BY AMOS JONES
On Thursday of next week, the Harvard Black Law Students Association will open its 23rd annual conference, “Forging a New Path to Empowerment: Reconnecting the Past, Present, and Future of a Multi-Faceted Black Community.”
“This conference will serve as a catalyst for discussion about how the law can be used as a tool to empower the black community,” explained 2L BLSA Board Member Diane Lucas in a recent announcement. “HBLSA’s conference will bring students, alumni, legal activists, professors, and members of the community to Harvard Law School’s campus for a series of lectures, social and networking events, and panels.”
Harvard’s is the world’s oldest and largest BLSA and, as such, taps into the most distinguished black alumni base of any professional school in the world. Panelists from around the country will focus on the roles of blacks in the judiciary, the alliances of the new social movements, restoring black communities, renewing the meaning of correctional facilities, and other contemporary concerns. There will be a roundtable discussion titled “Where is Empowerment and How Do We Get There?” featuring several distinguished black Harvard faculty members. Powerhouse attorney Theodore V. Wells, Jr., who received his J.D. and M.B.A. from Harvard in 1976 and is head of litigation at Paul Weiss, will receive the Distinguished Harvard BLSA Alum Award and deliver a speech at the Alumni Luncheon on Saturday. The conference’s keynote speaker will be Theodore M. Shaw, Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. He will highlight the LDF’s work toward empowerment of the black community. Scholar Michael Eric Dyson will deliver an address at the Inspirational Brunch on Sunday. Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice will investigate the sociopolitical effects of Hurricane Katrina.
A networking reception will engage exponents of national firms and public interest organizations. Co-sponsored by Boston College’s Black Law Students Association, Harvard La Alianza, the Harvard African Law Association, the Harvard Muslim Students Association, and the Harvard South Asian Students Association, it will attract students from other law schools, including Yale’s, Vermont’s, and University of Connecticut’s.
Individuals not in law school will be included as well. The conference coincides with an HLS admitted-students weekend, and many prospective students are expected to attend. And the first annual youth summit will debut during this week’s conference. High school students from Boston will discuss whether hip-hop should be illegal. The locally renowned D.J. Chubby Chub will appear, and two iPods will be raffled during the summit.
“This is exciting because we are going to have an event for students that is fun, educational and community impacting,” said 2L Alexandria Lee, chair of the youth summit committee.
Daron Roberts, a 2L and graduate of the Kennedy School of Government, summed up the anticipation felt among many of BLSA’s approximately 160 members. “Spring Conference always seems to energize the campus and community for a year of improving the lives of others,” he said. “This Conference attracts the brightest thinkers and deploys them to the toughest problems of the day.” Open to all, the conference will conclude on Sunday, March 12, 2006. For a detailed schedule and to register (students pay $40), visit www.harvardblsaconference.com.
Amos Jones is a 3L from Lexington, Ky. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.