Author Timothy Tyson and Judge Denise Hartsfield headline Elon Law's 2010 Diversity Day program
On Saturday, February 27, more than thirty current and prospective law students, as well as members of the legal community, gathered to attend Elon Law’s annual Diversity Day program. Featuring Timothy Tyson, Duke University professor and author of Blood Done Sign My Name, and District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield, Diversity Day attendees were challenged to become lawyers who would advocate for justice and equal rights.
The honorable Denise Hartsfield, District Court Judge for the 21st Judicial District of North Carolina, began the event with a discussion of "Lift Every Voice and Sing," the African-American National Anthem written by James Weldon Johnson.
“Today, we’re not singing the song [Johnson] wrote," Hartsfield said. "There are voices missing in our choir; those tenor and baritone voices that bring harmony to our song are missing."
Hartsfield challenged prospective and current law students to stand in the gap for those missing voices, the voices of minority boys who are lost in the juvenile justice systems.
Calling for students to ring the freedom bell for those unable to do so, Hartsfield said, "As law students you can help those left behind and put them where they belong, back in society where they can live as productive citizens."
Tyson gave the keynote address and urged students to choose where they would stand in the fight for justice.
“We need you to train up and became lawyers for the struggle,” Tyson said.
Discussing North Carolina’s unique role in the civil rights movement, Tyson also stressed to prospective students the importance of keeping their moral compass in check while in school.
"You can make a living, while making a difference," Tyson said. "Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what you love and just do that. That’s what makes the difference."
Tyson stressed the importance of education, mentoring, and ensuring educational opportunities for all people.
“Education is hanging around until you’ve caught on," Tyson said. "Remember why you came to law school and find a community of people who will support you along the way. Get a mentor, join the NAACP and surround yourself with supportive people."
In addition to the keynote addresses, Diversity Day participants also heard from a judicial panel, featuring The Honorable Betty J. Brown, District Court Judge for the 18th Judicial District; The Honorable Logan T. Burke, Superior Court Judge for the 21st Judicial District; and The Honorable Patrice A. Hinnant, Superior Court Judge for the 18th Judicial District.
The judges’ panel was followed by an attorney’s panel featuring local attorneys, Kenneth A. Free, Jr. of Knight & Free, PLLC; Elon Law alumni Miriam Heard, Staff Attorney at Legal Aid of North Carolina; S. Camille Payton of Ward Black Law; Kelly Thompson, Assistant District Attorney for the 18th Judicial District; and Susan Yu O’Hale, also an Assistant District Attorney for 18th Judicial District.
The day concluded with a student panel where Elon Law students were able to share wisdom and experience with prospective law students on everything from study habits to surviving their first year of law school.
Elon Law student Lien To, a member of the Black Law Student Association, who co-sponsored Diversity Day, was inspired by the day’s activities.
"I learned there's always more to learn about what's going on around us and as individuals entering the legal profession, we are armed with the unique ability to make positive changes," To said.
The free event, which is designed primarily for minority students but was open to all who are considering law school, took place at the Elon University School of Law.
The event was co-sponsored by Elon University School of Law’s Admissions Department, The Black Law Students Association (BLSA), the Law School Admission Council as part of the DiscoverLaw Month, R. Steve Bowden & Associates, and Attorney Sharon Lawson-Davis.
The news announcement for this year's Diversity Day at Elon Law includes biographical information about Timothy Tyson and a link to the film trailer for the movie recently released as an adaption of Tyson's book, Blood Done Sign My Name.Click here for details.
By Tiffany D. Atkins, L'11.
Reporting for this article contributed by Danielle Appelman, L,12.