Harvard BLSA 50th Anniversary Celebration

The Harvard Black Law Students Association will be hosting the 50th Anniversary Celebration on April 6-7, 2018 at Harvard Law School. The weekend will serve as a time for alumni, current members, and guests to reflect on the various ways that Harvard BLSA has shaped the experience of Black students at Harvard Law School – the sense of family it has created, the professional opportunities that it has exposed members to, and the ways that it has allowed our members to impact the broader Black community.

Schedule of Events

Friday, April 6, 2018

*Attire: Business Formal

1:30-3:00pm: Opening Reception, Milstein West

  • Opening Remarks from Dean John F. Manning, Bishop Holifield (Harvard BLSA Co-Founder), and Jazzmin Carr (2017-2018 Harvard BLSA President)

3:30-4:45pm: Breakout Session Group 1, WCC

  • The Front Lines: Lawyering with Grit and Compassion
  • Running for Office: Why Black Political Power Needs You
  • JD Yoga: Channeling the Versatility of a Law Degree
  • Debate: Criminal Justice Reform in 2018

5:00-6:15pm: Breakout Session Group 2, WCC

  • HLS and the Continent: Engaging Africa With Your Degree
  • “Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun?”: Remembering Reginald F. Lewis ’68 and Building Black Wealth
  • Writing while Black: Choosing your Voice, Style, and Subject Matter in Legal Writing
  • The Obama Legacy: Policies Worth Fighting For

Click here to view panelists.

7:00-8:00pm: Gala Cocktail Hour, The Charles Hotel

8:00-10:00pm: Gala, The Charles Hotel Ballroom

  • Keynote Address from The Honorable Robert L. Wilkins of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

10:00-11:00pm: After Party, Noir Bar at The Charles Hotel

Saturday, April 7, 2018

9:00-12:00pm: BLSA Hackathon, Pound Hall

11:00am-12:00pm: Documentary on Reginald F. Lewis featuring Q&A with L.Marilyn Crawford, Pound Hall

12:00-4:00pm: BLSA Block Party

  • 12:00-2:30pm: Performances from local artists and DJs; Black Owned Business Bazaar; Activities
  • 3:00-4:00pm: Musical Performance by Musiq Soulchild

6:00-7:00pm: Cocktail Hour, Milstein West

*Attire: Cocktail

  • Admitted students will be in attendance

7:00-9:30pm: Closing Dinner and Tribute to Reginald F. Lewis, Milstein East

  • Opening Remarks from Mrs. Loida Lewis
  • Keynote from Professor David B. Wilkins

11:00pm-2:00am: After Party, Cure Lounge (246 Tremont Street, Boston, MA, 02116)


Please register for the Celebration at HarvardBLSA50.eventbrite.com. Please send any ticketing inquiries and requests to hlsblsa50@gmail.com.

Below, please find biographies of our keynote speakers and special guests:


Opening Reception Speaker 

Bishop Holifield

Harvard BLSA Co-Founder

Bishop C. Holifield was born in Boston, Massachusetts and spent his formative years in Tallahassee. Florida. Holifield was taught many lessons by his parents, Bishop and Millicent Holifield. They encouraged him to excel in all that he did. Most of all they encouraged him “to always give something back.”

He graduated from Florida A&M University (FAMU) summa cum laude as valedictorian of his class. Subsequently, he earned his Juris Doctorate from Harvard Law School. Upon graduation from law school, he was awarded the Reginald Heber Smith Fellowship by the University of Pennsylvania. The fellowship is traditionally awarded to outstanding law students who devote their early careers to public service on behalf of those who would not otherwise have access to quality legal representation.

Holifield served his fellowship with Legal Services of Greater Miami representing clients in high profile civil rights cases, economic development matters and community organization efforts. He went on to serve as Deputy Director of the FAMU Business Development Center, Deputy General Counsel of the State of Florida Department of Administration and founding General Counsel of FAMU.

While General Counsel, Holifield led the successful fight in the re-establishment of the FAMU College of Law in Orlando Florida. For that he was inducted into the Tallahassee NAACP Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He was also named a Gideon Celebration 2004 Civil Rights Hero by the Public Defender of the Ninth Circuit of Florida. In addition, Holifield co-authored “The First Amendment on the College Campus, “which was published in the Florida Bar Journal. In 2006, he was named the 100 Black Men of Tallahassee Area, Inc. Role Model of the Year.

In 2012, the National Bar Association presented Holifield with its Gertrude C. Rush Award.

Holifield has served as a Director of the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA) and as President of the Tallahassee Barristers Association. Other honors include induction into the FAMU College of Arts and Sciences Gallery of Distinction, receipt of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education Distinguished Alumni Award, being named a “FAMUAN of the Century” and having bestowed upon him “Life Membership” in NACUA.

He is happily married to retired Administrative Law Judge Carolyn Stone Holifield. They have three children, Toni, Bishop III and Cynthia and seven grandchildren.


