Margalynne Armstrong 5/21/21
BLSA Graduates of 2021,
First congratulations to you and your families on achieving the accomplishment of graduating from law school. Earning a juris doctor is truly an accomplishment, two decades of schooling, sometimes in institutions that were never designed with people of African descent, or even their supporters in mind. Earning a JD under these unprecedented and previously unimaginable circumstances, has required your intense dedication, flexibility and creativity and strength. You and the people and communities that have supported you are amazing. Take a bow right now, and savor the triumph of earning your degree and the accompanying title esquire making the best of Dickensian “worst of times.”
Before I say more about you, I want to thank you and tell you how much your honoring me alongside Prof. Pina. means to me. Professionally it means more to me than any recognition I could receive from the institution to have your regard. Having taught many of you, particularly in Race and Law class, was a gift and an honor. I have learned so much from you and you have had some of the most meaningful discussions of my career with you. And you have modeled strength, vison and courage for the Santa Clara community. You, BLSA,
demanded that the law school address the murder of George Floyd and held the faculty and administration accountable for how we treat the Black and other students that we strive to attract here and use to claim credit for being one of the most diverse law students in the nation. There remains much to be done to provide an environment
that effectively nurtures Black and Brown law students, but you have planted more seeds than have been sown in a long time. In his book “Love is the Way, Michael Curry the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church of the US quotes a joke,…one man asks his friend ‘What’s the best time to plant a tree? He answers…”twenty years ago.” The man then asks “What’s the second best
time?” The friend answers “Right now.” Curry writes “accepting that change doesn’t necessarily conform to any human time line or plan is the first step. The second step is stop worrying about it and get moving.” You won’t be around for the ultimate achievement of the truly inclusive and equitable law school for which we strive and I doubt I’ll be around to see it. But you helped to make sure that we at least try to live up to our hype.
We cannot say that we have achieved a truly diverse law school when less than 4 percent of the 2021 graduating class is of African Descent. The total percentage of graduating black law students in the US this year is around 7 percent. Obviously, this is unacceptable. But these facts should make you should feel particularly special, rare and marvelous and precious…like Black Unicorns. The comedienne Tiffany Haddish calls herself “the Last Black Unicorn”
I think that’s pretty presumptuous of her and wrong.
The ancient Greeks originally depicted unicorns as black. Ancient societies would have connected black unicorns with freedom and good fortune, and power, So you should see yourselves as having the freedom and power to use your good fortune to ensure that Black unicorns grow in number and propagate to proportionate and greater levels, Start reaching back and helping young people see and realize their potential to do what you have done. It’s an extra duty in what will be a demanding career. But you have already shown that you possess extraordinary powers. You have made it through everything, including a global pandemic, to graduate from SCU law. There’s of course one more task, but enjoy your achievement. this weekend. And remember, when you are studying for the Bar, please call me or your other professors for support and substantive help. We’ll be here.