October is one of my favorite months of the year. I always look forward to the crisp fall weather, the changing colors of the leaves, and of course, great football!
October is also a special month for the WBA, as it has historically been the month that we pay tribute to WBA legend, Ollie May Cooper. A graduate of Howard University School of Law, Ms. Cooper was admitted to the District of Columbia Bar on October 11, 1926. Ms. Cooper selflessly served the WBA in many capacities over several decades. She also maintained a successful private law practice that has the unique distinction of being the first Black woman-owned and operated law partnership in the country. At the time, there were only 1,500 women lawyers in the United States, and fewer than 25 of them were Black women. Through her law practice and her service to the WBA, Ms. Cooper was a steadfast advocate for the Black community and Black lawyers, both in the District of Columbia and nationwide.
Each year, during the month of October, the WBA presents an award that pays homage to Ms. Cooper, in conjunction with our annual Founders’ Lecture. The Ollie May Cooper Award recognizes a distinguished WBA member who has made outstanding contributions to the Bar and the legal profession, and whose leadership has enhanced the image of the WBA and the legal community at large. On the evening of Thursday, October 28th, at the Howard University School of Law, I will have the pleasure of presenting the 2021 Ollie May Cooper award to Attorney A. Scott Bolden, Managing Partner of Reed Smith LLP’s DC office. Over many years, Attorney Bolden has selflessly given his time, talents, and significant resources in support of the WBA, its mission, and its members. He is truly deserving of this honor, and I look forward to presenting him with the 43rd annual award.
I am also excited to have distinguished legal scholar and author, Professor Gilda Daniels of the University of Baltimore School of Law provide the 41st annual Founders’ Lecture, also on October 28, as part of the Ollie May Cooper Award ceremony. Professor Daniels is a voting rights expert with more than a decade of experience litigating cases related to various provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the National Voter Registration Act and other voting rights statutes. Her recently published book, Uncounted: The Crisis of Voter Suppression in America, has received rave reviews, and she’ll be autographing copies of it following her lecture and the award ceremony. Professor Daniels is a dynamic speaker and teacher, whose talks I always enjoy, and I’m sure you will too. Please plan to join us on October 28th for this time-honored WBA tradition.
As a reminder, our event venue host, Howard University School of Law, requires that all attendees be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you plan to attend, you must download and complete the Bison Safe self-assessment on your mobile device before arrival to gain admission. The health, safety, and well-being of our members and the community at large remains a top priority for the WBA. For this and all other in-person WBA events, we will follow all recommended and required health and safety protocols, including those related to wearing face masks while indoors and practicing social distancing.
And it’s not too late to serve as a sponsor for this year’s Ollie May Cooper Award Ceremony and Founders’ Lecture. We are extremely grateful for this year’s title sponsors, Reed Smith LLP and Wiley for their generous support. There are also individual and small firm sponsorships available, ranging from $50 to $350, along with a variety of corporate and vendor sponsorships. Find out more about the benefits of sponsorship for this and other WBA signature events in our 2021-2022 sponsorship brochure.
Consistent with this year’s theme of “Embracing a Legacy of Black Legal Excellence,” we will focus attention this month on the excellence in advocacy that the WBA and so many of its members have demonstrated throughout history, up to the present day. Ollie May Cooper, A. Scott Bolden, and Professor Gilda Daniels all epitomize excellence in advocacy, and we will celebrate each of them later this month. Additionally, each week in October, we will highlight an example of the excellent advocacy that is characteristic of the WBA. If there is a brilliant brief or outstanding oral argument by a WBA member that you’d like to recommend, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy or link to the brief or argument, along with a short explanation about why you think it exemplifies excellence in advocacy. Special recognition will be given to the individuals whose submissions are chosen, so send us something good to share!
This month, I look forward to recording the second episode of “The Legacy Series” WBA podcast. Our first episode, which was recorded last month and is currently in the final production stages, highlighted the WBA’s illustrious founders. This month’s episode, befittingly, will focus on Ollie May Cooper—her life, legacy, and invaluable contributions to our community. I look forward to sharing both episodes with you soon.
We also have several other advocacy-focused events planned for this month, including a virtual panel discussion on Wednesday, October 13th titled “Pivoting Practice Areas as a Public Sector Lawyer,” intended to empower public sector lawyers to better advocate for the career moves they want to make. The WBA is pleased to co-host this event with the Northern Virginia Black Attorneys Association and the J. Franklyn Bourne Bar Association. We are also proud to have WBA Vice President, Joshuah Turner represent the WBA as a panelist. Also this month, the WBA’s Health and Wellness Committee will launch a new virtual community called “Showing Up on Purpose.” This virtual community will be open to WBA members who are committed to walking in their purpose daily and protecting their inner peace as they navigate and advance in the legal profession and in their own humanity. In recognition of World Mental Health Day this month, the first “Showing Up on Purpose” session will focus on self-advocacy as a mental health priority for lawyers. Please stay tuned for more details on what promises to be a powerful and inspiring event. We are also finalizing plans for our first event of the year featuring a member of the District of Columbia Council, who will discuss how legislative advocacy is being used to address long-standing racial disparities in the District.
Finally, we have officially transitioned to the new Member365 platform for WBA membership management. If you have not already created a profile in Member 365 to join or renew your membership in the WBA, then you are not reflected on the organization’s current membership rolls. Even existing WBA Life Members, who no longer pay annual dues, should still make a point of registering in the Member365 system to remain on the organization’s official membership roster. Anyone not registered in Member365, will miss out on special member-only communications, events, opportunities, and other benefits that are exclusive to WBA membership. Don’t put it off any longer—register today!
In closing, on behalf of the WBA, I would like to express staunch support for the current and former Black women police officers who recently had the strength and fortitude to come forward with their claims of racial and sexual discrimination, a hostile workplace, and a culture of intimidation and retaliation within the DC Metropolitan Police Department. The WBA urges those responsible for investigating and litigating this matter to do so in a manner that will ensure that these courageous Black women receive nothing less than equal justice under law—the basic promise of the American legal system to which we are all entitled.
Onward and upward,
Kendra Perkins Norwood
Washington Bar Association
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