John F. Manning ‘ 85

Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

John F. Manning is the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, whose faculty he joined in 2004. Manning teaches administrative law, federal courts, legislation and regulation, separation of powers, and statutory interpretation. His writing focuses on statutory interpretation and structural constitutional law. Manning is a co-editor of Hart & Wechsler’s Federal Courts and the Federal System (6th ed., 2009) (with Richard Fallon, Daniel Meltzer, and David Shapiro), and Legislation and Regulation (2d ed., 2013) (with Matthew Stephenson). Prior to entering teaching, Manning served as an assistant to the Solicitor General in the U.S. Department of Justice (1991-94), an associate in the D.C. office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher (1989-91), and an attorney-advisor in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice (1986-88). He served as a law clerk to Hon. Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court of the United States (1988-89) and to Hon. Robert H. Bork on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit (1985-86). Manning graduated from Harvard Law School in 1985 and Harvard College in 1982. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Gala Keynote Speaker

The Honorable Robert L. Wilkins

Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Judge Wilkins was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on January 15, 2014. A native of Muncie Indiana, he obtained a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in 1986 and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1989. Following law school, Judge Wilkins served as a law clerk to the Honorable Earl B. Gilliam of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. In 1990, he joined the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia, where he served first as a staff attorney in the trial and appellate divisions and later for several years as Special Litigation Chief. In 2002, he joined the law firm of Venable LLP as a partner, handling white-collar defense, intellectual property and complex civil litigation matters. During his tenure with the Public Defender Service and in private practice, Judge Wilkins served as the lead plaintiff in Wilkins, et al. v. State of Maryland, a landmark civil rights lawsuit that inspired nationwide legislative and executive reform of police stop-and-search practices and the collection of data regarding those practices. Judge Wilkins also played a key role in the establishment of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, serving as the Chairman of the Site and Building Committee of the Presidential Commission whose work led to the Congressional authorization of the museum and the selection of its location. As a practicing lawyer, he was named one of the “40 under 40 most successful young litigators in America” by the National Law Journal (2002) and one of the “90 Greatest Washington Lawyers of the Last 30 Years” by the Legal Times (2008). On December 27, 2010, Judge Wilkins was appointed United States District Judge for the District of Columbia, where he served until his appointment to the D.C. Circuit.

Closing Dinner Masters of Ceremonies

Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.

Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Professor Sullivan is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics, and race theory.  He is the faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop.  Professor Sullivan also serves as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House at Harvard College.  He is the first African American ever appointed Faculty Dean in Harvard’s history.  He is a founding member and Senior Fellow of the Jamestown Project.

Professor Sullivan has merged legal theory and practice over the course of his career in unique and cutting-edge ways.

In 2014, Professor Sullivan was tasked to design and implement a Conviction Review Unit (“CRU”) for the newly elected Brooklyn District Attorney.  The CRU, designed to identify and exonerate wrongfully convicted persons, quickly became regarded as the model conviction integrity program in the nation.  In its first year of operation alone, Professor Sullivan discovered over 10 wrongful convictions, which the DA ultimately vacated.  Some of the exonerated citizens had served more than 30 years in prison before they were released.

In 2008, Professor Sullivan served as Chair, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee for then-Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.  In this capacity, Professor Sullivan’s committee made policy recommendations on a range of issues in an effort to put into practice some of the best research in the field.  He also served as a member of the National Legal Advisory Group for the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign.  Finally, Professor Sullivan was appointed Advisor to the Department of Justice Presidential Transition Team.

In 2007, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Professor Sullivan was asked to create a system to solve a criminal justice crisis.  Over 6000 citizens were incarcerated in and around New Orleans without representation and with all official records destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.  Professor Sullivan designed an indigent defense delivery system that resulted in the release of nearly all the 6000 inmates.

In 1994, Professor Sullivan was a visiting scholar for the Law Society of Kenya, where he sat on a committee charged with drafting a new constitution for Kenya.  He also worked with the Kenyan Human Rights Commission on monitoring and challenging human rights abuses.

Prior to joining Harvard’s faculty, Professor Sullivan was on the Yale Law School faculty where he won the award for outstanding teaching after his first year.  Before joining the legal academy, he served as the Director of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia.  He also spent several years in private practice in two major Washington, D.C. law firms where he specialized in white-collar criminal defense and complex commercial litigation.

Professor Sullivan still maintains an appellate and trial practice.  He has represented persons ranging from politicians to professional athletes to recording artists to pro bono clients in criminal jeopardy.  Representative clients include: The family of Michael Brown; Former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez; The family of Usaamah Rahim.

Professor Sullivan has provided legal commentary for CNN, FoxNews, PBS, and all the major networks.  He has been quoted in the nation’s leading newspapers and periodicals, and he has testified before the United States Senate and House of Representatives on numerous occasions.

Professor Sullivan is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and the Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association and as General Editor of the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal.

Stephanie Robinson

Lecturer on Law, Harvard Law School

Stephanie Robinson, Esq. is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, a national media figure, author, former Chief Counsel to Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and the President and CEO of The Jamestown Project, a national think tank focusing on democracy.

