Platinum in the Profession-- Conference to highlight African-American Leadership in the Law

By John Minnis

Legal News

Young and would-be attorneys--as well as veterans--only have through this Friday, Oct. 15, to register for what will be the premier law symposium this year: "Platinum in the Profession: A Conference Highlighting African-American Leadership in the Law."

Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 22, at the Doubletree Guest Suites Fort Shelby, 525 W. Lafayette in Detroit, the conference will highlight the accomplishments of some of Detroit and Michigan's most outstanding African-American attorneys and judges. The panelists represent a literal "Who's Who" among African-American attorneys in the state.

"As you know, diversity remains a critical issue in the legal profession," according to Platinum Committee Co-chairs Brandy Y. Robinson and Angelique Strong Marks. "In fact, African-Americans are one of the most underrepresented groups of attorneys in Michigan. The purpose of the Platinum Conference is to highlight the accomplishments of African-American attorneys and judges in the Michigan area and encourage the attendees to make a difference through a career in the law."

The Platinum Conference is being presented by the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section in conjunction with the D. Augustus Straker Bar Association, Wolverine Bar Association and Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association. Supporting sponsors include Behr America Inc., Dickinson Wright PLLC, Michigan State University College of Law and Sommers Schwartz. Table sponsors include Clark Hill PLC, Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights, Dykema and Wayne State University Law School.

Strong Marks, general counsel and corporate secretary with Behr America Inc. in Troy, said she came up with the Platinum Conference idea after realizing that when she became a lawyer she had strong African-American role-model attorneys to up look to such as Dennis Archer, Victoria Roberts and Damon J. Keith. Media accounts of African-American leaders today are not so luminous.

By showcasing Detroit and Michigan's top African-American lawyers and leaders, Strong Marks hopes to show young people that there are outstanding African-American attorneys who also give back, who make a difference.

"We were trying to get the best of the best to talk to our young people at one place at one time," she said.

Unfortunately, Archer and Keith were not able to attend due to other commitments.

At the conference, following registration at 7:30 a.m., welcoming remarks will be made by State Bar President W. Anthony Jenkins and other honorables.

"Legacy" panel discussions will include the best African-American practitioners in their fields, those who have left marks in the areas of government and politics, firms and solo practices, the judiciary and Corporate America.

The first panel discussion, "Legacy in Government, Politics and Public Service," will be moderated by Solon Phillips. Panelists will include Lorray Brown, Jeffrey Collins, Jenice Mitchell Ford, Saul Green and Terrance Keith.

Michelle Carter will moderate the second panel, "Legacy in Law Firms and Solo Practices." Her panel will include Jeffrey Edison, Sherrie Farrell, Shirley Kaigler, Bonnie Mayfield, William Mitchell, Harold Pope, and Reginald Turner.

The lunch keynote speaker will be Michelle Alexander, a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University and former law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun. For several years, Alexander served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, which spearheaded a national campaign against racial profiling by law enforcement. While an associate at Saperstein, Goldstein, Demchak & Baller, she specialized in plaintiff-side class action suits alleging race and gender discrimination. Alexander now holds a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Mortiz College of Law at Ohio State University, and is the author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."

Strong Marks said she read Alexander's book and was so impressed she called her and asked if she would speak to young people at the Platinum Conference. The author agreed.

"She used what she learned in her work," Strong Marks said of Alexander, "and did something to change the world. A lot of us don't know what it is to be agents of change. Sometimes we can be change agents by just doing our jobs well."

After lunch, Co-Chair Robinson will lead a discussion on Legacy in the Judiciary with judicial panelists Ulysses Boykin, Edward Ewell, Denise Page Hood and Denise Langford-Morris.

"Legacy in Corporate America, moderated by Lionel Anderson, will round out the day with panelists Vernon Baker, Roderick Gillum, Marcia Goffney, E. Christopher Johnson, Alison Nelson, Alex Parrish and LeRoy Richie.

A reception will follow from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Those wishing to attend the free conference must register on or before Friday, Oct. 15, by e-mailing Karla Eubank at keubank@mail.michbar.org. Space is limited.

For additional information, call Strong Marks at (248) 470-1822.

Published: Wed, Oct 13, 2010

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