Dear BWLA family, friends, and supporters,
On June 10, 2020, I was installed as the President of this amazing bar association, which I have loved and served for a decade. I do not take for granted the trust that BWLA members placed in me by electing me to various Board positions over the years, leading up to my presidency. As President, I promise to pay BWLA’s investment in me forward, supporting future generations of Black women lawyers and the Chicago community.
It is no secret that I am embarking upon leading BWLA during challenging and unprecedented times. For most of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has left a path of fear, uncertainty, and grief across the globe. Additionally, Black and brown people, who already consistently face inequities, are dying from the virus at disproportionate rates across America.
In the midst of this horror, the Black community has also endured the familiar trauma of watching as Black men and women are killed by law enforcement and vigilantes. We have been reminded of the normal activities that we are not safe to enjoy while being Black, such as jogging, sleeping, bird watching, and most importantly—breathing.
The world watched as Minnesota police officers tortured and murdered George Floyd in broad daylight, and finally said ‘enough is enough.’ Globally, protests erupted and the world demanded that the police officers be held accountable and charged. I have never witnessed energy of this magnitude to bring an end to police brutality and demand a more equitable and just society. BWLA will fight to keep this energy and forward movement going, and partner with other organizations to pursue this goal.
While BWLA will continue to creatively provide our regular stellar programming, we will prioritize responding to the impact of COVID-19 on our community, as well as the senseless murder of Black men and women by law enforcement. Just last month, BWLA launched its first grant program, the BWLA Summer 2020 Law Student Hardship Fund, which will provide financial support and mentoring to law students who were adversely impacted by the pandemic.
Furthermore, in response to nationwide protests due to the unjustified murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, BWLA quickly formed the BWLA Civil Rights Action Committee (“CRAC”) and trained our members to be on the front lines supporting and representing arrested protesters. The CRAC will zealously address general civil rights issues, including advocating for police reform and mobilizing a robust Voting Rights Campaign in Black communities.
As some of you may know, I am passionate about mentoring our youth. During my bar year, I plan to connect BWLA with more grade school aged students to build relationships that transcend academic programming. I was a 3rd grader when I met a Black woman law student who left such an indelible imprint on me that I fell in love with the dream of becoming an attorney and never let that go. It is important for BWLA to connect with our youth and show them what they can be, even if that is not an attorney.
I am excited to serve as BWLA’s President for the 2020-2021 bar year. Thank you for this incredible opportunity to continue to grow our beloved sisterhood, no matter the circumstances. Black people are resilient and BWLA is resilient. We will overcome whatever is thrown at us and have an impactful and successful bar year.
Kenyatta S. Beverly
2020-2021 BWLA President