Between 2013 and 2014, Ms. Robinson hosted her own national radio show, Roundtable with Stephanie Robinson, a popular and weekly 30-minute, talk-radio program focused on culture, politics and relationships, that aired on the Tavis Smiley Network.

For five years, between 2008 and 2013, Ms. Robinson was Political Commentator for the Tom Joyner Morning Show where she spoke to between 9 and 10 million people weekly, offering her perspective on the day’s most pressing social and political issues.

Ms. Robinson is a nationally recognized expert on issues relating to social policy, women, race, family, and electoral politics. She was featured as one of the 30 Young Leaders of the Future in Ebony Magazine and was profiled in the book As I Am: Young African American Women in a Critical Age, by Julian Okwu. She is a frequent speaker expressing her views in countless media outlets including the Associated Press, The Washington Post, C-Span, NPR, The Baltimore Sun, CN8, and Fox News. As a political and legal analyst, Ms. Robinson has spoken on a wide variety of topics including faith and policy, international conflict, race and society, political participation and voting trends of African Americans and women.

Ms. Robinson, a magna cum laude graduate of the University of Maryland and the Harvard Law School, is a native of Steubenville, Ohio. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons. She, along with Harvard Law Professor and husband, Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., are the first black Faculty Deans in the history of Harvard University.

Closing Dinner Keynote Speaker

David B. Wilkins

Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

Professor Wilkins is the Lester Kissel Professor of Law, Vice Dean for Global Initiatives on the Legal Profession, and Faculty Director of the Center on the Legal Profession and the Center for Lawyers and the Professional Services Industry at Harvard Law School. He is also a Senior Research Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and a Fellow of the Harvard University Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics.

Professor Wilkins has written over 80 articles on the legal profession in leading scholarly journals and the popular press and is the co-author (along with his Harvard Law School colleague Andrew Kaufman) of one of the leading casebooks in the field.  His current scholarly projects include Globalization, Lawyers, and Emerging Economies (where he directs over 50 researchers studying the impact of globalization on the market for legal services in rapidly developing countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe); After the JD (a ten-year nationwide longitudinal study of lawyers’ careers); The Harvard Law School Career Study (examining, among other things, differences in the experiences of male and female graduates and the careers of lawyers who do not practice law); and The New Social Engineers (charting the historical development and current experiences of black lawyers in corporate law practice).

Professor Wilkins teaches several courses on lawyers including The Legal ProfessionLegal Education for the Twenty-First Century, and Challenges of a General Counsel. In 2007, he co-founded Harvard Law School’s Executive Education Program, where he teaches in several courses including Leadership in Law Firms and Leadership in Corporate Counsel.

Professor Wilkins has given over 40 endowed lectures at universities around the world and is a frequent speaker at professional conferences and law firm and corporate retreats.  His recent academic honors include the 2012 Honorary Doctorate in Law from Stockholm University in Sweden, the 2012 Distinguished Visiting Mentor Award from Australia National University, the 2012 Genest Fellowship from Osgoode Hall Law School, the 2010 American Bar Foundation Scholar of the Year Award, the 2009 J. Clay Smith Award from Howard University School of Law, and the 2008 Order of the Coif Distinguished Visitor Fellowship.  In 2012, Professor Wilkins was elected as a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Closing Dinner Speaker

Loida Nicolas Lewis

Chair & CEO, TLC Beatrice, LLC

Mrs. Lewis is Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice, LLC, a family investment firm.  A lawyer by profession, admitted to practice in the Philippines and New York, Mrs. Lewis was the first Filipino woman to pass the New York bar without attending law school in the United States.

Having won her discrimination case against the US Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1987, she integrated the agency, now called Citizenship & Immigration Service (CIS).  She co-authored “How to Get A Green Card,” now in its 12th edition and a bestseller in its genre.

Mrs. Lewis served as Chair and CEO of TLC Beatrice International, a $2 billion multinational food company with operations all across Europe, from 1994-2000.  She assumed its leadership after the death of her husband, Wall Street financier Reginald F. Lewis who, in 1987, engineered a leveraged buyout for $985 million of Beatrice International Food thus becoming the 1st African American to create a billion dollar company.

Mrs. Lewis is Chair of the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation, which is a benefactor of Harvard Law School, Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, Virginia State University and the Lewis College in Sorsogon her home town in the Philippines. A building has been name at those institutions in Mr. Lewis’ honor.  The foundation is also a major donor to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Mrs. Lewis is member of the Board of Directors of Children’s Orchestra Society, US Philippines Society and the Apollo Theatre Foundation.  She is co-founder of several advocacy organizations:  Asian American Legal Defense & Education Fund, National Federation of Filipino-American Associations, US Pinoys for Good Governance and Global Filipino Diaspora Council.  She speaks several languages:  Filipino, English, French and Spanish.

Mrs. Lewis has two daughters, both cum laude A.B graduates of Harvard University:  Leslie is an actor, writer and producer.  Christina is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and philanthropist who founded and chairs All Star Code, a non-profit organization designed to empower young men of color with the skills, networks and mindset to create a new future through technology.  Mrs. Lewis has four grandchildren.