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Activists Criticize American Bar Association over Law School Exams

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “There’s no dignity to be found in being inadequately trained to sit for the bar exam. A mountain of debt and dim legal career prospects don’t advance the cause of social justice. The real injustice is the ABA voting against making law schools accountable for valuing black students as merely a statistic,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of law at George Mason University.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Favoring diversity over quality, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently rejected a proposal to hold law schools responsible for not preparing students for the rigors of the legal profession, according to a news release critical of the association from Project 21, a leading voice of Black conservatives.

Members of the Project 21 black leadership network condemned the decision, calling for reforms that protect students who are accepted to meet social justice goals but then effectively set up to fail.

“I’ve seen too many promising black students with great potential for other fields drop out of law school because it wasn’t the right fit,” Project 21 member Dr. Carol Swain, said in a news release.

“They weren’t happy, and they ended up in serious debt because their peers and academic advisors pressured them into pursuing a high-profile legal career,” said Swain, a retired professor of law and political science at Vanderbilt University and professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University.

“Law is not for everyone, yet law schools are often complicit in the name of diversity rather than being honest about an applicant’s potential,” Swain said.

At its Mid-year Meeting, the ABA House of Delegates – in an 88-334 vote – rejected a proposed change in its standards pertaining to the bar exam passage rates of law schools’ graduates that was submitted by its Section on Legal Education and Admissions.

The change to the ABA’s Standard 316 would tie a law schools’ accreditation to a requirement that 75 percent of its students pass the bar exam within two years of graduation, the Project 21 news release noted.

ABA officials did not immediately return requests for comments to NNPA Newswire.

Speaking out against the proposal, chairs of the ABA’s Goal III groups that exist “to eliminate bias and enhance diversity” in the legal profession – which include   the Coalition on Race and Ethnic Justice and the Council on Diversity in the Educational Pipeline – wrote in a joint letter that the proposed standard change would have “an adverse impact upon diversity within legal education, the legal profession and the entire educational pipeline.”

They also alleged the proposal “continues to threaten attempts to diversify law schools and ultimately the legal profession” by impacting historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), schools in Puerto Rico and California and those with “large populations of diverse students,” according to Project 21.

They cited data indicating that 11 of the 19 schools at risk of losing accreditation due to a 75 percent bar success requirement have “significant” (“at least 30 percent students of color”) minority student bodies – and two are classified as HBCUs.

In an interview with Inside Higher Ed, Kaplan Bar Review Vice President Tammi Rice said: “Arguably one of the most important responsibilities of a law school is to help its students succeed on the bar exam. Keep in mind that all of the law schools that have recently shuttered or are on the verge of closing down have something in common: a low bar passage rate.”

Project 21, in its “Blueprint for a Better Deal for Black America,” said it recognizes a disproportionate six-year undergraduate graduation rate for black students in contrast with their white, Asian and Hispanic counterparts.

“Colleges are admitting many black students who are unprepared for rigorous college environments,” the Blueprint points out.

“At the same time, colleges are failing to provide black students with the individualized support they need to overcome the deficiencies of their K-12 educations to give them their best chance of success.”

This similarly applies to law schools that accept minority students to meet diversity goals but fail to provide them with the tools and guidance to succeed after they are enrolled, Project 21 officials said.

“The American Bar Association is doing minority students a disservice by allowing them to be promoted through an educational system that fails to prepare them for a career in law,” said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper, a former professor of law at George Mason University.

“There’s no dignity to be found in being inadequately trained to sit for the bar exam. A mountain of debt and dim legal career prospects don’t advance the cause of social justice. The real injustice is the ABA voting against making law schools accountable for valuing black students as merely a statistic,” Cooper said.

Among its recommendations for increasing black student success in higher education, Project 21’s Blueprint calls for requiring schools to meet minimum graduation rate standards to qualify for federal financial aid, preventing federal student financial aid programs from fueling tuition inflation and providing additional infrastructure, renovation and improvement funding to HBCUs that also commit to meeting the same minimum graduation standards recommended for all colleges receiving federal financial aid.

“It is irresponsible for the American Bar Association delegates to think they are benefiting black students and the legal profession by not holding law schools accountable for graduates who cannot pass the bar exam,” Swain said.

“Schools that fail their students should find their accreditation at risk – not be propped up because they help achieve racial goals.”

Activism

IN MEMORIAM: Robert Farris Thompson, Renowned Professor of African American Studies

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993).

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Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.
Robert Farris Thompson. Yale University photo.

TRIBUTE

By John Santos

We’ve lost a Rosetta Stone.

Prolific Professor Robert Farris Thompson passed in his sleep Monday morning due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease and having been weakened by a bout with COVID-19 at the beginning of the year. He would’ve completed his 89th year on December 30.

Born on Dec. 30, 1932, Thompson was a White Texan who spectacularly disproved the fallacy of White supremacy through his pioneering and tireless elevation and clarification of African art, philosophy and culture. He removed the blinders and changed the way that generations of international students see African art.

A U.S. Army veteran, he went to Yale on a football scholarship and earned a B.A. in 1955. He joined the faculty in 1964 and earned his Ph.D. in 1965. He remained on the faculty until 2015.

‘Master T,’ as his students and friends often referred to him, was the Col. John Trumbull professor of the History of Art and professor of African American Studies at Yale University.

