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Tulane’s BLSA has a shining year

February 08, 2024 12:45 PM
Alina Hernandez ahernandez4@tulane.edu



"Legacy" and "pushing boundaries" are words Black Law Student Association President Victoria Branch uses to describe what’s happening in Tulane’s chapter this year.

And she has a lot to celebrate, starting with the Tulane BLSA chapter’s recognition last month as the Southwest Regional Chapter of the Year, a prestigious nod from the Southwest BLSA. Branch, a second-year law student, has toiled to grow engagement in an already robust chapter as well as its fundraising totals – and for her efforts, she received the award as Outstanding Regional Member of the Year.

“We definitely wanted to push the limits of what BLSA can be,” said Branch, who works with an eight-person board, comprised of August Simien, Jamika Mack, Natalia Walcott, Tynesea Watts, Rayyan Maqbool, Camille Hanson, and Robert Morrison III.

"We are moving BLSA beyond being seen as a strictly social organization. It is really growing leaders who are active participants in their community and who play an integral and important part of law school.”

To that end, she and the BLSA board have been pushing boundaries to support Black law students within the walls of Weinmann Hall.

Their fundraising effort, for example, went gangbusters – a Wavestarter campaign supported by Tulane University led to a whopping record haul: $16,100, well above the $10,000 the organization had hoped for, and surpassing their published goal of $15,000.

“It was a lot of work, but intentional work, to grow the visibility of BLSA’s fundraising,” said Branch.

The money will be used to send 10 students to the BLSA national conference, and in the fall, the organization will also distribute textbook stipends to BLSA students who qualify.  The cost of textbooks is a huge expense, said Branch, and students of color sometimes struggle to find the funds.

In recent days, the news has been even hotter for BLSA, with the Thurgood Marshall Appellate Team winning, for the third straight year, the Southwest Regional Championship in the Black Law Student Association Moot Court Competition.  The team heads to the nationals in March, and if they win, Tulane BLSA will have a hat trick, becoming a three-time national championship school.

BLSA, too, has expanded its community outreach. In the fall, students spent a day at Thurgood Marshall Elementary in New Orleans, reading to kids, an effort they will repeat with the students again later this month.

Branch also spent much of the fall semester working with the Soutwestern Regional BLSA Board to bring the organization’s 8th Annual Academic Leadership Retreat, a two-day event that brought BLSA student leaders from chapters throughout the region to Tulane.

“It really showed how our board can shine,” said Branch, quick to point to the current BLSA board’s capacity: event planning, leadership, engaged professionally. “Without the support of our current board, members like August Simien (BLSA vice president), who all stepped up and supported this effort, there was no way we could have shined this way.”

All of this is to say, Branch and the current BLSA board are working at legacy-building, enshrining fundraising into future plans, adjusting their constitution to create a process to help its members, whether through grants or to send them to national conferences, and setting the tone for BLSA community service.

“This year has been nothing short of amazing,” said Branch. “We did amazing work this year just with the sheer number of programs, fundraising, and student collaborations. We also did this while our own students were doing their own thing, with their law classes and moot court and all of the other things they were involved with. We showed our school and others what we are made of and what we are capable of. Yeah, I’d say we’re killing it.”