Alumni Inspire Students at Loyola Law School’s Black History Month Programming

LMU Loyola Law School commemorated Black History Month in February with events that inspired, informed, and celebrated its diverse population of students, faculty, and alumni.

The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) hosted two panels on Feb. 21 featuring prominent alumni who spoke about their career paths and dispensed advice for law students and soon-to-be graduates. The Black Women in Law panel featured Demetria Graves ’04, the Graves Law Firm; Ibiere Seck ’07, Seck Law; Jeannine Taylor, Keck Medicine of USC; and Marjorie Williams ’09, Skydance Sports.

The panelists encouraged the students to have confidence and speak up, seek out mentorship, and always remember that they belong here. “You have to recognize that you're going to be confronted with challenges, but you're fully equipped. You wouldn't have made it this far if you weren't," Seck said.

Williams urged students to demonstrate their own knowledge and expertise to make sure they are respected and taken seriously. “No one took these tests or showed up for you. You did it for yourself,” she said. “Take confidence in that and be overprepared."

Graves echoed Williams’ advice to students to advocate for themselves: "I've learned that it's OK for me to respect my boundaries and stand up for myself."

Taylor illustrated how important it is for students to form good relationships with their professors with a story about Loyola Law School's own Dean Brietta Clark. Taylor remembered being a student at USC Gould School of Law while Clark was a research fellow and watching Clark give a guest lecture about constitutional law to their class (which was about a completely different subject). The course's professor had given Clark that opportunity because of the relationship Clark had cultivated with him, Taylor pointed out. Professors can provide mentorship, offer professional development opportunities, and even recommend students for jobs if students reach out and discuss their goals.

Later, BLSA’s Black Men in Law panel featured Emahn Counts ’03, Counts Law Firm; Jamon Hicks ’04, Douglas/Hicks Law; Jonathan Mputu ’17, TMFE Group; James Sargent ’10, Glaser Weil; and Virgil Thompson ’16, Aligned Consulting Services. The alumni drew on their range of unique experiences, from NBA franchise front offices and Big Law to civil litigation firms and hanging their own shingles.

Elsewhere, the DEI Speaker Series on Feb. 19 saw the debut of a new portrait by Errol Cook ’95, who showcased his new artwork and answered questions about his art and law careers, and how he balances his legal work with his other interests. Cook is a criminal defense attorney and an accomplished artist who owns and operates Counsel & Canvas art gallery in Marina del Rey. “Painting is escapism and therapeutic,” he said.

Cook spoke about his donation of his portrait of Al Jenkins ’76 to Loyola Law School. Jenkins was a successful attorney who helped thousands of Black law students pass the bar exam by welcoming them into his home for test practice and preparation. Even in retirement and well into his 80s, Jenkins still meets test-takers at his kitchen table to prepare for the essay portion of the exam. His story was the focus of the documentary “Bar Daddy,” screened by LLS in 2023.

“You need to memorialize heroes who help,” Cook said of why he chose Jenkins as a subject.

Earlier in the month, Professor Gary Williams, Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Chair in Civil Rights, hosted a Jazz Salon in the Multicultural Center. The salon focused on the Black Jazz record label, which was the first label in 50 years to be owned and guided by African American artists when it was founded in 1971. Attendees enjoyed music from the Black Jazz label while learning about its history and modern-day impact.