It is hard to believe than nearly a year has passed since I was sworn-in as the 52nd President of the Washington Bar Association last June. And what a year it has been!
We’ve continued to grapple with the lingering effects of COVID-19. We’ve witnessed extreme political unrest and continued violence from those who espouse anti-Black ideologies. We’ve seen continued over-policing and disregard for the value and sanctity of Black lives. But despite these ongoing challenges, the WBA has remained strong, resilient and productive. We have focused significant attention on building the WBA’s capacity, including the launch of a new membership management platform and a revamped website. We have also enhanced member value by providing high-quality, mission-focused programming and creating meaningful membership experiences. Additionally, we’ve sought to preserve the WBA’s rich history by capturing valuable institutional knowledge in a variety of ways. We have enlarged and diversified the WBA’s membership base with the addition of new government and nonprofit membership categories. And perhaps our most notable accomplishments are evidenced through the high-quality programming and excellent Committee work intended to help members of our community build and grow their practices, be elected or appointed to key governmental posts, get hired by prestigious law firms or major corporations, and ascend to the bench.
No doubt, the WBA’s public profile has improved and expanded through our efforts this year, including partnering with an elite law firm to serve as the lead organization on an amicus curiae brief that will be filed in the Harvard affirmative action case currently pending before the U.S. Supreme Court. And through the generous support of our sponsors and other contributors, we have been able to award significant scholarship dollars to local law students through the WBA Educational Foundation (WBAEF). Certainly, these accomplishments outweigh the adversities we’ve encountered.
As you know, my theme for this bar year has been “Embracing a Legacy of Black Legal Excellence.” As I reflect on everything the WBA has achieved over nearly 12 months, I am truly grateful. Most important, I am grateful for the God I serve—His grace, mercy, protection and abundance of blessings. I am grateful for my family and friends, who have supported me every step of the way. I am grateful for the trusted, tried and true individuals who have served with excellence as Officers and Directors of the WBA this year, and look forward to honoring those select individuals during our upcoming WBA Annual Meeting and Conference. I am also grateful for the many lessons in leadership I have learned this year, and all those who contributed to that process in some way. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela, “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
I hope that everyone has had a chance to view the amazing photos from this year’s Law Day Dinner, which, as we’ve previously communicated, was an overwhelming success. As I’ve already shared with many members of our community, I considered it both a blessing and tremendous honor to be part of the team responsible for bringing this time-honored WBA tradition back as an in-person event after two years of holding it virtually. The Law Day Committee Chaired by Past President Henry E. Floyd, Jr. and WBA Educational Foundation Charlyn M. Stanberry did a phenomenal job, and I thank them for their tireless efforts. As you may have noticed, 2022 was, indeed, the “Year of the Woman” as each of the Chief Judges, both the WBA and WBAEF Presidents, both distinguished honorees, and all three scholarship winners who graced the Law Day stage were women—perhaps, a WBA first!
In terms of final updates as my Presidential term nears an end, I invite you all to join us for the WBA’s Annual Meeting and Conference on tomorrow, June 1, 2022, at the American University Washington College of Law (AUWCL), beginning at 5:30 p.m. I must extend my sincere thanks to our gracious host and Honorary Conference Chair, Dean Roger A. Fairfax, Jr. We are also fortunate to have AUWCL Professor Lia Epperson as the 2022 Dr. J. Clay Smith Memorial Equal Justice Lecturer. It is no coincidence that AUWCL is this year’s Annual Meeting and Conference venue. On the contrary, we considered AUWCL the perfect place to pay tribute to one of the law school’s most distinguished alumni, and one of the WBA’s most esteemed and cherished members, the late Joseph H. Hairston, Esq. We look forward to honoring his life and legacy as we present the inaugural Joseph H. Hairston Vanguard Award to a most deserving recipient who will soon be officially announced, along with this year’s outstanding WBA Hall of Fame inductees. We also have much more in store for those in attendance, so don’t forget to RSVP, stay tuned for more details, and hopefully I’ll see you there.
As I close this final message of my Presidency, I will share my extreme enthusiasm about transitioning into the Past President ranks, not to mention, dusting off my Peloton and reconnecting with the people, places and thing that mean the most to me. I am equally enthusiastic about seeing the next generation of WBA leadership assume their places in the WBA’s legacy of Black legal excellence, and I wish them all the best.
Thank you for the opportunity to lead and serve you this bar year.
Until next time, onward and upward!
Onward and upward!
Kendra Perkins Norwood
Washington Bar Association
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