The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) at William & Mary Law School was named National Chapter of the Year on March 21 at the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) Convention in Irvine, CA. NBLSA was founded more than forty years ago "to articulate and promote the needs of black law students" and has more than 200 law school chapters in the U.S. and five other countries. Previous winners of National Chapter of the Year include Harvard Law School, in 2008, and the University of Virginia, in 2007.
"Becoming Chapter of the Year speaks eloquently about the caliber and commitment of our BLSA chapter," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "This honor is very well deserved. It makes us all proud."
Interim Dean and Chancellor Professor of Law Lynda Butler said the honor was "a splendid commendation for one of the law school's most dynamic student groups. I congratulate our BLSA chapter for their tireless efforts to make a difference for the better at the Law School and in our community. I am proud to see their efforts earn national recognition."
The William & Mary chapter's endeavors included, for example, voter registration and absentee ballot drives, clothing and food collections, outreach to a local high school, a Law Day for undergraduates, and educational panels and conferences.
Vernon J. Hurte, interim Director of Multicultural Affairs and a Visiting Scholar at the College, said that "as an organization, William & Mary's BLSA chapter has been dedicated to giving a voice to the voiceless. Their activities during last fall's presidential election speak to this commitment. They have truly set the standard for every BLSA chapter in this country."
The chapter placed first in the mid-Atlantic regional competition earlier this year, enabling it to vie against five other regional winners for top honors. Criteria for national recognition included community service, academic programming and first-year student support, political awareness, college student division, professional events, and social events. At the convention, regional winners displayed documentation of their events and also were interviewed by members of the NBLSA board.
Two William & Mary law students served on the national board in the past year, but did not participate in the interview panel. Jennifer Bacon '09 served as NBLSA's Mid-Atlantic Regional Chair ; Christia Rey '10 served as NBLSA's National Director of Corporate Relations.
BLSA members Latoya Asia '09, Jennifer Bacon '09, Tamar Jones '11 , Jamilah Lecruise '11, Myron McClees '10, Danchai Mekadenaumporn '11, Christia Rey '10, Brooke Williams'09, and Ambria Witt '09 attended the convention and waited in suspense at the closing night's banquet for the announcement.
Asia, who served as 2008-09 BLSA President, said the group held hands as the master of ceremonies kept the more than 200 law students at the banquet in suspense by describing the winning chapter's accomplishments without, at first, revealing the school.
The William & Mary students were crestfallen at first, she said, when they thought another school had won. (The chapter's activities with high-school students were mistakenly identified as being with elementary school students.) But, disappointment gave way to elation when they heard the words of their chapter motto read: "Building on Our Legacy Towards the Power of One."
In her interview with members of the national board, Asia said that she stressed that the Law School's chapter was deserving of recognition because it had undertaken "initiatives proposed by the national leadership while also balancing the programming with what their members wanted."
Asia credited Megan Tumi '08, 2007-08 BLSA President, for "her leadership, ideas, and perseverance" that helped to lay the foundation for the chapter's national recognition this year. "I really look up to Megan and she was the first person I called," Asia said. She added that the chapter wanted to thank the Law School's faculty and administrators for their support of BLSA programs. According to Asia, "the level of respect we have had the Law School" has been an important element in the chapter's success.
Editor's Note: The Black Law Students Association will host its annual Oliver Hill Scholarship Banquet on April 10 at Ford's Colony Country Club in Williamsburg. Tickets are $25 for BLSA members, $35 for students and $45 for members of the community. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.