I’m Back and I’m Proud

I’ve been away from the Blog for too long.  But for good reason.

The University’s Provost appointed me Interim Dean of the College of Law, which, as you can imagine, meant a raft of new responsibilities for me.  The most gratifying thus far was presiding over commencement.  Cincinnati Law graduated 84 students in May, and we were inspired by speeches from alums Rob Richardson (’05)  of Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings and the Hon. Marilyn Zayas (’97) of Ohio’s First Appellate District Court,  who received the 2017 Nicholas Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award. I am very proud of our most recent alums and look forward to the significant contributions they will make to the profession and society.

On that note, I recently attended A Celebration of Black Lawyers, hosted by Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession.  This event honored three giants in the legal field:

  • Ken Chenault, Chairman and Chief Executive Office of American Express Company,
    220px-chenaultstatedinner
    Ken and Kathyrn Chenault

    who spoke about the important role corporations have to play in the struggle for social justice;

 

  • Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc.,
    Sherrilyn Ifill - Baltimore, MD
    Sherrilyn Ifill

    who challenged all lawyers–irrespective of substantive area of expertise–to take get involved in civil rights matters; and

 

  • The Hon. Rob  Wilkins of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit,
    wilkins
    Hon. Robert L. Wilkins

    who inspired attendees to follow his lead in persisting despite the odds. Judge Wilkins was a primary catalyst in making the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) a reality (it also was the site of the Celebration!).

Perhaps most poignant and moving of all was how Ms. Ifill reminded all of us–many of whom were African American attorneys–of the significant role Black lawyers played in moving this nation closer to the promise of equality set forth in our founding documents.

Her words made me remember that I am part of something larger.  A profession with the power to realize the country’s democratic potential.  A tradition of lawyers that pushed this nation to live up to its creed. A social engineer, to use the term coined by the great Charles Hamilton Houston,

charleshouston
Charles Hamilton Houston

architect of the strategy that dismantled de jure segregation.

Envisioning myself as descended from such notables as Thurgood Marshall, Constance Baker Motley,  Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I walked out of the NMAAHC considerably more inspired than when I entered.

 

Author: Verna L. Williams

Interim Dean, Nippert Professor of Law, co-founder and co-director of Cincinnati Law's Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. Professor Williams joined Cincinnati Law's faculty in 2001. She teaches Constitutional Law; Gender and the Law; and Family Law. Her research examines the intersection of race and gender in law and society.

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