OCBA Update: Diversity in the practice of law and the OCBA

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Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
* * * * *
Blackbird singing in the dead of night.
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to be free.
* * * * *
Blackbird, fly,
Blackbird, fly
Into the light of a dark black night.
* * * * *
Blackbird, fly,
Blackbird, fly
Into the light of a dark black night.
* * * * *
Blackbird singing in the dead of night,
Take these broken wings and learn to fly.
All your life,
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
                                                                      
“Blackbird” (Paul McCartney)
Released: November 25, 1968
The Beatles (The White Album)
 
The 1950s have been characterized as a passive decade after World War II that was led by President Dwight Eisenhower. Although I was born during the early 1950s, the events that shaped my growing up occurred during the tumultuous 1960s. One of the major social/political events that took place during the 1960s, and which I witnessed first-hand, was the struggle and advancement of the civil rights movement.

No political leader during this period of great social upheaval impressed me more than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King was a husband, a father, a preacher – and the pre-eminent leader of the civil rights movement that continues to transform America and the world today. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the 20th century’s most influential men and lived one of its most extraordinary lives.

Growing up during the 1960s, three events in Dr. King’s life inspired me greatly. On August 28, 1963, Dr. King gave one of the most moving and profound speeches ever made in connection with the civil rights movement, known as his “I Have a Dream” speech. This awe-inspiring speech was given as part of the March on Washington. I remember hearing Dr. King’s speech on the NBC Huntley-Brinkley Report national evening news with my family. Interestingly, the precursor of this speech was given by Dr. King in June 1963 when he used the same theme in a speech at Cobo Hall in downtown Detroit.

The second transformative moment for me occurred in 1965 in Selma, Alabama. The purpose of the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery was to secure voting rights for politically disenfranchised black people throughout the south and the rest of the country. On March 7, 1965, television watchers throughout the United States saw peaceful civil rights marchers championing the cause of voting rights for everyone being brutally beaten by the Selma police at the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

After this deplorable show of force by the Selma police, President Lyndon B. Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress on March 15, 1965, and made one of the most eloquent, unequivocal and passionate pleas for human rights ever made by a president of the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Dr. King’s skillful and inspiring leadership in galvanizing support for the passage of the Voting Rights Act made me, as an impressionable 13-year-old, re-evaluate how we as Americans need to treat people of diverse heritages more fairly and compassionately.

The last accomplishment by Dr. King that had an indelible impression on me was when I had the opportunity in 1969, in my government class at Southfield High School, to read Dr. King’s April 16, 1963, letter from the Birmingham, Alabama, city jail to the eight Alabama clergymen who criticized his non-violent demonstrations and called his non-violent approach to political reform extremist and non-law abiding. Dr. King’s brilliant rebuttal of these unfounded criticisms from the squalid conditions of the Birmingham jail was the final piece of evidence proving to me that Dr. King was the greatest political leader I had witnessed during my first 18 years on this planet.

1968 has been called the year that rocked the world. Thanks to television, the crazy world as it existed in 1968 was forever captured on video to be replayed over and over throughout the course of time. What we baby boomers saw in our living rooms every night in 1968 was that things everywhere were unraveling and being pulled apart at the seams, often with unbearable force.

In early April 1968, Dr. King and his followers went to Memphis, Tennessee, to support the sanitation workers in that city. On April 3, 1968, Dr. King gave his last speech at the Mason Temple in Memphis. On that occasion, Dr. King delivered an inspiring speech that came to be known as the “Promised Land” speech. In giving this speech, Dr. King spoke as though he knew what the terrible events of the next day would bring for him.

On April 4, 1968, at approximately 6:00 p.m., Dr. King was standing on the balcony of his hotel room in Memphis with other civil rights leaders. A blast echoed through the Lorraine Hotel courtyard and Dr. King was struck in the head by a .30-06 caliber bullet. Dr. King died hours later and the champion of the non-violent civil rights movement was silenced forever. I and countless other idealistic high school and college students could not believe what we had observed regarding the silencing of this great leader by a lunatic gunman.

In the fall of 1968, The Beatles released their only double album while the group was still together. The album, “The Beatles,” was packaged in a plain white cover, hence the name it’s more commonly known by: the “White Album.” The songs on this album showed how much the group had grown over the past five years. The album also showed the highly individualized nature of the group’s makeup and how much the group was growing apart.

The Beatles, like millions of their baby boomer fans, were moved by the civil rights movement in the United States led by Dr. King. On the “White Album,” Paul McCartney wrote a tribute song to the civil rights movement called “Blackbird.” Paul McCartney has indicated that “Blackbird” was a song from him to a black woman who was experiencing racial discrimination in the United States. “Blackbird” was Paul McCartney’s and The Beatles’ attempt to encourage downtrodden black people in the United States to keep trying, to keep the faith and to keep hope alive.

One of the important lessons I learned from Dr. King during the 1960s was the importance of diversity in all aspects of our lives. This is a lesson I carried over into my adult life. One of the things that attracts me to the Oakland County Bar Association is the OCBA’s commitment to diversity in the practice of law. All of the different ethnic groups that practice law in Oakland County bring to the practice a unique perspective and vantage point that no single ethnic group possesses. Having a diverse bar association makes the practice of law in Oakland County better and more enriching for everyone involved in this process.

The OCBA has had a Diversity in the Legal Profession Committee for many years. Lawrence Garcia, one of the esteemed members of the Diversity Committee, summed up the committee’s efforts over the past five years as seeking to “raise awareness of the need for greater diversity in the legal profession and in the activities of the OCBA.” The Diversity Committee meets on a regular basis to assist the bar association in promoting activities that advance the cause of diversity in the day-to-day operation of the OCBA and in the practice of law in Oakland County.

Every other year, the OCBA sponsors a Diversity Dinner. In October 2015, the Diversity Dinner took place at The Bird and The Bread restaurant in Birmingham. This was a sold-out event that honored several members of the bar association who personify the commitment of the OCBA in promoting diversity in the practice of law. At the Diversity Dinner, special recognition was given to Cheryl A. Bush and John R. Nussbaumer, who both have gone the extra mile in making diversity in the OCBA and in the practice of law an everyday occurrence. Special thanks also go out to Vicki King, 2015-2016 chairperson of our Diversity Committee, who was instrumental in making this wonderful event a memorable affair.

Each year the OCBA devotes an issue of its LACHES magazine to the discussion of diversity in the practice of law. The OCBA also reaches out regularly to the affinity bar associations and partners with them and with other programs that promote diversity in the legal profession. On a regular basis, the OCBA, through its Diversity Committee, reaches out to our members with a diversity survey to see how the bar association can be more effective in performing its mission.

The Diversity Committee is also involved in pro bono legal clinics hosted by the OCBA to service members of the Oakland County community with their legal problems. The Diversity Committee is presently seeking ways in which it can partner with the Urban Street Law program to assist minority individuals in the tri-county area. The Diversity Committee also reaches out to the deans of the Michigan law schools to assist with diversity events and programs being sponsored by these educational institutions.

The OCBA is an organization that on a daily basis follows and practices Dr. King’s dream of diversity. I cannot think of a more noble activity for our bar association to pursue than to adhere to and live out the teachings of Dr. King. The OCBA and its Diversity Committee work tirelessly in attempting to make Dr. King’s vision of equality for all a reality. I am proud, and I hope you are too as a member of the OCBA, to be a part of this laudable effort.
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David Carl Anderson, of Law Office of David C. Anderson PC, is the 83rd president of the Oakland County Bar Association. Share thoughts about the OCBA or anything else with Anderson at 248-649-5502 or dcalaw08@att.net.