On May 17, 2018, the State Bar of Georgia hosted the 2018 Commitment to Equality Awards, where GABWA members were recognized and honored. Laverne Lewis Gaskins, the Vice President of the Augusta Chapter of GABWA, was among the honorees for the evening. Ms. Gaskins was presented with the Commitment to Equality Award by President Rita Treadwell. During her remarks, President Treadwell noted that Ms. Gaskins has truly worked to embody this years’ platform by serving as a dynamic disruptor that boldly advocates for change in the legal community.
During her acceptance, Ms. Gaskins made a call to action for practitioners to meet their obligations within the legal profession by making a consistent effort to improve the laws and legal system through the promotion of diversity and inclusion. Ms. Gaskins further stated that, for the legal profession to profess objectivity, there must be a concern placed on the optics of the composition of its members. Gaskins closed her acceptance by stating, “Cultivating the best talent is consistent with inclusion. Enhanced productivity demands inclusion. Marginalization is inconsistent with social justice.”
Samuel S. Woodhouse III, one of the founding members of GABWA’s Professional Development Academy (PDA), was also honored with the Commitment to Equality Award. During his heartfelt remarks, Mr. Woodhouse discussed his involvement with the PDA, and how it is an embodiment of the ways that other practitioners helped to educate him on both the written and unwritten rules of practice. He stated that supporting the PDA allows him to pass on the knowledge he received to other attorneys of color, empowering them to avoid certain pitfalls in their own career. Mr. Woodhouse closed by stating, “I have to give back, I don’t have a choice because someone invested in me.”
The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) was also among the honorees for the Commitment to Equality Award. Sara Totonchi, the H. Lee Sorokin Executive Director of the SCHR, gave a rousing recount of the success that the organization has had during the last year, including its efforts to advocate for clients and support bail reform. Ms. Totonchi closed her remarks by encouraging the attendees to embrace the spirit of dissent from policies that are harmful to people of color.
The evening concluded with the presentation of the Randolph Thrower Lifetime Achievement Award to Marion Cover Dockery. Mrs. Dockery’s extensive career and achievements, which include being the first black woman to be hired as in-house counsel for FedEx and BP, founding the Leadership Institute of Women of Color Attorneys, Inc. (LIWOCA), and serving as a member of GABWA, were highlighted. In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Dockery asserted that the legal profession must continue to focus on hiring, mentoring, sponsoring and supporting the growth of diverse attorneys. She closed her remarks by invoking GABWA’s platform, and reminding the attendees to continue to be disrupters.
The evening was a great success and a reminder to the attendees to continue to commit to diversity and inclusion. Further, throughout each of the speeches, there was a strong affirmation of the work that GABWA continues to emphasize, and the inspiration that the organization provides to encourage all practitioners to be dynamic disruptors that must boldly advocate for change.