Some clubs focus on building community. Others are aimed at advocacy and volunteerism. And others are concentrated on skill and knowledge development.
Black Law Students’ Association-Queen’s (BLSA-Queen’s) is one of those clubs that checks all the boxes.
Founded in 1991, BLSA-Queen’s is part of a national organization – BLSA Canada – which aims to support and enhance academic and professional opportunities for current and future black law students, as well as graduates, in both official languages.
“The Queen's chapter is looking to take those core BLSA goals a step further,” says Nigel Masenda, Law’20, the president of BLSA-Queen’s. “We are looking to expand the scope of our support to include students in programs and professions outside of law – from medical students to elementary students. Our mandate is rooted in academic excellence through which we can ameliorate the lack of racial representation in the legal, and other, professions.”
While the group already engages about 150 community members a year, Masenda’s team is hard at work scaling BLSA-Queen’s to reach these new disciplines. He believes the unique and privileged position his group enjoys as law students affords them the opportunity to help address the lack of representation in some other professions, and BLSA-Queen’s has a few ideas on how to do that.
“Our website, launching next year, will feature a mentorship program that will allow students to connect with black alumni, black law students, or current lawyers,” he says. “We are also partnering with STEM educator Curtis Carmichael (Artsci’16) to expand our reach into the science, technology, engineering, and math fields and thereby increase representation and advance academic and social excellence.”
Part of BLSA-Queen’s website launch involves organizing online workshops that will coincide with Black History Month in February 2020. The workshops will focus on both law and business and will be designed to educate students on conduct in the corporate and professional world. The association chose to focus their efforts online to help them reach a larger audience throughout their existing footprint in Kingston and the greater Toronto area, as well as nationally and internationally.
Masenda says his group has received overwhelming support for their efforts to build on BLSA-Queen’s mission and vision, particularly thanks to some key connections and partnerships.
“One of the key reasons I chose to come to Queen's for my JD is the widespread collegiality, both among your peers and Queen’s alumni,” he says. “Alumni have an eagerness to impart their wisdom and support in any way they can – from something as small as chatting about our events to building connections that can help us further achieve our goals. The support is not limited to Black faculty, and I think that truly shows the beauty of Queen's.”
To learn more about BLSA-Queen’s, send the chapter an email and watch for their website launching in the new year.
By Phil Gaudreau