Black & White: Annual Barristers' Ball serves to honor host of award winners


Photos by John Meiu

The 57th annual Black & White Barristers’ Ball, featuring the theme “The Past Remembered and Reclaimed,” took place April 7 at the Detroit Marriott-Renaissance Center. Sponsored by the Wolverine Bar Association and Wolverine Bar Foundation, the event served to continue the organizations’ “commitment to providing impactful programming for minority law students,” according to a spokesperson for the foundation.

Five students were awarded scholarships at the gala. The recipient of the Wolverine Bar Foundation Scholarship was Edwin Piner, a student at Wayne State University Law School. A Detroit native, Piner is a graduate of Howard University and holds a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. He currently is a financial analyst for Ford Motor Co.

Recipients of the 2018 Damon J. Keith Scholarship, named in honor of the distinguished judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals, included Lanita Carter, Randa Darwood, Jaevonn Harris, and Amber Thomas.

Carter, a second year student at Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, is a native of Detroit. She currently is a law clerk at the Center for Community-Based Enterprise, an organization devoted to creating “living-wage jobs through” employee/worker-ownership.

Darwood, a New Jersey native, is a first year student at WMU-Cooley Law School. A graduate of Virginia State University, she formerly worked as a director for a Boys and Girls Club and as a legislative bill administrator for the 35th District Assembly.

Harris, who grew up in Detroit, is a student at WMU-Cooley Law School. Upon graduation, he “plans to start his own practice in which will help his creative endeavors such as his clothing line and fine art,” according to a spokesperson for the Wolverine Bar Foundation.

Thomas, a native of Benton Harbor, graduated magna cum laude from Central State University with a degree in chemistry. A third year student at Michigan State University College of Law, she spent a year after college in AmeriCorps, working with middle school students in Milwaukee. She has served as judicial clerk for U.S. District Judge Linda Parker and as a summer associated for Brooks Kushman.

Also honored at the event were Detroit Police Chief James Craig, Mumford Academy Principal Nir Saar, filmmaker Ryan Ferguson of Flyback Productions, and Amariyanna Copeny, a 10-year-old girl known as “Little Miss Flint” for her work on behalf of the city’s children.

Craig, who holds a bachelor’s degree from West Coast University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Phoenix, was appointed police chief in 2013. Over the past five years, “Chief Craig has made significant changes and continuous improvements to the department’s organizational structure and processes; redefined community partnership, and achieved reduction in crime,” the Wolverine Bar Foundation spokesperson noted.

Saar, who earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Michigan in 2005, joined Teach for America upon graduation, serving for 7 years in one of Philadelphia’s lowest performing schools. Upon returning to Michigan, he held a variety of leadership roles with a network of 16 charter schools. He currently is principal of Mumford Academy on Detroit’s west side, and is the “driving force behind the future pipeline partnership” with the Wolverine Bar Association, according to the foundation spokesperson.

Ferguson, a documentary filmmaker and commercial producer, works internationally as a cinematographer. Through his company, Flyback Productions, Ferguson has spearheaded the creation of commercial videos for an array of clients, including Ford Motor Co. and Hilton. He is the visionary behind the Mumford High School Justice Project, a planned documentary on a mock trial program supported by the Wolverine Bar Foundation.

Cooper, when she was 8 years old, wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to “meet with her and a group of people coming to Washington, D.C. to watch congressional hearings on the Flint water crisis,” the spokesperson related. The President responded with a letter announcing that, instead, he would travel to Flint “to ensure the people there receive ‘the help (they) need and deserve.’” Now 10, Cooper is still “working hard for the people of Flint – most recently raising over $10,000 in two weeks online to provide backpacks” for more than 1,000 students in Flint heading back to school last fall.