By Ralph Carter
On Monday, February 24, 2020, Duane Morris’ National and New York Diversity and Inclusion team hosted a Black History Month celebration in partnership with the St. John’s University School of Law’s Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights. The Ronald H. Brown Center is headed by Director Kamille Dean, who is the Law School’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and Professor Elaine Chiu, who serves as Faculty Advisor for the Center.
The Ronald H. Brown Center is named after the esteemed St. John’s Law alumnus Ronald H. Brown ’70, ‘89HON, who served as the nation’s first African American Secretary of Commerce and first African American Chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, along with countless other historic achievements in politics, international commerce and the law. The life of Secretary Brown was tragically cut short in April 1996 while on a trade mission to promote economic development in the war-ravaged Balkan region.
The celebration of the work of the Ronald H. Brown Center was attended by St. John’s Law alumni and students, and other supporters of the Center. Also in attendance were alumni of the Ronald H. Brown Law School Prep Program for College Students and recipients of full-tuition scholarships to St. John’s Law School under the aegis of the Ronald H. Brown Scholars Program.
The Black History Month celebration kicked off with a rendition of Lift Every Voice, the African American National Anthem, led by Duane Morris’ own Wendy Stewart. Duane Morris’ Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Joseph West and Michael Grohman, co-managing partner of the New York office made opening remarks to welcome the attendees, speaking to the historical significance of Secretary Brown’s life and work and the firm’s ongoing commitment to the Center’s work in his name. Rachel Patterson, Duane Morris’ new Diversity and Inclusion Manager and a long-time supporter of the work of the Center’s pipeline program work was also in attendance.
In the spirit of Secretary Brown, the celebration was one of enlightenment and encouragement, imbued with a strong sense of community and fellowship. Ralph Carter, ’14, senior trial associate at Duane Morris and recipient of the Ronald H. Brown Scholarship spoke of his gratitude for the support that made his legal career possible and for the chance to support to the Ronald H. Brown Center at Duane Morris. Mr. Carter introduced the event’s keynote speaker, Commerce Secretary’s daughter, Tracey L. Brown, 1992, of the Cochran Law Firm. Ms. Brown spoke in moving terms about the importance of making an impact in one’s legal work, particularly in her civil rights law practice, and throughout all areas of the law. Dean Michael A. Simons made closing remarks to thank Duane Morris for its work in partnership with the work of the Ronald H. Brown Center.
Special thanks to LaKeisha Hemingway, Onika McLean and Joyce Branche of the New York office Diversity & Inclusion team for their efforts in putting on a stellar program in support of the work of the Center.