To celebrate the achievements of the Law Alumni of Color Association (LACA), hundreds of alumni, faculty, administrators, and students gathered for the annual LACA Spring Dinner. In addition to honoring several LACA members, the event serves as an occasion for alumni to connect with one another, current students, and faculty.
The evening’s activities began with the presentation of the Derrick Bell Scholarship for Public Service to Nicholas Duque-Franco ’18, who serves as an editor of NYU Review of Law and Social Change and executive co-chair of Latino Law Students Association. The President’s Distinguished Leadership Service Award was then presented to Professor of Law Paulette Caldwell. “She has paved the way for a generation of women of color to find our voices,” said Professor of Clinical Law Kim Taylor-Thompson, who referred to Caldwell as the most influential voice on intersectionality in the United States. She continued, “If there’s no Paulette Caldwell, there’s no [Professor] Alina Das. If there’s no Paulette Caldwell, there’s no Kim Taylor-Thompson. If there’s no Paulette Caldwell, there’s no Sherrilyn Ifill.”
Caldwell spoke of her pride in LACA members’ success over the years and reminisced about attending the first LACA dinners, where only a few tables in Greenberg Lounge were needed. Caldwell acknowledged that half of the LACA founders have gone on to become leaders in legal education, and she urged the audience to celebrate the number of people of color who now lead this sector of education. “It thrills me when I come here to see how LACA has grown enormously, not only in size, but in power and influence at NYU Law, in the legal profession, and in the nation,” said Caldwell.
A special tribute was paid to Kenneth Thompson ’92, Brooklyn’s first African American district attorney, who passed away in October 2016. Hakeem Jeffries ’97, US Representative for New York's Eighth Congressional District, spoke in memory of Thompson, noting that the two had something powerful in common: their connection to NYU Law. “We both recognized that this was a special place that produced special people and had a special connection to the City of New York that we both loved so greatly—particularly as it related to producing people of color who would go on to be tremendous leaders in the community, city, or the country’s landscape.”
According to Jeffries, Kenneth Thompson was one such leader. He noted that many civil rights figures were viewed as troublemakers because they challenged the status quo. “Ken Thompson was a modern-day troublemaker,” he said. “He challenged the broken criminal justice system. He challenged wrongful conviction. He challenged the failed war on drugs. All to bend the arc of justice.”
Finally, three recipients were honored with this year’s Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award: Lorna Schofield ’81, Lida Rodriguez-Taseff ’92, and Anthony Foxx ’96.
Schofield, district judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, shared the story of her immigrant mother, who came to the United States from the Philippines and raised Schofield as a single parent, noting, “There are many roads to success in this country.”
Rodriguez-Taseff, partner at Duane Morris, praised the LACA community: “Family is the place that gives you your values. Family is the place you can rely on when you’re scared and challenged,” she said. “This is truly a family.”
Foxx, former US Secretary of Transportation, paid tribute to the ways that LACA has supported him and many others, and exhorted the audience to work to make a difference. “I ran [for office] because there was a little voice inside of me that said it was time for a change in my community,” he said. Addressing the admitted students in the room, Foxx continued, “Part of the reason you’re here tonight is because there’s a little voice inside of you saying there’s a contribution you want to make. Being in the community of people who are wrestling with the same issues and questions is enormously powerful.”
Posted April 12, 2017