BLSA Celebrates Black History Month

March 8, 2018

BLSA Black History Month with Congressman VeaseyBLSA members with Congressman Marc Veasey who presented on voter's rights. L-R: Lorraine Birabil, Taylor Wood, Karmah Stokes, Elan Moore, Congressman Veasey, Sara Vargas, Nijm Ramsey, Enrica Martey.

Texas A&M School of Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted multiple speaker panels throughout the month of February in celebration of Black History Month. The turnout of faculty, staff and students was tremendous.

BLSA president Elan Moore, who has been a member of BLSA since her 1L year, said this year’s theme related to issues that highlight and celebrate the African-American community.

BLSA Black History Month 2018 Elan Moore3L Elan Moore, BLSA president

“The theme of this year’s Black History Month was to ‘Engage, Educate, and Empower’,” Moore said.

“We hope we have engaged the student body in dialogue they would not have otherwise participated in and educated them on topics that will benefit them as students and future attorneys, likely to be leaders in the black community," said Moore.

"The empowerment component is two-fold: We hope to empower our current black and minority students through positive representation on the campus, and to empower them with tools to participate in tough conversations or face challenging experiences with their peers and future clients,” Moore said.

Each week in February, BLSA hosted an informative event:

Moore is grateful for the support BLSA received while planning and executing the weekly Black History Month events.

“After a few brainstorming sessions, our vice president, Sara Vargas, stepped up and took the lead on developing those ideas and she executed them beyond our expectations. I really commend her efforts and creativity; she is a taskmaster,” Moore said. “Sara created all of the flyers, trailblazer posters, and handled the logistics of room assignments and much more.”

Moore also lauded Nijm Ramsey, BLSA historian. "Nijm worked closely with Professor [Susan] Phillips on the wonderful Black History Month display in the Dee J. Kelly Law Library."

"We could not have pulled this off without the collective efforts of our board members; everyone has done their part, and it has been awesome,” Moore said.

BLSA Black History Month bias panelBLSA vice president Sara Vargas (at podium) with Prof. Lynne Rambo (left) and Prof. Michael Green (right) at the "Implicit Bias: What's Next" panel attended by faculty, staff and students

BLSA ended the Black History Month celebration February 28 with an empowerment panel with ​prominent local attorneys providing insight on how to distinguish yourself and find fulfillment as an intern or new associate on the path to becoming a leader. The panel featured:

  • Sheena Winkfield (Texas A&M Law ’14), Assistant ​District Attorney, Felony Division, Tarrant County District Attorney's Office;
  • David Godsey (Texas Wesleyan Law ’04), ​Assistant ​Vice ​President–​Senior ​Legal ​Counsel and ​Founding Partner of Godsey Martin P.C.;
  • Amber Gregg (Texas A&M Law ’12), Assistant District Attorney, Felony Crimes Division, Dallas County District Attorney's Office; and
  • Vicki Blanton, Assistant ​Vice ​President and ​Senior ​Legal ​Counsel, ​Tax and ​Benefits ​Division, AT&T.
BLSA Black History Month 2018 empowerment panelBLSA president Elan Moore (at podium) introduces empowerment panel speakers (left to right) Amber Gregg, Vicki Blanton, David Godsey and Sheena Winkfield

The sum of the message from the empowerment panel was clear: “You need to show up,” Blanton said.

“Use every opportunity you have, whether it's visiting judges, or receptions or speakers or lectures; you need to show up. There is value in your presence,” Blanton said. “I have had the most amazing experience in life. I cannot imagine my career being any different, because I have done some amazing things.”

Blanton and the panel suggested law students should not just focus on what they love to do; but to also challenge themselves. “You need to focus on what you are good at. I have done all sorts of things through this area of law [employee benefits law] that I didn’t know existed,” Blanton said.

“Don’t shy away from the unfamiliar. A new law comes out, and they give it to the new associate because no one wants to bother with it or figure it out. If you are at a firm, think about how can we, as a firm, make money off of this, package this or sell it. So then you then become the resident expert. You are thinking, ‘I’m the new kid on the block.’ Yes, but you know everything about this and no one else knows it,” Blanton said.

“You got to do the work. Show up and put your best foot forward. You try, you get mentors and help. You can do this,” said Blanton.

BLSA Black History Month 28Feb18Texas A&M School of Law students and faculty wrapping up Black History Month guest speaker events

- Article by Tyra Kelly, Communications Specialist, Texas A&M University School of Law