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Danny Bakewell Sr. who moderated the Langston Bar Association’s African American Leadership seminar on February 21, is joined here by the panelist (l-r) U.S. District Attorney Andre Birotte, Los Angeles City Council President Herb Wesson, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Los Angeles County Public Defender Ron Brown. 

 Panelists listen to and answer questions from the audience at the Langston Bar Association’s African American Leadership seminar February 21.

 Wesson joins top lawyers Lacey, Birotte and Brown

Four African American firsts including City Council President Herb Wesson, United States Attorney Andre Birotte, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and Los Angeles Public Defender Ron Brown led a prestigious panel for the annual Langston M. Bar Association African American Leadership seminar at Loyola Law School last Saturday February 22.

Moderated by Sentinel Executive Publisher and renowned civil rights activist Danny Bakewell Sr., and in celebration of Black History Month, the esteemed panelists discussed their breaking barrier achievements.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey, she was sworn in as the 42nd District Attorney of Los Angeles County On Dec. 3, 2012, becoming the first woman and first African-American to serve as Los Angeles County District Attorney since the office was created in 1850. She oversees roughly 1,000 lawyers, nearly 300 investigators and about 800 support staff employees. 

U. S. Attorney André Birotte  was nominated by President Barack Obama to serve as United States Attorney for the Central District of California on December 2009,. Birotte was unanimously confirmed by the United States Senate and was sworn in on March 4, 2010.

He holds an undergraduate degree from Tufts University and a J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Public Defender Ronald L. Brown was appointed the tenth person to head the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office on January 5, 2011. He leads a staff of more than 700 licensed attorneys plus a support staff of paralegals, investigators, social workers, and secretaries, all dedicated to the representation of indigent clients. 

Councilmember Herb J. Wesson, Jr. was unanimously elected President of the Los Angeles City Council on November 23, 2011 and officially took office January 2, 2012. He was elected to represent the 10th Council District of the City Los Angeles in a Special Election in November 2005. He is the first Black Cuncil President.

The Law Office of Jeffrey McIntyre, Ms. Glows Catering and Seyfarth Shaw sponsored the event, which was attended by dozens of lawyers, and future lawyers.

Bakewell Sr. began the session by thanking everyone for coming out, while touting the event as a “special occasion.”

“When an association as prestigious as Langston comes together to do anything, it’s incumbent upon us to respond,” he urged the audience.

“To have black lawyers coming together en masse and putting together a panel as magnificent as this during Black History Month… but anytime they would have done this, it would have been a stellar occasion,” Bakewell Sr. opened.

Panelist were first asked  “who inspired them to be a leader?”

For Birotte there were several people he looked to for inspiration, including his own father who Birotte said led by example.

“His work ethic was where I got my ‘work-a-holic’ tendencies from. He loved following political leaders like Tom Bradley, Julian Dixon, Gilbert Hahn, the Kennedy Family…”

But the person who led him to law school, he said, was Irma Brown.

“She’s a judge now, but I met Irma when she was an attorney,” said Birotte.

“When I saw her, I was just a sophomore in college and she just had such a passion about what she did.”

Meanwhile, Wesson said his inspiration was circumstances.

“It didn’t start with a desire to be a politician. It was for survival purposes,” he recalled.

“I lived in a seven block area and I had a bunch of boys who were my friends and all. We were surrounded by gangs. Everyday I went to school, somebody was getting their butt whooped or you see somebody running being chased by a group of kids… and I called a meeting at my house one day and said, ‘this is stupid.”

“I think that I was very comfortable in being behind the scenes as the chief deputy. I was the woman who advised the guy who was the elected official,” explained Lacey.

She added, “that when you seek out a leadership position you hold yourself up o a lot of scrutiny like never before and you must have thinker skin in other to do that, but I had ideas that I wanted to implement and I couldn’t do it if I stayed number two,” continued Lacey.

Wesson said he gathered a group of cousins and friends that added up to 17 people. They were not a gang, just a group who wanted to protect themselves. It worked, he said, no one bothered them.

His mother noticed his ability to influence people.

“My mother said I had a gift but it wasn’t until I heard a speech [in college] by former Congressman Ron Dellums, after ten minutes (into the speech) that’s when I said, ‘that’s what I want to do…”

“Learning about Black History is a fundamental exercise in knowing who we are collectively as a nation,” said John T. Anthonly III, president of the John M. Langston Bar Association of Los Angeles.

“Those of African heritage have contributed mightily to the fabric of not only the United States but to the world. It does us all good to take time out to recognize the strides, contributions and challenges of those who have come before, so that we can learn grow and be better…”

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