Black Law Students Association Honors Theodore Shaw '79 at Annual Paul Robeson Gala

Conflict Management Specialist Janice Tudy-Jackson '92 Delivers Keynote Address

New York, March 29, 2016—From the Black Lives Matter movement to politics increasingly cleaved by race, 2016 marks a crucial moment for African-American legal leadership, said speakers at Columbia’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) 22nd annual Paul Robeson Gala. 

The Feb. 25 gathering organized by students honored Theodore “Ted” Shaw ’79, the veteran litigator and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund who was a member of the Columbia Law School faculty from 2008 to 2014. He now directs the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and serves as the first Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law.
Janice Tudy-Jackson ’92, an accomplished facilitator, mediator, and attorney who teaches a negotiation workshop at the Law School, delivered the keynote address.
Honoree Theodore “Ted” Shaw ’79 (center), a leading civil rights advocate and educator, stands with keynote speaker Janice Tudy-Jackson ’92 (right) and BLSA Chair Reni Benson '17 (left).
“This is not a time to be silent,” Shaw said, accepting the Distinguished Alumni Award from Nicholas Willingham ’17, awarded to the civil rights advocate for decades of powerful advocacy on issues including desegregation, voting rights, and capital punishment. “The country is much too important to hold our tongues.”
Robeson Gala Chairs (left to right): Tonbara Ekiyor, Kayasha Lyons, and Nicholas Willingham, all Class of 2017, are all smiles as guests enjoy the special evening. 
Every year, generations of BLSA alumni join current students, faculty, and colleagues to celebrate the life and legacy of renowned lawyer, entertainer, and civil rights champion Paul Robeson ’23, one of Columbia Law School’s most distinguished graduates. Robeson’s struggle continues, Shaw suggested, in contemporary campaigns for social justice.
“If you fight you may win and you may lose, but if you don’t fight you can’t win,” said Shaw,
one of the country's top civil rights litigators. Earlier in his career, among numerous other accomplishments, Shaw played a key role in drafting the admissions policy that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger and served as lead counsel for African-American and Latino interveners in the companion case Gratz v. Bollinger
In Tudy-Jackson’s remarks, after an introduction from Synne Chapman ’16, she highlighted the enduring relevance of soul singer and songwriter Marvin Gaye’s classic album What’s Going On, linking its searing poetry to the inequalities and structural challenges she faced in her journey and that African-Americans still experience more than forty years later. Having already overcome homelessness and dropping out of college, she quit her job at age 45 to come to Columbia Law, she explained, where BLSA was her “life savior.”
“Paul Robeson was a trailblazer and voice of conscience who inspired the world,” she said. “We have to bring light into darkness, and we can never respond to hate with hate.”
Nicholas Willingham '17 (right) presents honoree Ted Shaw with the Distinguished Alumni Award.  Synne Chapman ’16 (right) introduces keynote speaker Janice Tudy-Jackson.
BLSA President Danielle (Reni) Benson ’17 and Vice Chair Brianna Cummings ’17 also addressed the evening's guests, recognizing the community’s remarkable solidarity and outlining the organization’s work throughout the year, including networking, activism, and hosting the Paul Robeson conference on February 27. Yadira Ramos-Herbert, the Law School's director of Academic Counseling and Student Outreach, kicked off the evening.
Members of the BLSA board invite Ted Shaw and Janice Tudy-Jackson join them for a group photo. (From left to right, back row to front: Marc Holloway, Stephan Bradley, George Tepe, Denzell Faison, Kendall Wells, Norian Watson, Wendell Ramsey, Matthew Mahoney, Brianna Cummings, Tito Kolawole, Reni Benson)
Previous alumni who have been honored by BLSA  at the Paul Robeson Gala include former Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. ’76, Judge U.W. Clemon ’68, and New York City Counsel to the Mayor Maya Wiley ’89. Recent keynote speakers have included former New York City mayor David N. Dinkins and Kristen Clarke ’00, chief of the Civil Rights Bureau at the New York Attorney General’s Office.