From Michael HuYoung, 2011-2012 Chair
It has been an honor and a privilege for me to serve as the Chair of the Diversity Conference this past year. The Conference has accomplished much, but we still have much to do. I thank each and every member of the Conference for the opportunity to serve as your Chair. This past year was the first year that the Conference actually had an opportunity to put some concrete programs in place that we hope will be perpetual in nature instead of concentrating on fund raising events as we did in our first year of existence (2012-2011). If you recall, the Conference is not afforded any funding by the Virginia State Bar so all of our financial and administerial needs have been up to us to raise and develop. I do appreciate your kind acceptance of me in my role as Chair of the Diversity Conference and the consideration you have afforded me, and I ask that you give the same kind consideration and support to Peter Burnett who will serve as you new Chair for 2012-2013. Please remember that this is your Conference, and you can take as much of an active role as you want. We welcome your involvement and participation, and we urge you to take advantage of what the Conference can offer you in the advancement of diversity in the bar.
The Conference was asked by the Appalachian School of Law to present a diversity program at the law school, because the law school felt the need to incorporate the issue of diversity into their law school curriculum. The Conference was able to provide a panel discussion and presentation to the law school on September 28, 2011 in Grundy, Virginia which was well-received and highly attended. Clarence Dunnaville, Jr., Rupen Shah, and Latoya Asia presented the program which focused on making the law schools an integral part of the Diversity Conference’s mission, because the law schools will be responsible for building the bridge for their students to become “citizen lawyers” upon their graduation and entry into the legal profession. A common theme arises from the goals of the Diversity Conference – inclusion and not exclusion. Thus, the panel motivated the law students to take a course of study to enable them in their careers to assist others or to become involved in projects and programs that reach out to all members of society regardless of the color of their skin or the God whom they worship or not worship.
The Diversity Conference’s other major event of our fiscal year was, the Rule of Law and Student Law Day at the General Assembly and the Virginia Supreme Court on April 5, 2012 where over 300 high school and middle school students from the Richmond area participated in the Rule of Law and Student Law Day at the General Assembly and the Virginia Supreme Court. It began with an opening ceremony and presentation involving Virginia Supreme Court Justice Cleo Powell, former Supreme Court Justice John Charles Thomas, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Roger Gregory, Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring, Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody, General Counsel for the Richmond Sheriff’s Department Tony Pham, Mike Pace, creator of the Rule of Law Program, and VSB President George Shanks. A DVD of the opening presentation is showing continuously outside of this meeting room today.
Justice Powell welcomed the students and gave a synopsis of the day’s proceedings. She added a little of her personal history and how she fell in love with the law as a young student herself. VSB President Shanks welcomed the students on behalf of the VSB and challenged them to become involved in the legal system. Mike Pace explained how the Rule of Law is so important in a civilized society. Former Justice John Charles Thomas read a poem that he wrote especially for the event and gave an inspirational speech about the law and how every single student in the room can achieve whatever they want to achieve. Sheriff C.T. Woody gave his personal history about how he used to run from the law, and now he is the law. General Counsel Pham gave an emotional account of how the law made him able to succeed in life as a refugee from Vietnam living in refugee camps after being forced to leave his country abruptly as a child when the Communist regime took over his native country. Commonwealth’s Attorney Herring and Judge Gregory split the room of students into two groups and led the students in an SOL type of competition against one another. In order to see which group won, you need to look at the DVD on our website listed below.
At the Supreme Court session, former Justice Thomas and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli spoke to the students in the Supreme Court courtroom and explained to them about the law and the proceedings that occur in that courtroom. Attorney Cuccinelli told the students about his experiences as an attorney, and how at the kitchen table one day, his wife convinced him that he should run for political office in the General Assembly and how that turned into becoming the Attorney General of Virginia. Students were allowed to ask them questions, and both of them gave forthright answers to those questions.
The students were divided into small groups where members of the Diversity Conference, the Young Lawyers Conference, and other lawyer volunteers led in small group discussions and presentations on the Rule of Law and other law-related topics. Feedback from the students and their teachers were all positive. Several of them commented that they learned more about government, civics, and law in that day than they had all year in school. The media and the press covered the event.
