Celebrating Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month, Seton Hall University School of Law is recognizing three students who hold prominent leadership positions - Melissa Walker ’20 is President of the Student Bar Association, Tatiana Laing ’20 is Editor-in-Chief of the SETON HALL LAW REVIEW, and Ifedapo Benjamin ’20 is Editor-in-Chief of the SETON HALL LEGISLATIVE JOURNAL. This is the first time in the school’s history that students of color occupy these posts simultaneously.
“This means we, as black people, are succeeding and can uplift each other,” says Walker who is an active member of Seton Hall Law’s Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA). “We are striking down the misconception that black people can’t do it. Yes, we can.”
The journal has reached new heights under Laing’s stewardship. It has expanded to an all-time high of five books a year, while maintaining its reputation as a prestigious source for cutting edge research. “We are proving to future law students that our community is capable of achieving what all students are achieving.”
Echoing this sentiment, Benjamin, who is also a member of the Law School’s Interscholastic Moot Court Program and Conflict Management Clinic, reflects on the lack of diversity in the legal profession. He encourages incoming students to research influential attorneys, federal judges, prosecutors, general counsel, and the like. “These are prominent figures already in the community that we can look up to and say, ‘I can do that.’ It is important to not only aspire towards these roles, but to reach these heights and set a precedent for others to pursue them, too.”
“These individuals paved the way for us,” echoes Walker. “It is up to us to make sure we hold positions of power, help reform the criminal justice system, and leave something for those coming after us.”
Laing adds, “those of underrepresented backgrounds shouldn’t compromise who we are. Differences and different perspectives are essential to being the best lawyers we can be.”
Laing, current President of BLSA, set out to be a champion of change from her first day of classes. “I worked with Dean (Deborah) Edwards since my 1L year, which also happened to be her first year as Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion, to ensure black law students were represented and that programming reflects an impactful experience for everyone.”
President of the Student Bar Association, Editor-in-Chief of The SETON HALL LAW REVIEW, and Editor-in-Chief of The SETON HALL LEGISLATIVE JOURNAL, are simply the earliest milestones in a trajectory of change for Walker, Laing, and Benjamin. As they break down barriers, they also personally affirm to remain humble in their efforts.
“While we are cognizant of what we are doing and aren’t afraid to recall our place in history, we recognize the bigger picture,” says Benjamin. “We are adding significance to the black legal community as a whole.”