Thursday, September 19, 2013

Student Organizations: The Black Law Students Association

The Black Law Students Association of the Appalachian School of Law

I am using this week to profile organizations I would describe as affinity groups based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs and values.  I'll focus today on the Black Law Students Association of the Appalachian School of Law.

Students at ASL founded the chapter early in the history of the law school.

National Affiliate

As background, the national affiliate of this local chapter -- the National Black Law Students Association arose in 1968.  It has over 200 chapters and nearly 6,000 members, and so, is the largest student organization in the U.S.

It sponsors two competitions in honor of distinguished African-Americans: The Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition and the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition.

It also sponsors the Nelson Mandela International Negotiations Competition.

The NBLSA offers regional career fairs and hosts interviews for students with law firms looking to hire diverse attorneys.

Purpose Statement

The Constitution of BLSA explains that it uses its collective resources to:
  • articulate and promote the educational, professional, political, and social needs and goals of Black law students at Appalachian School of Law;
  • foster and encourage professional competence of law students within Appalachian School of Law;
  • improve the relationship between Black law students and Black attorneys in the American legal structure;
  • instill in the Black attorney and law student a greater awareness and commitment to the needs of the Black community and the Buchanan County;
  • influence the legal community by bringing about meaningful legal and political change that addresses the needs and concerns of the Black community;
  • work very closely with the law school administration on minority recruitment, retention, and financial aid;
  • adopt and implement a policy of economic independence;
  • encourage participation between all racial and ethnic groups;
  • encourage Black students to pursue careers in the judiciary; and 
  • do all things necessary and appropriate to accomplish these purposes.
Consistent with the goals and ideals expressed in this part of the Constitution, BLSA is open to all law students and others who have an interest in furthering the purpose of BLSA at ASL.  The Constitution also expressly prohibits discrimination against an individual or group on the basis of sex, religion, race, ethnic group, age, national origin, or country of abide.

Events and Activities Sponsored by BLSA

Over the years, BLSA has offered a variety of programming to support its purpose.  It has offered educational programs on issues relating to civil rights, discrimination law, and black history.  It hosted "Lunch(es) with Substance" and invited students to view films depicting events in history tied to race relations and race discrimination.  It helped initiate the ASL Innocence Project and co-sponsored the presentation to students by Daryl Hunt, an African-American man convicted twice in North Carolina of a murder he did not commit.  In 2005, the state freed Hunt when DNA evidence matched an incarcerated murderer to the crime scene.  That man later plead guilty to the crime.

The association is diligently working to bring world-famous poet Nikki Giovanni to campus this year.

In 2008, it co-sponsored -- with GLSA -- an on-campus presentation by former Black Panther activist and Green Party candidate, Elaine Brown.  She spoke on Juveniles in the Adult Prison System.

It assisted the Lego Robotics team of Mt. Mission School the year in the competition focused on Sickle Cell anemia.  It also provided educational programs at Mt. Mission School on the U.S. Constitution.

The association also sent participates to the Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Competition and to the annual conference of the NBLSA.

And, it co-sponsors the annual Halloween costume party and dance; provides a breakfast to students during exam week; and delivers a back-to school lunch during the first weeks of the fall semester.

Students look forward to the annual Showtime at the Apollo night that features live acts judged by a panel of three judges.  This night showcases the singing, musical, comedic, dance, and other talents of law students, staff, and professors.

Assistant Professor Kendall Isaac serves as the faculty advisor for ASL's BLSA chapter.  

For information about one of the competitions sponsored by the national organization, talk with me.  I've served as a brief-writing judge for several years in the Frederick Douglass Moot Court competition.

For information about the other competitions, please talk with Professor Isaac or with Associate Professor Derrick Howard who has helped with the moot court competition.

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