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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:

  • To identify and address issues unique to African-American women lawyers, judges and those in academia. To improve the administration of justice by increasing the participation of African-American women and other minorities throughout the legal system. To advance civil and human rights.
  • To improve the administration of justice by increasing the participation of African-American women and other minorities throughout the legal system.
  • To advance civil and human rights.

Officers & Committees

President

BWLA Pres Kalia Coleman Headshot

Kalia Coleman

Assistant United States Attorney
United States Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Illinois

Vice President

Kenyatta Beverly

Director of Labor Relations
Acero Charter Schools, Inc.

Parliamentarian

Nakhia Morrissette

Regulatory Counsel & Midwest Director, State Affairs
Solar Energy Industries Association


Treasurer

Amber Bennett

Judicial Law Clerk
U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois


Recording Secretary

Bianca Brown

Assistant State’s Attorney, Civil Rights/Torts Litigation
Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office

Corresponding Secretary

Drahcir Smith

Partner
Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila, LLP

Board Member
at Large

Elsa Andrianifahanana

Associate
Jones Day

Board Member
at Large

Mary Melchor

Inspector General
Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County

Board Member
at Large

Michelle Speller-Thurman

Division Counsel
Abbott Laboratories

Board Member
at Large

Ashley Varnado

Assistant Public Defender
Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender


Ex-Officio

Chastidy Burns

Assistant Public Defender
Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender

Awards & Nominations Committee 

Mary Melchor
Ngozi Okorafor
 Board Member Liaison (Mary Melchor)

Career Services Committee

Leonore Carlson
 Board Member Liaison (Chastidy Burns)

Community Service & Outreach Committee

Tiana Blakely
Ashley Varnado
Weeya Young
Board Member Liaison (Ashley Varnado)

Corporate Counsel Committee

Rhandi Anderson
Daynor Carman
Kayla Siam
Lora Whittiker
Board Member Liaison (Michelle Speller Thurman)

Governance & Bylaws Committee

Nakhia Morrissette
Board Member Liaison (Nakhia Morrissette

Government Services Committee

Sheree Henry
Natalie Howse
Natasha Jenkins
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Health and Wellness Committee

Alexis Robertson
Trina Smith
Board Member Liaison (Kenyatta Beverly)

Judicial Evaluation Committee

Venus Brown
Brandi Burton
Natalie Ellis
Board Member Liaison (Bianca Brown)

Judicial Reception Committee

Elsa Andrianifahanana 
Drahcir Smith
 Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Law Student Outreach Committee

Myka Bell
Ericka Weaver
Board Member Liaison (Ashley Varnado)

Legislative and Advocacy Committee

Era Laudermilk
Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Member Services Committee

Carrera Thibodeaux
 Board Member Liaison (Kalia Coleman)

Mentoring Dinner Series Committee

Jasmine Fanell
Simone Jones
Merili Seale
Board Member Liaison (Michelle Speller-Thurman)

Progressives Committee

Mary Melchor
Judie Smith 
 Board Member Liaison (Mary Melchor)

Roundtable Committee 

Jordan Matthews
Ashley Starks
Board Member Liaison (Kenyatta Beverly)

Social Media Committee

Myka Bell
Tiara Morgan
 Board Member Liaison (Drahcir Smith)

Solo/Small Firms Committee

Ashanti Rice Akiwowo
Alexis Hart McDowell
Ava George Stewart
 Board Member Liaison (Ashley Varnado)

Spring Fundraiser Committee

Kenyatta Beverly
Kalia Coleman
Camille Lindsay Kumi
Era Laudermilk
Tondalaya Lloyd
Nakhia Morrissette (chair)
Drahcir Smith
Board Member Liaison (Nakhia Morrissette)

Street Law Committee

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

TEA Committee

Elsa Andrianifahanana
Erica Kirkwood
Drahcir Smith
Board Member Liaison (Elsa Andrianifahanana)

Young Lawyers Subcommittee

Joy Etinfoh
Koga Moffor
Arielle Williams
Board Member Liaison (Kenyatta Beverly)

Past Presidents

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

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

no-pic

Andrea Wood

yellen

Leslie Richards-Yellen

zopp

Andrea Zopp

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