The University of Virginia School of Law chapter of the Black Law Students Association has been named 2021-22 Mid-Atlantic chapter of the year.

UVA BLSA president Yewande Ford ’23 considers the chapter’s win, announced at the regional convention in February, to be in no small part due to the diligence of its executive board.

“Early on, we set a goal of strengthening our BLSA community and the bonds we have within it,” Ford said. “Each member of this board took their position to heart and kept the momentum going, even in the midst of uncertainty. There were many times that we were planning events for both an in-person and virtual delivery, which required putting in additional effort into planning and logistics, and no one ever complained.”

In addition to a variety of networking and panel discussion events throughout the fall semester, BLSA members also visited Congressman Jim Clyburn in Washington last month to meet with the House majority whip and his legislative and policy staff. The chapter’s 2022 Black History Month programming included a discussion about Black Resistance in Education, a monthlong donation drive for local nonprofit Visions of Liberation and a 1970s “Soul Train”-themed mixer. Ford believes that a two-pronged approach — using word-of-mouth and digital engagement — helped the UVA chapter achieve the visibility necessary to be considered a role model for the region.

“People talk and word spreads,” Ford said. “The Black law student community is connected across schools and our members have friends who attend schools within and outside of our region. Oftentimes, when members of other BLSA chapters heard about the programming and events UVA BLSA was putting on for its members, they would speak about it among themselves and to their chapter leaders.”

Yewande Ford
2021-22 BLSA President Yewande Ford

She also credited her chapter’s social media and publicity strategy.

Looking forward, Yewande said the group hopes to see a return to relative normalcy in the coming academic year as disruptions caused by the pandemic dwindle.

“We cannot wait to see what the next board accomplishes,” Ford said.

The group will compete for the national chapter of the year award at BLSA’s national conference scheduled for March 16-20 in Memphis. BLSA members and moot court teammates Keegan Hudson ’24 and Maya Artis ’24, who advanced from the regional conference, will compete at the national BLSA Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition as well.

UVA has won the national chapter of the year award six times since 2002, and the Mid-Atlantic title at least seven times in the same period.

UVA Law students first organized the school’s BLSA chapter (then known as the Black American Law Students Association) on Oct. 16, 1970. The organization, according to the chapter website, “aims to articulate and promote the professional needs and goals of Black law students, foster and encourage professional competence, and focus upon the relationship of the Black attorney to the American legal structure.”

Founded in 1819, the University of Virginia School of Law is the second-oldest continuously operating law school in the nation. Consistently ranked among the top law schools, Virginia is a world-renowned training ground for distinguished lawyers and public servants, instilling in them a commitment to leadership, integrity and community service.