The ROchester Black bar Association
In 1994, attorneys Kendal Tyre, Jr., Don M. Wade and Margaret Williams conceptualized an organization that would not only provide a support network for African American lawyers in the greater Rochester community, but also tap into the resources and network of the National Bar Association (NBA). The NBA, the oldest and largest national association of predominately African-American lawyers and judges, had no affiliate chapter in Rochester at that time. In the fall of 1994, the vision of these attorneys was realized when the Rochester Black Bar Association (RBBA) was formally established.
OUR FIRST MEETING: On April 28, 1995, the RBBA held its first organizational meeting where many African-American attorneys in Monroe County gathered to determine long and short range goals and within the community. Later, drawing on the insight and wisdom of J. Richard Everett, Esq., the Honorable Roy Wheatley King and Rozetta Darby McDowell, Esq, icons in Rochester’s African American legal community, the RBBA’s leadership further expanded its efforts toward mentoring, legal education and community service.
COMMUNITY DISCUSSION: The RBBA hosted its first legal roundtable discussion, “Race and the Law,” in March of 1999. The seminar addressed issues of inequality in the judicial system and focused on approaches toward their resolution. One of the earliest and noteworthy community service endeavors undertaken by the RBBA was its Computers in the Community Initiative. In April of 1999, the RBBA provided computers to Rochester City Schools and Baden Street Settlement. This initiative culminated in a dedication ceremony at Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery. RBBA gained national attention when Clyde E. Bailey, Sr., RBBA Member and patent counsel at the Eastman Kodak Company, was elected as the 61st President of the NBA. In October of 2003, the RBBA hosted the NBA’s 15th Annual Wiley A. Branton Issues Symposium. In addition to hosting a reception for NBA representatives at Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, the RBBA paid tribute to the Honorable Rueben K. Davis, the Honorable Charles K. Willis and J. Richard Everett, Esq. at the RBBA’s first annual Awards Scholarship Dinner.
OUR CONTINUED GROWTH: The RBBA established its presence internationally when a delegation of forty NBA attorneys including Mr. Bailey, RBBA past President T. Andrew Brown and Yohannes Assefa traveled to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe in June of 2004 as part of an official delegation to southern Africa. The delegation attended the International Affiliate Meeting, where the NBA’s highest honor was bestowed upon Botswana’s President H.E., Festus Mogae for lifetime contributions to advancing the cause of democracy and human rights. The number of African American attorneys who live and work within the Rochester area has increased. The RBBA continues to address challenges these attorneys face by creating an environment of support for African American lawyers in the Rochester community.
Associate, Woods Oviatt
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February 5, 2017
Congratulations to Danielle Ponder! Democrat and Chronicle's article: Danielle Ponder: Empowering tomorrow's people, today. Great article!
National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts are exactly that. Radio segments that generally feature a big-name act playing live in an office at NPR, in front of a tiny desk. Very intimate. Wilco, Graham Nash, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, Natalie Merchant and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings have all done it.
When the public radio network held a competition for unknown bands to claim a slot on the show, Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People jumped at the opportunity. The Rochester band gathered around a tiny desk and made a three-minute video for its song “Blow Out the Sun.” A big job. Ponder’s powerful, soulful, R&B voice doesn’t easily fit in small rooms.
Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People didn’t win that contest. But it was selected by WXXI and WRUR-FM (88.5) as its regional winner. That band's reward is a Sept. 9 gig at The Little Theatre.
Ponder doesn’t write cat songs. Her ideas are big, she likes issues as big as her voice, which we first began hearing around here with her former band, Black August. From one song to the next to the next, her ideas are about “personal empowerment and personal liberation,” she says. “Love, justice and freedom." It's not just about female empowerment, she insists, although that is certainly there in the band's six-song EP, Blow Out the Sun. Danielle Ponder & the Tomorrow People are about empowering all of tomorrow's people, today.
