Continuing its mission to advance the African American legal community, the John M. Langston Bar Association saluted four luminaries in the profession and awarded $60,000 in scholarships to eight students on Feb. 2.
The presentations, which highlighted the non-profit organization’s 43rd Annual Installation and Awards Gala, took place at the JW Marriott Hotel at L.A. Live. The black-tie event attracted more than 750 people, including the city’s most celebrated attorneys and judges as well as many corporate executives and law students.
According to president, Byron McLain, the Langston Bar Association is the largest and oldest African-American organization of lawyers, judges and law students in the western United States.
“Our mission is to empower leadership, advance the professional development of our members, and promote the administration of justice in the Black community and the community at large,” explained McLain. “Our gala serves as the primary source of funding for those efforts and we were very honored to have Adai Lamar from KJLH radio as our mistress of ceremonies.
“In addition to the scholarships we gave this year, the gala was also a platform to acknowledge people who are not just outstanding legal practitioners, but also individuals who take the time to give back to their community,” he added.
Tina Perry, general manager of the Oprah Winfrey Network, received the Loren Miller Lawyer of the Year Award. The Honorable Kevin C. Brazile, presiding judge of the Los Angeles Superior Court and the first African American to serve in the position, was saluted with the Bernard S. Jefferson Judge of the Year Award.
U.S. Representative Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, was the recipient of the Ridley-Thomas Public Service Award and the Covington & Burling law firm earned the Law Firm Diversity of the Year Award in recognition of “their efforts to improve diversity in the legal profession, whether it’s gender, ethnic, or representational diversity,” noted McLain. “They’ve made great strides in the past year and we wanted to honor them.”
The program also featured the installation of the association’s officers. The Honorable André Birotte, Jr., U.S. District Judge for California’s Central District, recited the oath of office to president McLain, president-elect, Nyanza Shaw, vice president, Reema El-Amamy, treasurer, Terrence M. Jones, recording secretary, Noelle Brown, corresponding secretary, Ashley Bobo, sergeant-at-arms, Rodney Diggs and parliamentarian, Jennifer Fisher.
Eagerly anticipating his term as the head of Langston, McLain said his organization remains relevant in the 21st century and he believes the group is poised to make an even greater difference in the Black community in 2019. A former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles, McLain currently serves as a partner at Foley and Lardner specializing in white-collar defense work. In both roles, he learned the importance of groups like the Langston Bar Association.
Among the programs that the group offers is continuing legal education for attorneys, free bar exam tutorials for law students, mentoring programs for young attorneys, and evaluations for candidates interested in judicial officer positions.
“You always have new African American lawyers entering the field and we want to make sure that they know that they are supported and loved. Just passing the California Bar Exam is a tough task for many of us and we want to support them, not only as law school students, but also as lawyers in the field. They have the support of African American legal network and legal community and we are here for them,” he insisted.
“We also reach back to encourage people to enter the legal field. We do a lot of programming for young people by going to schools to tell youth what it means to be a lawyer or a judge because we need more African Americans in this field. We need more Black people representing individuals in the courtroom and the boardroom and in legal-oriented meetings. It’s so important to have African American lawyers in the legal profession,” said McLain.
A major goal he has set for this year is to raise $100,000 for scholarships. “Our theme for this year is ‘Langston is Family –Looking Back, Looking Forward, Looking Out,’ and we would love people to join us in our fundraising campaign,” he said.
“Supporters can text to give. Just text 41444, then type in JMLCI, and donate any amount to scholarships for law school students. It can be $5, $50, $500 and 100 percent of donations goes to scholarships. The money will help students in law school pay those enormous bills, so they can go on to become lawyers.”
Membership in Langston Bar Association is open to anyone interested in supported the mission and goals of the nonprofit organization. To learn more, visit langstonbar.org