The Black Law Students Association at the UConn School of Law has been named a National Chapter of the Year for 2021 in recognition of the events and community service its members carried out in a time upended by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I am so proud of this group and the work we did this year,” said Dorianne Salmon, the chapter’s president. “Every member spent personal time volunteering and giving back to the community.”
The UConn Law organization shares the national honor with BLSA chapters at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law and the Fordham University School of Law. In addition to the national win, the UConn Law chapter was recognized as the Northeast Regional small chapter of the year.
During the fall semester, members of the UConn Law chapter spent a month volunteering for Hands on Harford, a non-profit agency working to bring food and shelter to Hartford-area residents. They also collaborated with the Urban League of Greater Hartford, which brought members into inter-city schools to talk to students about becoming lawyers.
In addition to community service, BLSA put on many virtual events and panels. In February, it presented a conversation with Ben Crump, the attorney for the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
“This award demonstrates what a small group of committed individuals can do,” said Professor Willajeanne McLean, the chapter’s faculty advisor. “Dorianne Salmon and the entire Executive Board of BLSA justifiably should be proud of this validation of their extraordinary efforts and the leadership they have shown. We should all bask in their reflected glory.”
The Black Law Students Association at UConn Law was established in 1969, and was called the Black American Law Students Association until 1983, when it took its current name.
“Our BLSA chapter has a rich history of promoting racial and social justice, providing beneficial mentorship to prospective and current students, and positively impacting the community,” Dean Eboni Nelson said. “This year’s members have continued these valuable traditions. I thank them for their many contributions to the law school, university, and surrounding communities, and I congratulate them for receiving this well-deserved award and recognition.”
Salmon said that being able to talk to middle and high school students, especially students of color, about being a lawyer has been invaluable. She said she is happy and proud to show students that lawyers are Black and that they can be lawyers, too.
“Every year we do this work from the heart for the kids who look like us,” Salmon said. “Our job is to make sure students of color in Hartford and beyond know they belong here. Winning an award like this is validation that people see us.”