“I write about heartbreak and romantic love, or I write about social and political issues, or personal freedom," she says. "Through all of these is the idea of talking about getting hurt, and how you overcome it.
“How do you survive that? Whether it’s community or your personal life, music is the healer for me.”
The antidote, she says, is empathy. Compassion. That’s easier to come by when it’s a broken heart that needs to be healed. Freedom, “the ability to do what you want,” as Ponder says, that’s maybe a little harder to find. But allowing people to marry who they love, and an increasing admission that we shouldn’t be throwing people in jail just because they smoke a little weed, those are issues that show we’re getting there as a nation.
But that idea of justice? We’re tripping over it. “You’re met with skepticism,” Ponder says. “‘That’s not happening! That’s not racism!’ People question people more in the area of justice.”
Ponder is a Rochester native who left for three years to study law at Northeastern University in Boston. But she came back, and has been a Monroe County public defender the last three years. Her clients are poor people charged with misdemeanors. Their crimes are small. Petty larceny, criminal mischief. If they do any jail time at all, it’s no more than a year.
Ponder has also worked as a community organizer, “teaching people to understand the way systemic racism works,” she says. “Talking about diversity within companies, and racial disparity within the criminal justice system.”
So her sense of justice is well developed. She comes by it the hard way.
“I had four brothers, I remember being home and three of them being beat up by police officers,” she says. That’s a big issue today, the broken trust between people of color and the police. Black Lives Matter. Does being treated like a criminal breed criminals? Does the criminal justice system prey on black people? Two months ago one of Ponder’s brothers was released from prison after serving 20 years on a robbery conviction.
“This wasn’t a murder, this wasn’t a crime like a Class A felony,” she says. “But it was three strikes and you’re out, and he got 20 years. That’s definitely one of my interests, ending mandatory sentencing.
“I grew up on Bay Street, the East Side, just watching around me what was happening. A lot of people don’t live in the Inner City, and they don’t realize it is a different world. You don’t grow up with Officer Friendly.”
Now this is all being played for cable-television ratings featuring Donald Trump, the TV reality star. Ponder confesses she’s obsessed. She can’t stop watching.
“I can’t tell if Donald Trump is believing everything he says or if he’s manipulating the people who follow him,” she says. “He’s using a lot of fear, essentially making people believe that if we don’t stop all brown and black people and this and that, we’re going to lose everything. He’s going to use fear to turn us against each other. I’ve never seen a politician exploit it so blatantly.”
It’s happened before, she admits, recalling Willie Horton. Serving a life sentence for murder in Massachusetts, Horton was issued a weekend furlough and went on a spree of assault, armed robbery and rape. George H.W. Bush featured Horton in his television ads against Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor. Fear became perhaps the biggest issue of the 1988 presidential campaign.
“But this is more,” Ponder says. “‘They’re taking your jobs! They’re raping your women! We’ve gotta do something!’”
Ponder is doing what she can as well. Writing songs. Songs about “the oppression the black community has faced, and its ability to rise above it.”
And one called “Love is Justice.”
“That’s what love looks like in public,” Ponder says. “If we truly love our fellow human beings, we fight for them. And we stop rhetoric like Donald Trump.”
January 16, 2017
Governor Cuomo Nominates Rowan D. Wilson for Associate Judge on New York State Court of Appeals
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has nominated Rowan D. Wilson to serve as an Associate Judge on the New York State Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court. Mr. Wilson is a litigation partner in the New York office of Cravath, Swaine & Moore, where he has worked for the past 30 years, and leads the firm’s pro bono work. The nomination was sent to the State Senate late Sunday, January 15.
“The New York State Court of appeals embodies the highest values of government service, and I am confident Rowan Wilson will continue to articulate and uphold the principles of law and fairness that embody the best of New York,” Governor Cuomo said. “With decades of experience in complex commercial litigation and his leadership role in the firm's pro bono work, I am confident he has the intellect, integrity, and compassion we need to continue moving New York forward. I am proud to nominate him to serve as an Associate Judge, and I look forward to his swift confirmation by the State Senate.”
