Member Groups

The Challenge
The newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Racial and Ethnic Minorities and the Law

October 2016, vol. 27, no. 1

Chair comments and ‘introductions’ of more REM members

Although this bar year is still young, Racial and Ethnic Minorities Committee members are working at the figurative ‘grindstone’ planning CLE programs for this term on implicit bias and unfair housing practices which contribute to continuing racial, ethnic and socio-economic class segregation. In addition, as you can see from this issue of our newsletter, members are busy writing for The Challenge. One of the busiest is our own Newsletter Editor Khara Coleman who actually—and thankfully—VOLUNTEERED for this responsibility—not easy when you have to ‘issue’ deadlines for article submission and then pester people when nothing arrives on the scheduled date! But it seems Khara loves to write and to review what others have written, and she uses those skills in her life as a lawyer.

When she is not doing REM work, Khara focuses on her role as an associate with the Pugh, Jones & Johnson, P.C. law firm where she concentrates in complex civil litigation, compliance and internal investigations and employment matters. At the start of her career in law, Khara served as a judicial law clerk for the Hon. David Hansen of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and also as a criminal prosecutor in Scott County, Iowa. After moving to Illinois, Khara joined Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office where, as an Assistant Attorney General in the consumer fraud division, she handled civil prosecutions against for-profit colleges and predatory lenders and other companies engaged in deceptive practices injurious to consumers. As you can imagine, we feel fortunate to count Khara as an active and devoted REM member.

Another lawyer on our roster you either do know or should know is Sonnie Choi Williams. While Sonni is our Board of Governors Liaison and not a ‘regular’ REM member, we consider her an integral part of our Committee and as strong an advocate for us and for the advancement of our mission as any REM member is expected to be. For example, in the many years Sonni has been our Liaison, she has rarely missed a meeting and when she is there, she fully participates. Yet more significantly, Sonni is a respected, thoughtful, well-informed and passionate ambassador for our mission and for our programs and other initiatives, as her several major awards for leadership and for promoting diversity reflect. Sonni is a valuable mentor and guide and always ‘in our corner’ making sure we don’t get stuck in a corner.

One of our newest young members (almost any new member would be younger than yours truly!) is Jamel Greer, an associate at Franczek Radelet P.C. where his focus is Education Law which encompasses collective bargaining, school business operations, employment law and real estate matters. We anticipate he will be of enormous value to REM, given his intense involvement in issue-oriented activities even in law school where he was President of the Black Law Students Association and a member of the Public Interest Law Society and the Frederick Douglass Moot Court Team, to name only a few of his affiliations, as well as his achievement of a dual undergraduate degree in political science and African American Studies—and while playing football.

Arlette Porter, no stranger to many of us, is another welcome new addition to our Roster. Like Masa Renwick, Arlette had the vision, determination and, to my mind, a special kind of courage not every lawyer can call upon, to start her own family law practice which she operates in Chicago’s far south side. She is also a devoted ISBA member, serving on our Assembly since 2009, first by appointment to fill a vacancy and then by member vote in several elections and is active on both the Family Law Section Council and the Standing Committee on Judicial Evaluations in Cook County. We look forward to hearing her ideas for improving the diversity quotient of the ISBA and the profession at large.

Finally, to complete the introductions of our membership (and certainly not as an afterthought), I wish to shine a light on REM member J. Imani Drew who was recently appointed to the bench. While I would love to “wax eloquent” about the Hon. J. Imani Drew, you should instead read, in this issue, the beautifully penned tribute to her (and the Hon. Geraldine D’Souza) by Masah Renwick. In that piece you will find a virtual list of Judge Drew’s impressive ‘firsts’ as a young woman, a law student, a lawyer and a prosecutor. Through her achievements and the manner in which she professionally embodies them with a rare mix of grace and assurance, Judge Drew serves as a role model and an inspiration for so many women and women of color.

Once again, on behalf of the entire Committee, I thank you for reading this issue of The Challenge. Please keep it up—and because, in keeping with the name of our Newsletter we must be challenged, please share with us your thoughts on the work you believe we should be doing to advance diversity in the State bar and in the profession.