Association will

Kelly Hildebrandt

The Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers Foundation held a gala at the Minneapolis Hilton Hotel and Tower on Saturday night to raise money for their new scholarship program for African-American law students.
The event, which drew about 250 people, was sponsored by the association and the Minneapolis Foundation. The gala featured keynote speaker Judge Michael Davis of the U.S. District Court, the first African-American federal judge in Minnesota, and U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone.
Davis said in 1971 Minnesota only had one black judge and one black prosecutor, but today there are a number of prominent African-American judges and lawyers in Minnesota.
However, much work to get more African-Americans into the legal system remains to be done.
“We are going through a difficult time because of the affirmative action backlash,” Davis said. “We fought hard for many, many years and in one vote it was all gone.”
Although the details are still in the works, Ben Omorogbe, the vice president of MABL, said about three students will receive a scholarship. A student from the University as well as Hamline and St. Thomas universities will be chosen. The amount depends on how much they raise for the gala, but he hopes each student will receive around $1500.
“Obviously we can’t provide financial assistance to all students in need, but we have to do what we can,” Omorogbe said.
The Minneapolis Association of Black Lawyers was re-established in 1995 after being inactive for about 20 years. Originally created in the 1960s, the association had little support since there were so few black judges and lawyers at the time.
During the course of the night the audience honored judges and lawyers in Minnesota and the strides they have made since the 1960s.
“Sometimes people forget to make the connection between their lives and giving as much as they can back to the community,” Wellstone said. “Thank you for remembering that there is just so much more that we can do.”
Although Davis cited Minnesota as a model for the country he said there is still a lot to do. Using education as an example, he said some Minneapolis schools are still segregated.
“I don’t want you to get your big heads thinking that things are so nice,” he said.
Davis ended by stressing that the community has to continue to challenge the system asking the audience, “How many of us would picket? How many of us would put our job on the line?”