Goal IX - Volume 6, Number 2, Spring 2000
Once again, the Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession hosted a magnificent Spirit of Excellence Awards Luncheon. On Saturday, February 12, 2000, more than 300 people filled an elaborately decorated ballroom—complete with candelabra on every table—for the fifth annual program honoring lawyers who actively promote the full and equal participation of minorities in the legal profession. This year’s event honored:
- Kalyn Cherie Free, an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation, and the first woman and Native American to be elected a district attorney in Oklahoma
- Patsy Takemoto Mink, Congresswoman from the State of Hawaii
- Henry Ramsey, Jr., former Dean of Howard Law School and California judge
- Marcos G. Ronquillo, founding shareholder of the Ronquillo Law Firm, P.C., in Dallas, TX
- Charles Morgan, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, BellSouth Corporation, who led major diversity initiatives in the profession
- Benjamin Hooks, former judge and Executive Director of the NAACP
Nomination forms for the 2001 Spirit of Excellence Awards must be received by the ABA Commission on Opportunities for Minorities in the Profession by August 1, 2000.
The name has been modified; the mission remains the same. Come September 1, 2000, the Commission’s name will formally become the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. The ABA Board of Governors approved the name change at its Midyear meeting in February. The Commission requested this change for three major reasons:
(1) To recognize that the country’s demographics are changing; as a whole, Americans of African, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American ancestry will no longer represent a minority of the population by 2050.
(2) To better and more accurately reflect the focus of the Commission in more contemporary terms.
(3) To overcome the potential negative stigma or implications of the term "minority" (such as, lesser than) when compared to "majority" (such as, greater than).
The Commission extends appreciation to Harold A. Pope, the president of the National Bar Association, for his leadership on posing the question of the accuracy and applicability of the Commission’s "Minorities" name. The Commission considered the language issue and decided to pursue the name change.
"Language is paramount," says Charisse Lillie, Chair of the Commission. "Many proxies for discrimination in the past have been words. We have to be as sensitive as we can to all persons covered by this debate."
Several lawyers escaped standard Midyear Meeting activities and took a mentoring and educational excursion to North Dallas High School. On Friday morning, February 11, 2000, the Commission sponsored a student outreach project, coordinated by Commission member Philippa V. Tibbs. Attorneys Edwin Flores, Suzy Fulton, James Durant, John Garza, John Williams, Al Silva, and Jeannie Hong served on a panel discussing privacy in high schools before an enthusiastic audience of teenagers.
The school’s community liaison, Judith Donohue, worked with the students beforehand to prepare them for the program. The preparation paid off. The students actively interacted with the panel on questions regarding metal detectors in schools, locker inspections, personal searches before entering school, and other privacy issues.
After the program, several students talked individually with panel members. These one-on- one sessions, along with the program, "helped to inspire the students to continue their education and to set higher goals for themselves," says Ms. Tibbs. "Who knows, maybe we will be fortunate enough to have some of the students join our profession." The Commission provided several of the students involved in the school’s mock trial program with complimentary tickets to the Spirit of Excellence Awards Luncheon.
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