Black Law Students’ Association holds its first speaker event February 26

The Power of DIversity highlights achievements by prominent Alberta politician and Toronto author/scholar

Helen Metella - 19 February 2021

Toronto author, scholar and former Bay Street lawyer Hadiya Roderique and Alberta NDP MLA David Shepherd will speak at the first event of the new Black Law Students’ Association at the University of Alberta.

Titled “The Power of Diversity,” the one-hour discussion on Zoom, February 26 will mark Black History Month by highlighting the achievements of the two speakers in the legal profession and in politics, says Peace Penzi, president of the student association.

Roderique, named one of Canadian Lawyers’ 25 Most Influential Lawyers in 2018 is also renowned for writing “Black on Bay Street” a 2017 feature essay in the Globe and Mail in which she searingly described the isolation and barriers that a even a high-achieving Black lawyer encounters in Canada’s legal profession. Her incisive piece was shared more than 13,000 times on Facebook, and its accompanying video watched more than 250,000 times.

For Penzi, who read it just as she was entering law school, it had a profound impact. “It shed light on issues I’d naively, never thought about — how I’d fit into the profession; the barriers I’d face. It was insightful, motivational and inspirational.”

Shepherd, the MLA for Edmonton City Centre and the health critic for the Alberta NDP, has a strong record of advocating for affordable housing, mental health and harm reduction services, as well as for the technology and innovation sector.

“He’s always been a champion for diversity and an advocate for the communities he represents,” says Penzi.

The Power of Diversity event will consist of a short talk from each of the speakers and an informal discussion with the audience, co-hosted by Penzi and Emilio Filomeno, vice-president of the Black Law Students’ Association. He is one of the 17 members who joined the group since it was formally established last October — the majority of whom are not of a visible minority, says Penzi.

“The students at the U of A acknowledge the systemic racism present for visible minorities; they care and want to do their part as allies,” she says. “It makes me feel very supported by my peers and excited to see what we will be able to accomplish as a group.”

The event runs February 26 from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. via this Zoom link.

Attend Event