Although many individuals were involved in putting this event together, many thanks go to Justice Cleo Powell, Kai Memmer, Latoya Asia, and Kathy Mays Coleman of our Board, Leila Hopper of the Virginia Supreme Court, Mike Pace and Tim Isaacs of the VBA Rule of Law Program, Farnaz Farkish of the AG's office, Richmond Sheriff C.T. Woody and his staff, and representatives of the Communities in School Program of the Richmond City Schools (Dr. Ajai Blue-Saunders and Terrie Harris). Because of the success of this event, plans are already in place to implement this event again next year along with other smaller Rule of Law Programs throughout the middle schools and high schools in the state.
The Diversity Conference is partnering with the VSB Young Lawyers Conference in the promotion and fund-raising for the Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute. The Conference applied for and obtained a grant of $10,000 from the Virginia Law Foundation this year to fund this Institute. The Institute is named after legendary civil rights lawyers, Oliver S. Hill and Samuel W. Tucker.
The Institute is scheduled for June 24–29, 2012 at the University of Richmond. For one week, high school students are introduced to the legal profession by living on the University of Richmond college campus, and attending mock law classes and seminars on the law, test-taking strategies, the college admissions process, and career opportunities in the legal profession. The students meet with law professors, judges, guest lecturers, and bar members. At the end, the students participate in a mock trial. The Institute culminates with a graduation banquet where the featured speaker will be a prominent individual who has contributed much to the cause of diversity in the legal profession and in the judiciary.
The Institute attracts high school students from throughout the state of Virginia, with an emphasis on areas and schools with higher percentages of minority and diverse students or at-risk students. The purposes of the Institute are to educate the students on basic fundamentals for successful law careers and to provide them with an opportunity to experience the field of law first-hand in the hopes of attracting them to pursue a law career which they may think is out of reach for them. Members of the Diversity and the Young Lawyers Conferences will serve as instructors and mentors.
A major goal of the Diversity Conference is to ensure that the legal needs of Virginians, especially those of diverse origins, are met. The Conference is partnering with the Immigrant Assistance Project (IAP) to reach this goal. Founded in Richmond by Robert Redmond, Jr., a partner at the Richmond office of Williams Mullen, and Michel Zajur, CEO and Founder of the Virginia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and also a member of our Board, the IAP provides pro-bono legal services in immigration and related matters to the underserved Hispanic and diverse communities in the state. Individuals have enefited from legal representation in a variety of ways: receiving unpaid wages, receiving employment authorization, avoiding deportation through prosecutorial discretion, successfully seeking asylum, withholding of removal and arranging voluntary departures. At this moment, IAP is located primarily in the Richmond area, but it wants to expand its work to the Northern Virginia region where the Hispanic and diverse communities are much larger and the need for pro bono immigration work greater. The Conference applied for and received $50,000 in grant money from the Virginia Law Foundation to assist in IAP’s expansion efforts to Northern Virginia.
Although Robert Redmond and his group at Williams Mullen are responsible for the coordination and implementation of the legal services rendered, they welcome assistance from members of the bar, who are interested in this area of the law and especially in helping those who need the help, and will train any lawyer who volunteers to assist. The Conference supports the IAF’s mission and goals and welcomes any volunteers and assistance from any member of the bar in this endeavor.
The Diversity Conference and Board member, Manuel Leiva, in conjunction with the Conference of Local Bars and the Fairfax Bar has revamped, updated, and translated to Spanish the popular So You’re 18 Booklet. The booklet is being reviewed by several certified court interpreters to ensure that all of the translations are accurate and precise.
The Diversity Conference will have its Inaugural Annual Business Meeting at the VSB Summer Conference at Virginia Beach on the afternoon of June 15, 2012 at 3:00 p.m. in the Orion’s Roof Restaurant atop the Cavalier Oceanfront Hotel where the Conference will award its Inaugural Achievement Award to Clarence M. Dunnaville Jr. of Richmond. Mr. Dunnaville is being honored for setting an example of excellence that members of the Conference can emulate to meet its mission and goals of fostering, encouraging, and facilitating diversity and inclusion in the bar, the judiciary, and the legal profession, serving as a catalyst for creating leadership and bar service opportunities for diverse members of the bar in the legal profession, and working to ensure that the legal system is responsive to the legal needs of the people of Virginia. In further honor of Mr. Dunnaville, the Award will be named after him.
