BY DAVINA CARSON
Over the past weekend, the Harvard Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted its 22nd Annual Spring Conference. The theme of the conference was “A Call to Consciousness,” and was co-chaired by second-year students Tara Curtis, Jenee Desmond-Harris, and Francesca Lewis.
The conference focused on the professional and social obligations of Black attorneys, and featured speakers such as King County prosecutor Charles Tucker Jr. and Damon Todd Hewitt from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. Tucker Jr., Hewitt, and others answered questions and offered suggestions regarding issues such as juvenile defendants, education, and community activism. Also on hand were David Soares, the first Black to be elected Albany County District Attorney, and the Honorable Ricardo M. Urbina from the DC District Court.
Although the scheduled keynote speaker, the Honorable Ann Claire Williams of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was unable to attend the conference due to security concerns associated with last week’s shooting of an Atlanta judge, professor and criminal defense attorney Stephen B. Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights stepped in as speaker during Saturday night’s banquet at the Sheraton Hotel. Bright delivered a stirring and motivating speech at Saturday night’s banquet. And for the first time ever, the Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. Scholarship was awarded to high school student. Lauren Knight of Los Angeles, CA, was on hand to accept the award for her first place essay answering the question: “What is the principal issue that currently threatens the Black community and what responsibility – professionally, socially, or both – do young, Black college graduates have in addressing the issue?”
Later in the evening, attendees visited the Redline in Harvard Square to network, and the conference culminated in an Inspirational Brunch on Sunday morning, where poet, activist, and professor Nikki Giovanni appeared as the conference’s final speaker.
Coincidentally, the Harvard chapter was awarded Northeast Regional Chapter of the Year the weekend prior to the conference, and is waiting to see whether or not it will be named National Chapter of the Year. The recipient of the BLSA Chapter of the Year Award is traditionally a chapter that has shown a strong commitment to community service and involvement. President Kenitra Fewell and External Vice-President Kimberly Pack received the Regional award on behalf of the organization.