After a two-year layoff due to COVID-19, African American lawmakers across the country gathered to celebrate the 60th Annual Wolverine Bar Association Barrister’s Ball. The WBA, which serves as a leading force for the African American legal community, hosted the event to celebrate the accomplishments of those in the legal profession along with providing scholarships, educational programs, and more for the community.

This year’s festivities, which were held at the Detroit Marriot Renaissance Center, honored community leaders such as Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence and Shahida Mausi, who serves as the Managing Operator of the Aretha Franklin Amphitheatre.

BLAC spoke to WBA President Kim L. Ward about the return of the dynamic event, its impact on the community, and more.

What’s been your experience with planning the WBA Barristers’ Ball?

It has been enjoyable and purpose-driven all at the same time. The Ball is a Party with a Purpose! The Barristers’ Ball is our largest charitable event and helps support our Summer Clerkship Program and Judicial Externship Program for student placement, hands-on experience with law firms and corporate law departments, and direct engagement within our Circuit and Federal Courts. We award monetary scholarships and provide pipeline programs to establish relationships and mentoring for students and advance opportunities for career success. Our Minority Bar Passage Program is designed to give students the skills to increase bar passage rates, and our LSAT preparatory scholarships serve as a gateway for entry to law schools. We could not do this without the support of our contributors and members, who also help to make the Ball a huge charitable success.


How did it feel to be back in person for this year’s festivities since the start of COVID-19?

It felt great to be able to socialize and network again amongst our peers and the community. Already this year, the organization has been building on its mission with community programs despite pandemic challenges. We pulled ahead and got back to the basics of community impact, outreach, expanding our partnerships, increasing member engagement, and public service. Leading up to the Ball, we partnered to open career opportunities by participating in expungement fairs in Oakland and Wayne Counties, promoting clean slate initiatives, and using our collective voice designed to serve the community in promoting legislation that prevents discriminatory practices and civil rights. 

How does the WBA feel about Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s recent Supreme Court commission?

WBA understands the need to improve representation on the bench and increase access to the legal profession. We also recognize the need to deliver a diverse judiciary that resembles majority inclusion in the community. Seeing the Honorable Ketanji Brown Jackson become the first African American female United States Supreme Court Justice made for an exemplary model of a diverse judiciary in protecting liberty and the ideals of equal justice. When asked by the Senator to provide a definition of a “Woman,” I think Judge Brown Jackson’s response without necessarily defining it was actually a silent defining moment of a woman standing in her own unwavering truth of poise, morals, and principles for all. 

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