber prepared for each of their exams. I hope that you all have the desire and ferociousness of a Honey Badger with the will to achieve against any and all odds. Be blessed and we will see you on the other side of finals!
"Some will win, some will lose Some were born to sing the blues Oh, the movie never ends It goes on and on and on and on... Don't Stop Believin'!" ~ Journey
Its that time of the year again! No, I am not speaking about chestnuts roasting on an open fire; nor I am referring to that jack frost that's nipping at your nose. Yes, for those of us NOT in law school, it can be "the most wonderful time of the year," but to all my fellow students this is the homestretch! We have been reading, outlining, briefing, note taking, purchasing supplements, and spending an exorbitant amount of time preparing for our classes throughout the semester. No matter your status in school e.g. 1L, 2L, etc., we all reach that point where we want to quit, stop studying or just desire to be doing something else, ANYTHING else!
"Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst." ~ Sprite Marketing Campaign circa 1996.
I wanted to do a fun blog before finals began inundating my mind with information of which I am not very fond. My finals' schedule is pretty manageable, but we all know how that goes.
Anyways, I wanted to speak a bit about Kim Kardashian... no seriously, she is a person that many of us could stand to learn a thing or two from. I will let you digest that last sentence for a moment. I actually do not pay much attention to the young lady, but I know that overnight, she has become a sensation that has more spinoff television shows than Bill Walsh has former assistant coaches in the NFL as head coaches.
Winston Churchill once said, "Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it."
On Wednesday October 5th, we lost some of the legends of our community; individuals who stood up for what they believed and as a result, changed the world. Steve Jobs did change the world, but this blog entry is not about him. I am actually referring to the legacies of Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth and Professor Derrick Bell.
"Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other." ~ John F. Kennedy
Being a leader can be a lonely place sometimes. Whether you are doing something right or doing something wrong, you will be pissing somebody off. Its just comes with the territory because it's hard to be true to yourself, your beliefs, and your vision; and still be everything to everybody. In your head you think that you are doing the right thing. Your heart confirms many of the thoughts of your head. Some of the whispers say otherwise, however; and you as an individual can only hope that you are not doing your constituents a disservice. You fight hard for them on a daily basis. Spending long days and nights mulling over decisions that could be the difference between getting your normal 4 hours of sleep or your increasingly frequent 2-hour nap.
Today has so much significance to me. First of all, it is Iota Phi Theta Fraternity, Inc.'s Founders Day and so I am able to celebrate another year of the good works that we do around the world. Secondly, it is the eve of Congressional Black Caucus Week! In NBLSA land, only Convention-Eve tops CBC Week-eve but it's a very close second!
This week, NBLSA and its members have the opportunity to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Congressional Black Caucus. We have pulled out all for stops for our members, the community, and the Congressional members.
(From Left to Right): Mauricio Benavides, Chibundu Nnake, Derrick Raphael, and Tremaine "Teddy" Reese
"Sometimes I romance the thought of leaving it all behind..." ~ Kanye West
Life as a Chair can be grueling and tiresome (shout out to the Regional Chairs), but it also has numerous perks. I have the chance to work with great people who are passionate about doing everything they can to diversify the legal profession.
God bless America, land that I love Stand beside her and guide her Through the night with the light from above From the mountains To the prairies, To the ocean white with foam God bless America, My home sweet home
The 2011-2012 National Team: The Beginning of Lifelong Friendships
As I enter the final year of my JD/MBA, I often reflect on my experiences up to this point. Some of my experiences trigger reflections on how my time at The Ohio State University has shaped much of my current focus and ambition. Some experiences push me to think about the value-refining that has resulted from my time at Southern Methodist University (SMU). Much of my reflections center on how law school has made me a "habitual hedger". I no longer take firm stances; my primary, or at least initial response to most questions is "it depends" (I'm sure you can relate). But of the numerous experiences that I have enjoyed while a student, the most defining has been the time I have spent as a member of the National Black Law Students Association.
It seems like only yesterday that I was standing in front of hundreds at the Gala, taking the oath with the other elected national officers. Ever since then, the team you elected has been diligently working to put together a phenomenal group of servant leaders impassioned with the determination to move our organization forward. We have also been burning the midnight oil hoping to design programs that effectively address many of the concerns that you have as students and social engineers.