About BWLA

Our History

Founded in 1987, the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Greater Chicago, Inc. (“BWLA”) is one of the fastest growing bar associations in Illinois. BWLA is representative of African-American female attorneys, judges, law professors and law students in the Chicago metropolitan area and across the Midwest. BWLA is committed to serving our membership, the greater legal community and the general public through educational programs, mentoring/networking opportunities, community outreach, scholarship awards to law students and various educational pipeline programs and initiatives. BWLA has recognized and rewarded notable African-American women attorneys and other civic leaders for their achievements and contributions to the legal community and society.
Despite the hard-won achievements of some, barriers still exist for African-American women lawyers. African-American female lawyers still face the challenges brought on by the intersection of race and gender, including professional isolation, pay inequities, sexual harassment, and the glass ceiling. BWLA has been diligent and uncompromising in its commitment to addressing important issues that affect the lives of minority practitioners in the profession.

BWLA is committed to promoting excellence in the profession and encouraging the inclusion of African-American attorneys in law firms, the judiciary, governmental agencies and corporations. BWLA recognizes that we live in an America that does not always embrace our differences. It is with this recognition that BWLA has committed its time and resources to encourage programming that supports diversity.

Drawing upon the expertise and backgrounds of its membership, BWLA has developed programs and workshops to advance and assist African-American female lawyers in public and private practice, the judiciary and academia. Through building coalitions with other organizations, BWLA not only aims to address and combat the challenges that African-American female lawyers face in the profession, but through its programming and diversity initiatives, BWLA also brings about positive change in the legal workplace.

Our Motto

Since its inception in 1987, BWLA’s mission has been clear:

Officers & Committees

President

Nakhia C. Crossley

Central Region Director & Counsel, State Affairs
Solar Energy Industries Association

Vice President

Elsa Andrianifahanana

Associate
Jones Day

Parliamentarian

Christian Conway

Corporate Restructuring Associate
Clark Hill PLC


Treasurer

Amber Bennett

Associate Attorney
Mayer Brown LLP


Recording Secretary

Weeya Young

Assistant State's Attorney
Cook County State's Attorney Office

Corresponding Secretary

Era Laudermilk

Chief of Staff
Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender

Board Member
at Large

Ashley Varnado

Assistant Public Defender
Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender

Board Member
at Large

Arielle Williams

Owner/Founder
Ari Williams Law, LLC

Board Member
at Large

Shannon Stokes

Interim Deputy General Counsel & Ethics Officer
Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services

Board Member
at Large

Kina Arnold

Attorney
Office of the Public Guardian


Ex-Officio

Kenyatta-PastPres

Kenyatta Beverly

Labor and Employment Counsel
The Davey Tree Expert Company

Awards & Nominations Committee 

Mary Melchor
Ngozi Okorafor
Board Member Liaison (Camile Lindsay-Kumi)

Career Services Committee

Samya Abdela
Leonore Carlson
Board Member Liaison (Weeya Young)

Civil Rights Action Committee

Samya Abdela Elsa Andrianifahanana Amber Bennett Kenyatta Beverly Alice Brathwaite Chastidy Burns Leonore Carlson MiAngel Cody Kalia Coleman Natalie Ellis Sharon Ferguson Natalie Howse Erica Kirkwood Camile Lindsay Kumi Era Laudermilk Ava George Stewart Shannon Stokes Carrera Thibodeaux Ashley Varnado Arielle Williams Weeya Young Board Member Liaison (Nakhia Crossley)

Community Service & Outreach Committee

Sharon Ferguson
Ashley Varnado
Weeya Young
Board Member Liaison (Ashley Varnado)

Corporate Counsel Committee

Rhandi Childress Anderson
Daynor Carman
Kayla Siam
Lora Whitticker
Board Member Liaison (Nakhia Crossley)

Expungement & Sealing Committee

Kenyatta Beverly
Chastidy Burns
Michelle Glenn-Sieger
Board Member Liaison (Camile Lindsay-Kumi)

Governance & Bylaws Committee

Board Member Liaison (Elsa Andrianifahanana)

Government Services Committee

Natalie Howse
Natasha Jenkins
Board Member Liaison (Era Laudermilk)

Health and Wellness Committee

Omoyele Ajayi
Amber Bennett
Alexis Robertson
Board Member Liaison (Kenyatta Beverly)

Judicial Evaluation Committee

Venus Brown
Natalie Ellis
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Judicial Reception Committee

Kenyatta Beverly
Kalia Coleman
Board Member Liaison (Elsa Andrianifahanana)

Law Student Outreach Committee

Aerial Henderson
Amanda Smith
Erika Weaver
Arielle Williams
Board Member Liaison (Ashley Varnado)

