Paul Robeson Conference and Gala
Columbia Law School's Black Law Students Association hosts the Paul Robeson Conference and Gala. The annual event, which has been held since the mid-1990s, celebrates the life of Paul Robeson '23. Robeson is one of the Law School’s most notable and respected alumni who dedicated his life to excellence in scholarship, civil rights, athletics, and the performing arts.
Through the years, the conference has featured panel discussions on a range of legal issues. At the gala, BLSA recognizes a distinguished alumni with an award and the organization's current leadership discuss their latest initiatives with attendees.
The Columbia Law School Black Law Students Association (BLSA) proudly hosted the 24th Annual Paul Robeson Conference. The 2018 Paul Robeson Conference took place on February 3 at 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM EST in Low Library.
The theme for this year’s Black Law Students' Association 24th Annual Paul Robeson Conference was The Way Forward: Living in Power. Our conference featured panels on the following topics: Disenfranchisement & Voting Power, Mental Health, Public Schools, and Entrepreneurship.
Black Businesses were present throughout the day during the conference.Vendors included: Byas & Leon , CeeCee's Closet NYC, Designsbybolaji, Dlachae, DaSpotNYC, Elo Lip Care, G + Co Apparel, Hecho en Harlem , Made-Organics, Q-Made It, Y-Juice, LL and more.
Arva Rice, Esq. was the keynote address. Arva Rice is President & CEO of the New York Urban League (NYUL). Prior to joining NYUL, she served as the Executive Director of Project Enterprise. Previously she served as the founding Executive Director of Public Allies New York, and Program Director of an Economic Literacy Initiative at Girls Inc.
Temitope Yusuf was our BLSA Young Alumni Award Recipient. Yusuf, a partner in a New York law firm, specializes in government enforcement & white collar criminal defense, labor and employment and complex litigation. She currently serves as the Deputy Independent Consultant for one of the world’s largest financial institutions.
Schedule of Events
9:00 – 9:30 AM
Registration and Breakfast
9:40 – 10:25 AM
Panel – Disenfranchisement/Voting Power
10:25 – 10:40 AM
10:40 – 11:25 AM
Panel - Mental Health
- Valerie Purdie Greenaway¸Director for the Laboratory of Intergroup Relations and the Social Mind at Columbia Universit
- David Trout, Professor of Law and founding director of the Rutgers Center on Law in Metropolitan Equity
11:25 – 12:10 PM
12:10 – 12:55 PM
Panel – Pubic School Education
- Amanda Cahn, Managing Director and Equipment Manager, Center for Public Research & Leadership,
- Lurie Daniel Favors, Activist and Attorney
12:55 – 1:10 PM
1:10 – 1:55 PM
Keynote Fire Side chat with Arva Rice, CEO of the New York Urban League
1:10 – 2:10 PM
2:10 – 2:55 PM
Panel – Entrepreneurship Panel
2:55 – 3:10 PM
The 2018 Paul Robeson Gala took place on Thursday, February 1st, 2018, starting at 6:00 P.M. at The Penn Club of New York, located at 30 W 44th Street, New York, NY 10036. The Gala honored Jill Pilgrim ‘84, Acting Executive & General Counsel of the Track & Field Athletes Association, Inc. (TFAA) and principal owner of Pilgrim & Associates law firm. Aisha Greene ’04, the Bureau Chief of the Alternatives to Incarceration Bureau at the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office and former Director of Brooklyn Justice Initiatives (BJI), delivered the keynote address.
Past Galas and Conferences
The 2017 Paul Robeson Gala took place on Thursday, February 23, 2017, starting at 6:00 P.M. at The Columbia Club of New York, located at 15 W. 43rd St. New York, NY 10036. The Gala honored Camille Nelson '00, Dean of American University Washington College of Law. Roy Austin, Jr., former Deputy Assistant to President Barack Obama for the Office of Urban Affairs, Justice, and Opportunity, delivered the keynote address.
The Paul Robeson Conference was held on Friday, February 24, 2017 at Columbia Law School; the theme was Reclaim the Narrative. Angela T. Rye, Esq., CNN commentator and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, delivered the keynote address; and Khalil Cumberbatch, Lecturer at the Columbia University School of Social Work and social justice advocate delivered the opening keynote. Panels focused on democracy and voting rights; entrepreneurship and the law; and law and the arts. Speakers included Stuart Naifeh '04, a voting rights attorney and Senior Counsel at Demos; Jennifer Jones Austin, Esq., CEO and Executive Director of the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies; and Britton Smith, an actor and director of Broadway for Black Lives Matter. For more information on the 2017 Paul Robeson Conference, including recordings of the Conference, please see Columbia Law School's write-up about the conference here. For more information on the 2017 Conference, see our Facebook page here and Eventbrite page here.
2017 Gala and Conference co-chairs included Beulah Agbabiaka ’18, Antonia Hyman ’18, Lilybelle Davis ’18, Shane Grannum '18, Nicole Nance ’18, Simi Obatusin ’18, and Kendall Wells ’18.
The 22nd Annual Paul Robeson Gala was held on February 25, 2016 at the Columbia Club of New York. BLSA honored Theodore "Ted" Shaw '79 as our Alumni Honoree; Shaw is the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill as well as the Fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. BLSA also welcomed Janice Tudy-Jackson '92, Lecturer-in-Law at Columbia Law School and head of Collaboration & Conflict Management Consulting, as our keynote speaker.
The Paul Robeson Conference was held on February 27, 2016 at Columbia Law School; the theme was Troubled Relations: Restoring our Communities. Panels focused on restorative justice practices that rebuild communities; rebuilding campus communities; the arts; gentrification; and people of color in media. Speakers included Reinaldo Rivera, Jr., National Program Manager for Community Relations at the U.S. Department of Justice; Rose Hackman, a journalist for The Atlantic and The Guardian; Glenda Smiley, Chief of Staff to the Founder and CEO of BLACK GIRLS ROCK!; and David Lat, founder of Above the Law.
The 21st Annual Paul Robeson Gala was held on February 26, 2015 at the Columbia Club. BLSA honored U.W. Clemon '68, Alabama's first black federal judge. Alum Della Britton Baeza '78, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Jackie Robinson Foundation, delivered the Keynote Address.
On April 7, 2014 BLSA held its 20th Annual Paul Robeson Gala at the Columbia Low Library. BLSA honored Maya Wiley ’89, the new counsel to New York City at the Gala. Wiley commended BLSA for continuing to uphold the spirit and conscience of Paul Robeson ’23, said Maya Wiley ’89
Kristen Clarke '00, Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau at the NY Attorney General's Office delivered the Keynote Address.
The 19th Annual Paul Robeson Gala was held on April 25, 2013 at the Columbia University Club of New York in midtown Manhattan. Michèle Stephenson '95 received the BLSA's Distinguished Alumni Award. A documentary filmmaker, Stephenson recently won the Sundance U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for her film American Promise, which follows her son and his friend’s journey through the private and public education systems in New York City.
Josef Sorett, a Columbia assistant professor of religion and African-American studies, served as the keynote speaker. Sorett's scholarship at Columbia focuses on the intersections of religion and black communities and cultures in the U.S. His works have been featured in The New York Times, Culture and Religion, The Washington Post, and numerous other journals and publications.
The 18th Annual Paul Robeson Gala was held on April 12, 2012 at the Columbia Club of New York. The organization recognized Peter C. Harvey '82 as the distinguished alumni honoree. Harvey, who has worked as a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP, is a former attorney general for New Jersey.
The keynote speaker was David N. Dinkins, Professor in the Professional Practice of Public Affairs at Columbia's School of International and Public Affairs.