Volume 11, no. 4
Why do I Belong to a Minority Bar?
By Francisco Ramos, Jr.
I grew up in Chicago. In my neighborhood, you were known by two things—your nationality and your father’s occupation. “There’s Frank. The Cuban kid. His old man is the meat packer.” In my neighborhood, no matter how hard you tried you couldn’t get away from the labels. As I grew up, I stopped trying to get away from them because I came to realize that my values, my beliefs, my perspective were all inextricably tied to those labels—born of Cuban parents, son of a meat packer.
That’s why today I am a member of CABA—the Cuban American Bar Association. I’m a member because I want to meet other attorneys from Cuban families, some from working class families—attorneys who were raised like I was, who were imbued with the same beliefs and views, in short—attorneys like me. I enjoy hearing how people like me manage—manage work, manage family, manage balancing both. It’s instructive to see how people like me tackle their jobs. It’s encouraging to see people like me succeeding. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Some might wonder why we need minority bar associations. Aren’t we all the same? Do we really need to emphasize our differences? The fact is, we are not the same. Who we are is determined in no small part by where we came from. Minority bars acknowledge this—in fact, they validate it. I don’t have to be ashamed of being different, because there are a lot of attorneys out there who are different too. Knowing you’re not alone is comforting. Knowing that others like you have done well is empowering. That’s what CABA offers me—it lets me see the road ahead and lets me see that I’m not walking it alone.
Different people join minority bars for different reasons—the networking opportunities, the CLE, the chance to get together with friends. These are all great reasons. But for me, there is no better reason than to be in a place where I can embrace the labels of childhood—where being Cuban is something to be proud of, a source of strength and a power to be reckoned with. And where I can see myself reflected in faces of those who have done what I only dream of doing one day—faces like mine.
Francisco Ramos, Jr., is a certified mediator and partner at Clarke Silverglate Campbell in Miami, Florida. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The author recommends the Cuban-American Bar Association at www.cabaonline.com.
For more legal networking, visit the ABA’s Web site at www.abanet.org/minorities/links/minoritybars.html where you’ll find links to many state and local bars, plus:
• the Hispanic National Bar at www.hnba.com/
• Los Abogados at www.losabogados.org.