“I am both humbled and honored to be nominated by Governor Cuomo to serve as an Associate Judge on the state’s highest court,” Rowan D. Wilson said. “My entire career has been dedicated to the pursuit of justice and there is no better place to continue those efforts than on the New York State Court of Appeals. I thank Governor Cuomo for this opportunity and look forward to working together to create a stronger, fairer New York for all.”
Mr. Wilson has been nominated to fill the vacancy created last year by the retirement of the Honorable Eugene Pigott. He is the seventh person that Governor Cuomo has nominated to serve on the New York State Court of Appeals. The Governor previously appointed Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Associate Judges Jenny Rivera, Sheila Abdus-Salaam, Leslie Stein, Eugene Fahey and Michael Garcia to the Court.
Governor Cuomo thanked Judge Pigott for his work on the Court of Appeals and his dedication to public service to New York State.
The Governor also thanked the Commission on Judicial Nomination for recommending an exceptionally talented and highly qualified group of potential nominees.
While being considered for nomination to the Court of Appeals, Mr. Wilson received the highest rating from the New York State Bar Association, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers, the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, the Women’s Trial Lawyers Caucus, the Albany County Bar Association, the Broome County Bar Association, New York City Bar Association, and the Tri-County Bar Association (which includes Erie, Monroe and Onondaga counties).
About Rowan D. Wilson
Mr. Wilson has a breadth of commercial litigation experience, including antitrust, intellectual property, contract, securities fraud, entertainment and media. Over the course of his career he has represented multinational financial services corporations, Fortune 500 companies, and other major organizations on high-profile issues throughout the United States and in a variety of venues including the United States Supreme Court and federal and state appellate and trial courts nationwide.
Wilson has also led Cravath’s pro bono work where he advocated for the expansion of civil rights, and has been involved in high-level litigation matters. He has been actively engaged in an ongoing lawsuit in Jefferson County, Alabama on behalf of classes of employees alleging non-compliance with consent decrees designed to assure fair hiring practices and advancement opportunities for women and minorities.
In addition, Mr. Wilson has served as Chair of the Neighborhood Defender Services of Harlem since 1996 which provides legal services to residents of upper Manhattan. He also serves on the board of Wide Horizons for Children, an organization dedicated to the well-being and security of vulnerable and orphaned children worldwide.
Mr. Wilson earned an A.B. in Government from Harvard University in 1981, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1984, both cum laude. Following law school, Mr. Wilson spent two years as law clerk for the Honorable James R. Browning, Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
If confirmed by the New York State Senate, he will be the first Long Islander to serve on the Court in over two decades, joining a panel that includes jurists from Albany, Buffalo, the Bronx, Manhattan and Westchester. In addition to reflecting New York’s geographic diversity, the legal experience of the Court encompasses a broad spectrum of legal areas ranging from appellate and trial court jurists to commercial practitioners to prosecutors to legal aid attorneys to law professors.
The Court, for the first time in its history, would have two African American jurists sitting simultaneously, complementing a panel that includes two Hispanic jurists and comprises a majority of women jurists; truly reflective of the great diversity of our State.
Associate Judges to the Court of Appeals serve for a term of 14 years upon their confirmation by the New York State Senate.
Mr. Wilson is 56 years old. He lives in Port Washington, Nassau County, with his wife and three daughters.
23 May 2016
RBBA's MOCK TRIAL WINS AT COMPETITION
The Rochester Black Bar Association’s high school mock trial team won first place at the annual competition hosted by the Boy Scouts of Seneca Waterways’ Law Explorers Program on April 23, 2016. The team included: Brianna Brown, Sydney DeVore, David Ketchum, Keaton Hall, and Robert Mcfarlane.
Each team in this year’s competition competed in two rounds, arguing once for the plaintiff and once for the defendant. The RBBA’s defense team earned a perfect score in their round.
We are proud of our students’ success!