Mr. Dunnaville, a Richmond lawyer and a member of the Board of the Diversity Conference, has devoted his entire life to civil rights. He participated in demonstrations in the 1950s, volunteered with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as a civil rights attorney in Mississippi in the 1960s, and served as the New York Executive Director of the Interracial Council for Business Opportunity, which was involved in creating minority group entrepreneurs in the 1970s. In the early 1980s he co-founded Workshops in Business Opportunities to assist minority entrepreneurs gain business skills. Throughout the 1980s he continued to work with minority group entrepreneurs. In 1990, he returned to his home state of Virginia and continued to be an advocate for justice. He joined the small law firm of Oliver W. Hill, who was one of the lawyers in Brown v. Board of Education and engaged in numerous activities to promote access to justice and equality of opportunity.
Mr. Dunnaville is a founding member of the Oliver White Hill Foundation which has purchased and restored Oliver Hill’s boyhood home. Upon completion of the restoration, Dunnaville formed a coalition of a law school and legal practitioners who work out of the restored home to provide legal services to the poor.
The Virginia State Bar awarded the 2009 Lewis F. Powell Jr. Pro Bono Award to Dunnaville for his work on behalf of disenfranchised individuals. This award followed the 2007 Segal-Tweed Founders Award by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law for outstanding leadership and service in the cause of equal justice.
Our keynote speaker for the Meeting will be Retired Justice John Charles Thomas who is a dynamic speaker as several of us who have heard him speak before can attest. Justice Thomas became the first African American Justice to sit on the Virginia Supreme Court. He was 32 years old at the time, making him the youngest person to hold a seat on the Court. In that role, he ruled on thousands of appellate matters addressing the full range of Virginia law. He retired from the Court and now is a senior partner at Hunton & Williams.
After the Annual Meeting at the Beach, the Conference has the honor and privilege of co-hosting and co-sponsoring the Virginia Women Attorney Association’s (VWAA) annual reception at the Captain's A Room, Cavalier Beach Club, from 4:00 - 5:30 p.m. All members of the Diversity Conference are welcomed to attend both our Annual Meeting and the reception, and we hope to see all of you there.
In regards to our website, it is up and running at full speed. Check it out http://www.dcvsb.org or just go on the Bar’s website and click “Conferences and then click “Diversity Conference.” Most if not all of our activities past, present, and future are on it. You will see photographs from the abovementioned events. We try to keep it updated, but due to lack of full administrative assistance from the Bar, it is up to us (Rupen Shah of our Board)) to keep it current. He is our webmaster so to say, but as with all of us in a full practice of law, his time is limited. Despite limited time, he has enabled our website to be an interactive one where Bar members can join the Conference through it, donations can be made on it, and people can contact us to participate in our activities.
With the assiatance of my legal assistants, Blake Diana and Aldraina Calderara, the Board has the ability to mass email members of the Conference to notice you of upcoming events or just to contact to contact you as I am doing now. Again, as we reiterated before in one of our mass emails to you, if you would like to be deleted from this email blast, please contact either Asha Holloman of the VSB or me, and we will take you off the email list. Please be patient if you send us such a request and we do not remove you immediately, because as mentioned before, we do not have full admisntrative support from the Bar so my legal assistants will have to delete you when they have some spare time in their busy day-to-day legal work. It has taken this long to create this mass email system which I hope informs you of our work and development.
Because the Conference is not funded by the Bar, the money to implement all of our efforts has to be raised by us. Therefore, fund-raisers have to be a focus in whatever we do. Some of our fundraisers are listed below.
“Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament
The Inaugural “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament was held on June 16, 2011 in Virginia Beach during the Virginia State Bar’s (VSB) Annual Meeting. Ed Weiner, former Board member, and Aubrey Rosser, spearheaded this event. Not only was a fun time had by all, but we also had the opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with other members of the Bar and establish new friendships. Much thanks needed to be given to the sponsors and donors. We surpassed our expected goal in fundraising. The raffle gifts were fabulous, as we raffled off many fine items, such as a full set of men’s Calloway golf clubs, a full set of women’s Calloway golf clubs, and many other extravagant items. You had to be there to see all of the items raffled. The Virginia Beach National Golf Club (VBNGC) was a great host for this event. All staff and employees were very accommodating and took care of our every need. Photos of this event are on our website.
