Fordham Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) chapter has been named Northeast Regional Chapter of the Year by the National Black Law Students Association.
“When deciding who should receive Chapter of the Year, our committee unanimously decided that Fordham would receive the award,” said Ashlica Malcolm, Northeast Regional Director of Community Service at the National Black Law Students Association. “From hosting over 40 events to helping shape the Fordham Law School community for Black students, Fordham’s BLSA Chapter exemplified the meaning of Black excellence and community engagement. Their commitment to establishing real institutionalized change shows the power behind people when an initiative is executed by visionaries with the purpose to create a legacy.”
Proponents for Change
Abdulai Turay ’22 and Tatiana Hyman ’22 stepped into their respective roles as president and vice president of BLSA at a particularly challenging time. “There was the pandemic, then there was the huge uprising for social justice,” explained Turay. To lead the BLSA board meant not only becoming leaders in their Fordham community but addressing two worldwide crises. “We felt it was on us to use that momentum to make change within the law school,” Hyman added.
In spring 2020, the BLSA board met with the law school’s Black student body to brainstorm a list of recommendations for the school’s administration to foster a more inclusive and welcoming environment for its Black students.
“To see those changes we advocated for coming to fruition—from hiring a diversity and inclusion director to seeing a near doubling of the Black 1L class—that’s really been the shining star of our work,” said Hyman.
Serving the Community
Fordham’s BLSA chapter has a deep commitment to community service. Brian Sarfo ’22 serves as the Fordham BLSA community service chair, and despite the challenges of organizing service work during the pandemic, he organized a day of service with Operation Backpack to box school supplies for NYC children in homeless and domestic violence shelters as well as a supply drive for a school in the Bronx.
“In the community service role I was forced to think outside the box about how we as a chapter could get involved beyond the doors of the law school in the midst of a pandemic,” Sarfo explained. “I am extremely grateful to have served in the role at a crucial time in which service and assistance were so needed.”
Over the past year, the board has worked collectively to strengthen the BLSA community, both with current students and alumni, and despite the constraints of a largely-virtual setting, their numerous events have been a success. “Even if there’s not huge attendance, we’re creating a space where people want to go,” Turay remarked.
Gina Boone ’22, BLSA alumni relations co-chair, found a silver lining to connecting virtually: “We were worried that being in this virtual world alumni would be hesitant to hop on a Zoom link to participate,” said Boone. “However, we found that it brought our alumni closer and we had amazing alumni turnout. Additionally, we were able to meet alumni from other places that we wouldn’t have been able to meet if we were in person. It was really nice to see! So, life gave fellow Alumni Relations Co-Chair Shazell Archer ’22 and me lemons, and we made lemonade! We are so happy to be a part of being awarded NEBLSA chapter of the year as we worked really hard on improving students and alumni’s experience even though we were virtual.”