"It is easier to build a strong child than to repair a broken man." - Frederick Douglass

‘Marshall’ and the Chicago Black Partners Alliance


On Oct. 11, 2017, the Chicago Black Partners Alliance (CBPA) hosted a private screening of the film, “Marshall.” This film told the story of Justice “Thurgood” Marshall and the trials and tribulations he faced as a black civil rights attorney during the 1940’s. He made a breakthrough in the recognition of racism in the South regarding civil cases. Marshall’s motto was to prove the innocent, innocent but this did not make him bias to proving the guilty, guilty — regardless of race or skin tone.

The Chicago Black Partners Alliance was created in part to help produce more black civil rights attorneys and judges such as Marshall. The CBPA is a professional networking group consisting of partners at major Chicago law firms representing privately and publicly held corporations in nearly every conceivable practice area. According to the 2016 Minority Corporate Account Survey and Vault, “black attorneys now make up a smaller share of the law firm population than they did nine years ago, thanks in part to declining recruitment and disproportionately high attrition.” Because of statistics like this, the CBPA was created.

In watching the film, “Marshall” and retaining the work of the NAACP, the CBPA are one in the same. They both strive to represent the underrepresented during trials. A ;aw professor at The University of Chicago, Arnette Hubbard, quoted the Marshall idea in stating, “be prepared, well prepared and on the right side of the law.” The CBPA and the NAACP, in the movie, made it clear that the law should not be about what someone has or does not have. An individual’s past track record does not provide evidence for current accusations of crime. The truth will always come forth at the right time.

More importantly, the CBPA strives to be of representation for the aspiring judges and lawyers who are in law school today. Statistics have shown in 2015, “lawyers of color remain underrepresented in the partnership ranks, as more than 90% of partners are white.”

“At just 2.76% of partners in 2016, minority women continue to be the most dramatically underrepresented group at the partnership level.” Yet, these statistics are reflective of the minority partner community as a whole. “Representation of black/african-american partners has barely budged within the 2009-2016 period, it has only advanced from 1.71-1.81%.” This is a very small leap for such a progressive and relevant profession in 2017.

Because of such low statistics like the ones for black law professionals today, there is a lot at stake. Everything citizens have as a people, is in jeopardy. According to Judge Ann Claire Williams, the “death penalty, affirmative action, and women’s rights [sic]. Marshall’s whole legacy is in jeopardy as criminal cases were most important to him.”

During the screening at the River East 21 Theater in Downtown Chicago, President and co-founder of the CBPA Jeanne M. Gills explained that she wanted law students of the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and any of the other Chicago college students to take advantage of the moment that they were in during the movie. She advised them to make connections, mingle, start conversations, and to not let the movie screening be the last time they interact with any of the partners, lawyers, or professors.

All attendees of this screening were given a directory so that all professionals could be found for reference.

Written by Alexandria Martin
Edited by Jeanette Smith


Legal Affairs: Saving the Race
National Association for Law Placement Inc. 2017: 2016 Report on Diversity in U.S. Law Firms
Minority Corporate Counsel Survey and Vault 2016: Diversity Survey
Panel with Honorable Judge Ann Claire Williams
Panel with Honorable Professor Arnette Hubbard
The Chicago Black Panthers Alliance: About Us

Featured Image Courtesy of Jim Bowen’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Iibsciterp’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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