The Second “Fore Diversity” Golf Tournament will be held on Thursday June 14, 2012 at 12:00 noon with registration at 11:30 a.m. again at the Virginia Beach National Golf Club during the VSB Summer Conference. You do not have to register for the VSB Summer Annual Conference to play, and you need not to be a member of the bar nor do you have to be an attorney. Friends, relatives, loved ones, all are welcomed to play. We hope to increase the amount of funds raised from this year’s tournament. We also expect to have more extravagant gifts, awards, and raffles at this year’s tournament. Go on our website to see some of the prizes and gifts awarded and given last year. If you are a golfer, you need to sign up to play in this. You can get a registration form from the VSB, form our website, or by contacting any of us on the Board.
“Jazz 4 Justice” Concerts
Another of our second fund raising event was the “Jazz 4 Justice” Concert presented at the new Forbes Performing Arts Center on the campus of James Madison University (JMU) on September 17, 2011. The concert was a show of musical excellence as the JMU Jazz Ensemble and guest performers and guest conductor, our own VSB President, George Shanks, performed the classic big band sounds of Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey, and others. Enjoyable music was appreciated by all who attended, and the venue for the program at the new Forbes Center was spectacular. We were able to raise funds not only for the Diversity Conference, but also for the Blue Ridge Legal Aid Society and the James Madison University Jazz Ensemble. Again, donor and sponsorship participation was generous, and we hope to have more attendance this upcoming year as the Conference has been given the green light by JMU to present it again in September of 2012.
The Conference has reached out also to the Christopher Newport University (CNU) to inquire if we could present a “Jazz 4 Justice” Concert at their fabulous performing arts venue. CNU has been receptive to the idea, and the Conference is making initial plans for it.
Future fund-raising plans are also in the works to solicit funds from major corporations and law firms with diversity incentive programs that can be benefited by their association with the Diversity Conference. Our Board members will approach these major corporations and law firms to inquire if such an association with the Conference is feasible and whether our missions and goals are compatible. Also, any individual or entity wishing to donate to the Diversity Conference can have their donations tax-deductible under our IRS charitable 501(c) 3 status.
The Diversity Conference has been active in increasing its membership. We are around 150 + members and growing. Any member of the Bar can join the Conference at no cost by the following: 1) clicking on our website at the above-mentioned web addresses and following the instructions to join; 2) filling out the newly-created application form for membership which can also be obtained from our website or from any of our Board members; or 3) just sending an email or letter requesting to join to the VSB or any of the Board members. Please have your fellow firm members or attorney friends join.
Under the leadership of new Chair Peter Burnett, the Conference will attempt to maintain past events and projects like the Law School Diversity Conference and Symposium such as the one we held in November 2011 at the University of Virginia School of Law, the Rule of Law Programs in high schools and middle schools throughout last year and at the General Assembly and Virginia Supreme Court on April 5. Jazz 4 Justice Concerts will be had at James Madison University and Christopher Newport University. The Hill-Tucker Pre-Law Institute will be held again, and we will continue with the Immigration Outreach Program. We also have new events and projects in the works and planning stages.
In recognizing geographic diversity, the Conference is planning a combined Rule of Law Program for high schools and middle schools, a Professionalism Course for law students, and a CLE for attorneys at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia in October 2012. This will be a two-day event, and we hope to have some of the leaders of the Bar in attendance with us there. More information on this event as it draws near.
The Conference is involved in a film/documentary project on diversity in America with a renowned film producer which has attracted several major contributors. No funds generally raised by the Conference will be used in this film project. Individual donors have made monetary contributions to this film project.
The Conference hopes to become involved in LGBT issues in the coming year as some attorneys have mentioned the need for open discussion in this area of the law due to recent developments in our state.
The Conference welcomes involvement and input from members of the Bar interested in issues of diversity of all kind.