On Thursday, November 14, the BBA was thrilled to present the annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center.
The Voice of Change Award, recognizing a leader in the legal community who has forged a new path and played an extensive role in advancing diversity and inclusion within the profession, was presented to Yalonda T. Howze of Mintz. Howze spoke candidly about the continued need for championing diversity and inclusion within the legal field, noting that law remains the least diverse of all the major professions. She also emphasized the importance of ensuring that people from diverse backgrounds are elevated to leadership positions, noting, “If the choices we make when we select leadership continue to result in the same outcomes, then we must re-examine our criteria.”
The Corporate Champion Award, recognizing an in-house legal department that has been a leader in internal or external projects and practices that promote a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, was awarded to Liberty Mutual. Accepting the award was Liberty Mutual’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, Jim Kelleher. Kelleher explained that the company and its legal department strive not only to increase diversity among employees, but, just as importantly, to foster a welcoming environment. “All the diversity is for nothing if it’s not an inclusive environment where employees can bring their entire selves,” Kelleher said. “We can’t expect people to check their religion, sexual orientation, or other identities at the door.”
The Empowerment Award, presented to a powerful advocate that works to create systemic change in the wider community by amplifying the voices of underrepresented groups and advancing civil rights, access to justice, and/or diversity and inclusion, was presented to the partnership between Greater Boston Legal Services’ (GBLS’s) Asian Outreach Project and the Asian American Resource Workshop (AARW). Kevin Lam, Organizing Director at AARW, and Bethany Li, Senior Staff Attorney and Director of the Asian Outreach Project at GBLS, accepted the award on behalf of their respective organizations. They described their collaborative work in responding to deportation action against Southeast Asian refugee and immigrant communities, noting that many who face deportation have not stepped foot in the countries to which they are about to be deported in decades. Lam said that, while deportations have increased significantly over the past two years, Southeast Asian immigrant and refugee communities have long been at risk for deportation. “We know that this crisis will not go away as long as our broken immigration system, a deportation machine, remains in place,” he said. Li spoke about the importance of collaborations such as that between AARW and GBLS, and said that she views the role of attorneys as “restoring accountability in the system of justice that we swore to uphold.”
In total, the event raised over $140,000, and the silent auction raised close to $11,000 for the BBF Beacon Fund to support the BBA’s Diversity & Inclusion Summer Fellowship program, which places Massachusetts law students into paid internships in public interest law offices. Thank you to our sponsors and those who attended for contributing to the event’s success!