By Dalton Carty,
Lansing Managing Editor
With the recent increase in violent crimes against Afro-Americans, anyone could understand how the success of an organization started for the benefit of minority law students is important to the morale of that minority group. Trying to ensure the success of its annual Black Tie Affair, the Black Law Students Association at Thomas Cooley Law School encountered some strife as it planned and executed its 19th Charles H. Houston fall soirée. Low ticket sales and projected attendance initially troubled the group. However, the Association’s executive board, helmed by President Yanique Kennedy, overcame its early difficulties to present an outstanding function that was praised by students, faculty, staff, and professionals.
Held on October 24, 2015 at the Kellogg Conference Center in East Lansing, Michigan, the event’s theme was “Strengthening Our Pillars.” Meant to reiterate Afro-American history and galvanize Afro-American unity, the theme expressed the resolve minorities needed to exhibit to contend with the rash of violence Afro-Americans endured nationwide throughout 2015. As she introduced keynote speaker Attorney Edna Wells Handy, Kennedy mentioned notables like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner who died from that violence. Moreover, Kennedy said, as law students and legal practitioners, we need to strengthen the community's perception of the justice system in the face of rising police brutality and unfair convictions. She credited Cooley's Innocence Project in helping to do that.
Turning her address into a partial history lesson, Attorney Handy recounted important historical moments that she felt should be remembered by people of color. Among them were the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation and the assassination of President John Kennedy. The former federal prosecutor and current counsel to the New York Police Commissioner said these events gave Afro-Americans a sense their history on which to build their future. At the close of her speech, Handy distributed and autographed copies of her book “You Can Pass Any Bar Exam.”
In terms of the décor, the tables were adored with elongated vases that contained white roses complimented by chairs draped in black and gold accents. The program began with a welcome by Kennedy, remarks by master of ceremonies Ben Izeh, and a rendition of Lift Every Voice & Sing by Andrea Woods. Following Handy’s speech, BLSA’s E-board presented the Vivian C. Onyoba Unsung Hero Award to Edward Speights, the Above and Beyond Award to Professor Mable Martin-Scott, and the Academic Excellence Award and the Marcus Garvey Book Scholarship to Dalton Carty. Afterwards, attendees danced until 1am.
Noted as one of the premier events on Thomas Cooley’s autumn calendar, BLSA’s Black Tie is typically attended by school personnel, Lansing attorneys and judges, as well as local businessmen and women. This year’s event was no different as attendees included Cooley students and graduates, MSU law students, local jurists, and Cooley professors and administrators. However, the 19th annual Black Tie Affair distinguished itself as a forum that not only praised students and faculty, but also cultivated awareness of problems hindering Afro-Americans and encouraged them to be cognizant of their origins. Thus, the successful event stimulated the morale of not only Cooley minority students, but the morale of all attendees.
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