The Diversity Conference’s inaugural year was a promising and successful one with much accomplished and much more planned in the year ahead. Its main accomplishment was to establish a Board of Governors with individuals who are energetic and focused on the Conference’s mission to:
- foster and encourage diversity in the admission to the bar and advancement in the legal profession and the judiciary;
- serve as a catalyst for creating leadership and bar service opportunities in the legal profession in Virginia; and
- work to ensure that the legal system is responsive to the legal needs of the people of Virginia.
Our Initial Board consisted of Manuel A. Capsalis (Chair), Michael HuYoung (Chair- Elect), Linda Y. Lambert (Secretary), Edward L. Weiner (Treasurer), Peter C. Burnett, Beverly J. A. Burton, Clarence M. Dunnaville, Jr., Michael A. Glasser, Manuel E. Leiva, Jennifer L. McClellan, Cathleen K. Memmer, Rupen R. Shah, Professor Henry L. Chambers, Jr., Dean Clinton W. Shinn, Judge Cleo E. Powell, John Y. Richardson, Jr., Kathy M. Coleman (Lay Member), and Michael Zajur (Lay Member). The Board met on at least six different occasions and in different locations throughout the state, and its members typified the true meaning of volunteer service to the legal profession and the community. Because of the staggered terms of our Board, Michael A. Glasser and Clinton W. Shinn have elected not to be re-appointed. They have been replaced by Latoya C. Asia and Marni E. Bynum.
Because of the fact that the Diversity Conference continues to operate without bar funding or active bar staff support, our main goal in this inaugural year was to raise funds so that we could accomplish the goals and plans established by the Board. To that effect, each member of the Board contributed financially to the Conference, and we did much of our own clerical and administrative work.
Our first major organized fundraiser, “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament, was held during the VSB 2011 Annual Summer Conference in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach National Golf Club. Not only was a fun time had by all, but the golfers and members of the Bar also had the opportunity to reacquaint themselves with one another and establish new friendships. The Conference was able to raise more funds than expected. In fact, there were more sponsors and donors than golfers sending a message that the purpose behind the creation of the Diversity Conference is accepted by more than we know. The Diversity Conference raffled off many fine items, such as a full set of men’s Calloway golf clubs, a full set of women’s Galloway golf clubs, along with many other extravagant items. Since the Golf Tournament, Board members have heard from many who plan on playing next year. The Conference hopes to make the Golf Tournament an annual Diversity Conference event during the Annual Summer Conference in Virginia Beach.
Our second major organized fundraiser is Jazz 4 Justice to be held on September 17, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at the Forbes Center, James Madison University’s new performing arts center. Jazz 4 Justice will be an evening of fabulous music and entertainment. Jazz 4 Justice will support not only the Diversity Conference, but also Blue Ridge Legal Services (BRLS) in the Shenandoah Valley area. BRLS provides free civil legal assistance to low income residents within the Shenandoah Valley. Jazz 4 Justice will also provide musical scholarships for students at JMU, and it will showcase talented music majors at the University. Individual tickets can be purchased for $15 at JMU’s box office or online at www.jmu.edu/JMUarts. The Conference expects this inaugural year of Jazz 4 Justice to be a “sellout” event with 600 people in attendance. A similar event has proven very successful at George Mason University winning awards from both the Virginia and National Bar Associations. The Diversity Conference looks forward to bringing this fun and successful event into the Shenandoah Valley, and we have sent out requests for sponsorship’s.
However, the Conference’s efforts have not just gone to fundraising. The Conference has accomplished or participated in the following since its inception:
- Created and established its own website, http://www.vsbmdi.org, which is linked to the VSB website at http://www.dcvsb.org.
- Participated in pipeline projects such as the “Rule of Law Program” established by Mike Pace of the Roanoke Bar and funded by the Virginia Law Foundation, reaching out to the middle and high schools, church to promote a better understanding of the legal system and to encourage individuals at an early age to seek a career in the legal profession with all of the opportunities that can be afforded to someone. The Conference hosted and presented in conjunction with other bar groups the Rule of Law Program in Petersburg, Virginia on February 17, 2011 and at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in the City of Richmond on April 14, 2011.
- Participated in the Southern Virginia Minority Pre-Law Conference at the Washington and Lee University School of Law sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference on September 25, 2010.
- Participated in the Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute at the University of Richmond School of Law sponsored by the VSB Young Lawyers Conference on July 10 – 15, 2011.
- Obtained Senate Resolution No. 31 sponsored by State Senator Emmett W. Hanger, Jr. from Augusta County recognizing the efforts and achievement of the VSB in the creation of the Diversity Conference which passed unanimously in the General Assembly. A framed copy of the Senate Resolution was presented formally by the Diversity Conference to the VSB at the Bar Council Meeting on June 16, 2011 by Senator Hanger himself. This framed Senate Resolution now hangs on the wall of the President’s Office at the VSB offices.
- Started membership drive which unlike the other Conferences has no limitations or requirements for joining since it is open to all members of the VSB. With our new website, membership is easy by clicking on the Membership icon. Membership is free.
The following is our current agenda going into the next fiscal year:
- Diversity in the Law Conference scheduled on November 10-12, 2011 at the University of Virginia School of Law which will be held jointly by the Law School Center for the Study of Race and Law, and the Diversity Conference. There also will be ongoing presentations during the year at the law schools in the state. For example, the Diversity Conference is scheduled to have a panel presentation and discussion at the Appalachian School of Law on September 28, 2011.
- Sustaining Project. – It is the goal of the Diversity Conference to establish pipeline/ ladder programs in every judicial circuit in the Commonwealth.
- Signature Project. – It is the goal of the Diversity Conference to establish a grant- funded signature project significant in scope. We have in the works a film project, The American Tapestry: A History of Diversity in America. If successful, the film project may be made in conjunction with the renowned Ken Burns and his staff.
- Focus on presenting an event or seminar at the 2012 VSB Annual Conference in Virginia Beach other than the “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament and to meet the time deadlines for this.
- Jazz 4 Justice Concert, fundraiser, as stated above.
- Continued development of the Diversity Conference website.
- Mutual liaison with the VSB Special Committee on Access to Legal Services.
- Continued membership drive for the upcoming year.
- Coordinate diversity initiatives and efforts with voluntary statewide bars, local bars, specialty bars, and foundations and academies.
- Reaching out to the local community and people of diversity as it pertains to the legal field and arena.
Chair of the Diversity Conference
August 5, 2011