Three weeks ago, on June 10, 2021, I was both humbled and honored to be sworn-in as the 52nd President of the Washington Bar Association. As I have expressed previously, for nearly 100 years, the WBA has been a beacon for Black lawyers in the District of Columbia, and I am thankful for the confidence the members of this historic organization have placed in me. As President, I will work to strengthen and secure the WBA for the years to come, while embracing the legacy of excellence established by our founders and past presidents upon whose shoulders I now stand.
The WBA’s newly elected Officers and Board members were also sworn-in with me on June 10 as part of the Association’s virtual Annual Conference, Meeting and Dr. J. Clay Smith Equal Justice Lecture and Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It was a truly momentous occasion. For those who missed it (or would like to enjoy it again or share it with others), a recording of the program is now available for viewing online here and the souvenir program booklet may be viewed here. Kudos to Chairman Robert Bell, and all Committee Members for their excellent work.
The WBA is fortunate to have strong and dedicated leadership for the upcoming 2021-2022 bar year. This includes our President-Elect, Ms. Dionna Lewis; Vice-President, Mr. Joshuah Turner; Secretary, Ms. LieAnn Van-Tull; Treasurer, Mr. Daniel Joseph; and our newly elected and continuing Board Members, Hon. Brandes Ash, Mr. Nicholas Austin, Hon. Alex Manuel, Mr. Derrick Petit, Mr. Wendell Webster, and Ms. Dana Weekes. Together with our distinguished Council of Past Presidents, we look forward to taking the WBA onward and upward in the spirit of excellence.
Under the WBA’s current bylaws, the new bar year will officially begin on September 1. Between now and then, I will be working in close coordination with the WBA’s leaders and key stakeholders to continue laying the groundwork for a successful term. This month, I will host a Board of Directors orientation and training session featuring a board governance expert who will facilitate in-depth training on the roles, responsibilities and fiduciary duties of board members. A leadership retreat will follow, where we will put the finishing touches on our plans for what promises to be a phenomenal year.
I will also be working over the next few weeks to finalize appointments to key executive leadership positions, including the Chairs of the WBA’s standing committees, and several special committees I intend to establish. In my faith tradition, there is a scripture that says, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” That said, there are many opportunities for WBA members to get involved and support our efforts to provide excellent programming, high-quality networking and professional development opportunities, effective law student outreach and financial support through scholarships, as well as high-impact community service. If you are interested in sharing your talents in support of the WBA’s mission, please do not hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am excited to announce that this month, the WBA will be launching a new membership management platform that will allow for automated membership applications and renewals, in addition to simplifying member payments and providing a consistent approach to event management. This platform will eventually be integrated into the WBA’s new and improved website, which is also currently under construction with a target launch date of September 1. I look forward to improving the overall membership experience and value proposition through these essential capacity-building efforts. Please be on the lookout for additional communications explaining the steps you’ll need to take to ensure a smooth transition to the new membership system, as well as some summertime membership specials.
As you may know, the National Bar Association’s (NBA) 96th Annual Convention will take place virtually later this month, from July 23 to 27. The WBA is one of the oldest, largest and most influential affiliate chapters of the NBA. I encourage all WBA members to consider joining (or rejoining) the NBA to take advantage of all the opportunities to enhance your career and professional network, while supporting the organization’s mission and objectives. As a reminder, you must be a dues-paid member of the NBA who has registered for the convention by July 12 to be eligible to vote in the NBA’s elections. I hope to “see” many of you during the virtual NBA Convention later this month.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to recognize the life and legacy of a distinguished WBA member, Attorney Clinton W. Chapman, who recently passed away at the age of 96. Attorney Chapman was the 1982 recipient of the WBA’s prestigious Ollie May Cooper Award, and was later inducted into the WBA’s Hall of Fame in 2000. A WBA Resolution honoring Attorney Chapman has been prepared for presentation to Attorney Chapman’s family, which is available for viewing here. My sincere thanks to Historian and Past President Robert Bell, as well as Past Presidents Ronald Jessamy and Donald Thigpen for their efforts to ensure the WBA pays the proper respects to Mr. Chapman for his invaluable contributions to our beloved organization.
In closing, best wishes for a happy, healthy and safe Fourth of July weekend. I hope you will join me in setting aside time to read Frederick Douglass’s historic speech, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” as we reflect on our collective progress as a people, while being ever-mindful of the work that remains.
Onward and upward,
Kendra Perkins Norwood
Washington Bar Association
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