Thompson was also an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

He curated game-changing national exhibitions such as “African Art in Motion,” “The Four Moments of the Sun: Kongo Art in Two Worlds,” and “Faces of the Gods: Art and Altars of Africa and the African Americas.” The latter had a run at U.C. Berkeley in 1995 when local practitioners of African spirituality and musicians — including myself – demonstrated the powerful knowledge of tradition.

Thompson truly embodied the term ‘Maestro de Maestros.’ He was an absolute giant in the field of Afro-Atlantic history and art, respected by his peers for his groundbreaking work and multiple major articles and publications, particularly the seminal “Flash of the Spirit” (1984) and “Faces of the Gods” (1993). If he did not coin, he certainly standardized the term ‘Black Atlantic.’ He was a brilliant presenter, writer and teacher. But unlike many if not most academicians, he was also loved, revered and respected by the musicians, artists and communities about whom he wrote.

Initiated in Africa to Erinle, the deity of deep, still water, Thompson was hip, quirky and totally immersed in African and African-based music, dance, language, art and history. His lifetime of research, immersion and visionary work formed a bridge between Black America and her African roots.

Countless trips to Africa, the Southern U.S., the Caribbean and Central and South America informed his passionate work. He wrote about sculpture, painting, architecture, dance, music, language, poetry, food, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, African history, stolen antiquities, African spirituality, African retention, Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, Black Argentina, New York, México, mambo, tango, jazz, spirit possession and so much more. He recorded African drumming. He befriended giants of African diaspora music such as Julito Collazo, Babatunde Olatunji and Mongo Santamaría.

I first saw his writing around 1970 on the back of the classic red vinyl 1961 Mongo Santamaria LP, Arriba! La Pachanga (Fantasy 3324). They are inarguably among the deepest liner notes ever written.

He told me that he used our 1984 recording, Bárbara Milagrosa, by the Orquesta Batachanga, to demonstrate danzón-mambo to his students. I nearly burst into tears when he invited me and Omar Sosa to address and perform for his students at Yale, his alma mater, where he was a rock star. It was an unforgettable occasion for me.

He wrote wonderful liner notes on our 2002 Grammy-nominated production SF Bay, by the Machete Ensemble. He went out of his way to support and encourage countless students and followers like me. I was highly honored to count him as a friend as well as mentor.

He will be missed.

John Santos is a seven-time Grammy-nominated percussionist and former director of Orquesta Batachanga and Machete Ensemble and current director of the John Santos Sextet.

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Activism

Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to Hold Toy Giveaway December 18 

“This toy giveaway is a much-needed service for those of us who have been previously in prison for a crime against our community,” said Richard Johnson, a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist. “…Now that we’re back in society we wish to give back in many forms that helps to restore promise while giving peace and redemption that our actions in the past aided in the destruction of our society that we now live in. Unfortunately, due to the red tape (efforts to reach) the target class of children of the formerly incarcerated (is stymied.)”

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Richard Johnson is a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist who has formed a non-profit organization called Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back.

By Post Staff

Richard Johnson is a formerly incarcerated Oakland Post columnist who has formed a non-profit organization called Formerly Incarcerated Giving Back to provide toys, food, clothes and gifts to families who have a loved one who is incarcerated or is now re-entering society.

Johnson says he wants to make sure that these families don’t get overlooked by verifying and validating that these families qualify.

“This toy giveaway is a much-needed service for those of us who have been previously in prison for a crime against our community,” Johnson said. “…Now that we’re back in society we wish to give back in many forms that helps to restore promise while giving peace and redemption that our actions in the past aided in the destruction of our society that we now live in. Unfortunately, due to the red tape (efforts to reach) the target class of children of the formerly incarcerated (is stymied.)”

Understandably, Johnson says, the ways to determine which children should receive gifts is limited.

Therefore, he will rely on trusted messengers such as pastors and community-based nonprofit organizations to provide verified names of families of the formerly incarcerated.

“We want to ensure that we reach those who truly need these items. We are asking the various churches to submit names of their parishioners so that the pastors can verify the necessary information.

“We hope the county social services agencies will alert their clients. The various public safety departments, attorneys, parole offices and others who can’t provide or publish their client lists can be helpful by communicating directly to the families they’ve served to inform them of the opportunity to receive gifts during this season of giving.

“We will need volunteers who may have a few hours to spare on this historic occasion to come out and assist us to make this occasion a memorable one for the children most in need. Toys and gifts for 300 or more children is the current targeted number.

Please visit www.postnewsgroup.com after December 5 to respond, volunteer or to donate gift items.

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Activism

African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) helps support 25th annual turkey drive in East Oakland

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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The African American Sports & Entertainment Group came out to support the 25th annual Community Giving Foundation Turkey drive at Verdese Carter Park in East Oakland.

Hosted by founder and organizer Marlon McWilson, the turkey drive that started in 1997 has now donated over 35,000 Turkey’s through McWilson’s foundation. In attendance were Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, Oakland PAL, California Assembly Member Mia Bonta (AD-18) along with husband and Attorney General for the State of California Rob Bonta. Assembly Member Bonta also congratulated the AASEG on their recent unanimous 8-0 approval to enter negotiations with the City of Oakland on an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) to purchase the city’s half interest of the coliseum land, and looks forward to working with the team.

Assembymember Mia Bonta said,”I am excited and fully in support of the City Council’s decision to prioritize an African American-led, Oakland rooted, development group to negotiate how we can reimagine the Coliseum site. This represents a promise of development without displacement, and amenities and entertainment that East Oakland once had and deserves again. This is also the kind of community-led, wealth building opportunity l will fight for at the state level, and I will continue to support initiatives like these here in the 18th Assembly District.”

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