Legislative and Advocacy Committee

Era Laudermilk
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Member Services Committee

Christian Conway
Board Member Liaison (Carrera Thibodeaux)

Mentoring Dinner Series Committee

Jasmine Fannell
Simone Jones
Merili Seale
Michelle Speller-Thurman
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Progressives Committee

Mary Melchor
Judy Smith
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Roundtable Committee 

Jordan Matthews
Ashley Starks
Board Member Liaison (Era Laudermilk)

Social Media Committee

Samya Abdela
Board Member Liaison (Carrera Thibodeaux)

Solo/Small Firms Committee

Ashanti Rice Akiwowo
Alexis Hart McDowell
Ava George Stewart
Board Member Liaison (Arielle Williams)

Spring Fundraiser Committee

Amber Bennett
Kenyatta Beverly
Kalia Coleman
Natalie Howse
Nakhia Crossley
Board Member Liaison (Amber Bennett)

Street Law Committee

Kina Arnold
Tondalaya Lloyd
Chastidy Burns
Board Member Liaison (Arielle Williams)

TEA Committee

Erica Kirkwood
Nakhia Crossley
Amanda Smith
Drahcir Smith
Board Member Liaison (Elsa Andrianifahanana)

Young Lawyers Subcommittee

Joy Etinfoh
Aerial Henderson
Board Member Liaison (Kenyatta Beverly)

Past Presidents

kalia-pastpres-small

Kalia Coleman

2019-2020

c-burns

Chastidy Burns

2018-2019

e-kirkwood

Erica Kirkwood

2017-2018

k-wright

Kenya Jenkins Wright

2016-2017

l-hunt

Hon. LaShonda A. Hunt

2015-2016

c-boyce

Chasity Boyce

2014-2015

t-harper-new

Tiffany Harper

2013-2014

n-okorafor-new2

Ngozi Okorafor

2012-2013

t-campbell

Tracy Ann Campbell

2011-2012

t-wilkes

Tonya Wilkes-Moore

2010-2011

s-blackwell

Ashanta A. Blackwell-Evans

2009-2010

mm

Mary Melchor

2008-2009

d-capers

Dorothy G. Capers

2007-2008

n-hudson-new

Nathalina A. Hudson

2006-2007

LELA-D-JOHNSON

Lela D. Johnson

2005-2006

s-jones-new

Sharon Jones

2004-2005

z-scott-new

Zaldwaynaka L. Scott

2003-2004

HON-SYBIL-C-THOMAS

Hon. Sybil C. Thomas

2001-2003

p-reed

Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed

1999-2001

m-kerman

Marsha Moseley-Kerman

1998-1999

p-holmes

Hon. Patricia Brown Holmes

1997-1998

YVONNE-OWENS

Yvonne Owens

1996-1997

r-shoffner

Hon. Robin Shoffner

1995-1996

VEDA-BRITT-HANDY

Veda Britt-Handy

1993-1995

MERCEDES-A-LAING

Mercedes A. Laing

1990-1993

O-Scott

Obyrietta Gammet Scott

1989-1990

W-MUZETTE-HILL

W. Muzette Hill Stallings

1988-1989

ErtharinCousin

Ertharin Cousin

1987-1988

Founders

ErtharinCousin

Ertharin Cousin

VEDA-BRITT-HANDY

Veda Britt-Handy

p-holmes

Hon. Patricia Brown Holmes

s-jones-new

Sharon Jones

no-pic

Cecelia Mowatt

p-reed

Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed

O-Scott

Obyrietta Gammet Scott

W-MUZETTE-HILL

W. Muzette Hill Stallings

a-williams

Judge Ann Claire Williams (Retired)

Lifetime Members

F.ALLGAIER

Fraline Allgaier

no-pic

Valerie Bomar

c-boyce

Chasity Boyce

campbell

LaQuietta Hardy-Campbell

d-capers

Dorothy G. Capers

clark

Violet M. Clark

no-pic

Tiffany Ferguson

p-holmes

Hon. Patricia Brown Holmes (Retired)

t-harper-new

Tiffany Harper

Hubbard

Hon. Arnette Hubbard

LELA-D-JOHNSON

Lela D. Johnson

no-pic

Johnette Simone Jones

logan

Amanda Toney Logan

mm

Mary Melchor

Moseley

Marsha Moseley

AnnePhillip

Danielle Anne Phillip

p-reed

Hon. Patrice Ball-Reed

robinson

Lauren Robinson

z-scott-new

Zaldwaynaka L. Scott

senat

Anastasie Senat

stein

Sylvia Stein

Weathersby

Vanessa Weathersby

Hon. Andrea R. Wood

yellen

Leslie Richards-Yellen

zopp

Andrea Zopp