By Priscilla Wiredu
Posted on August 6, 2021
Law school can be hard. It can be costly, confusing and can leave one feeling overwhelmed and stressed. Luckily, there is always a place for Black students to have a sense of community and resources to make the most of their experience at Osgoode Hall Law School.
The Black Law Students’ Association of Canada at Osgoode (BLSA Osgoode) is a branch of the national non-profit organization Black Law Students Association of Canada (BLSA Canada) located at the Osgoode Hall Law School. BLSA Osgoode’s mission statement is to promote and ensure diversity in the legal profession by creating efficient legal education. BLSA offers opportunities for persons who identify as Black/African Canadian, or have an interest in targeting issues that directly and indirectly affect the Black community.
BLSA is driven to ease the professional advancement of Black students through mentoring and networking opportunities. BLSA Osgoode is committed to helping members and aspiring members to excel both in law school and the legal profession. They achieve this by offering educational and social events in which members are given the chance to network and learn from fellow law students and lawyers.
Here are some of BLSA Osgoode’s opportunities and events:
LSAT Bursary Program
BLSA Osgoode hosts an annual bursary to help recipients with things such as LSAT prep courses with HarvardReady (estimated at $1400 value). This program is aimed at increasing Black representation in the legal profession by strengthening the candidacy of law school applicants from BLSA’s communities.
Winners of the bursary are required to enrol in HarvardReady LSAT prep courses for the current year, which seasonally run during the spring, summer, and fall. Each course has 100 in-class hours, small class sizes, free repeats of courses and proctored tests. Due to COVID19, HarvardReady has online options available to recipients as well as accommodations.
- Students who self-identify as Black
- Have successfully completed a minimum of one full academic year in a program leading to a degree (preference will be given to upper year students), OR
- Individuals who self-identify as Black, have not attended university or have less than 3 years of university, are at least 26 years of age (as of September 1st of the year of admission) and have a minimum of 5 years of non-academic experience.
Applicants are asked to submit their resume at the end of this application, in Word document or PDF format.
BLSA Osgoode welcomes aspiring law students to spend a day at Osgoode Hall Law School on Opportunity Day. This day gives aspiring law students a chance to learn about the law school application process, attend panel discussions, and speak with current and former law students. High school students and undergrads, and even adults seeking a new career in the legal profession are welcome – Opportunity Day is open to all those interested.
Black History Month
BLSA Osgoode celebrates Black History Month every February. In 2021, BLSA Osgoode’s Black History Month (BHM) theme was “Black Resistance.” Recognizing the resistance and struggle of Black communities and Black individuals against oppression and injustice. These practices can be forms of activism, cultural celebrations and self-care. During BHM, BLSA offers a space for the broader Black community to talk about their definitions of what Black Resistance is in their minds. BLSA offers initiatives such as a Virtual Resistance Gallery and Social Media Campaign, two online events that present art pieces by diverse artists and how their works embody Black Pride and Black Resistance.
Other events include:
- Fireside Chat – a discussion panel with Black legal professionals to exchange information and experiences in the legal career path and how Black Resistance manifested in their journeys.
- Bake Night – As a method of treating ourselves and taking some intentional down time, BLSA Osgoode will host a virtual Bake Night with Dough Re & Mi Bakery (@doughreandmi). A short list of ingredients will be sent out beforehand to give participants time to gather them.
- Hot Takes – a night of covering a variety of topics ranging from recent Netflix favourites to Love Island and beyond! BLSA provides members with the opportunities to share opinions, ideas, and perspectives on TV show topics and other topics about race and representation in the media.
- Know Your Worth Conference – Every year BLSA Osgoode partners with the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to host a youth empowerment conference. The Know Your Worth Conference gives high school students in the TDSB an opportunity to take on leadership positions by helping plan and promote the event, in addition to leading a student workshop. The programming for the day includes workshops and a keynote address designed by community leaders and fun interludes for the students.
Africa Summit 2020-2021
During the 2020-2021 year, BLSA partnered with Norton Rose Fulbright Canada and offered invitations for an intimate discussion on empowered Black women in law to discuss their stories about their career journeys. The discussion included these women defining personal success, reflecting on the events of 2020, and the intersectionality of being a Black woman in law. This series is part of the Women in Norton Rose Fulbright series that builds opportunities by storytelling and building women’s self-belief, self-worth, motivation, and confidence by showing their capabilities working in the legal field.
Breaking Down Borders
A fireside chat with Director of Norton Rose Fulbright Gregory Nott, and Legal Counsel for Olympic Athlete Caster Semenya. Semenya was barred by World Athletics Regulations from defending her world title in 2018. Alongside her legal team, Semenya remains committed to fighting for human rights domestically and internationally.
Participants get to rank their top three favourite break-out rooms and will be offered raffle prize giveaways. Themes of the breakout rooms:
- Social Obligations and NRF
- Changing Legal Landscape and COVID
- Mental Health and the Workplace
- My First Time Doing X and Biggest Blunders
- Demystifying Recruitment
- Mentorship and Networking during COVID and Beyond
- Comparative Practice: NRF in Toronto versus South Africa
The Lincoln Alexander Award
Lincoln Alexander was an Osgoode Hall Law School alum who graduated in 1953. He practiced law until 1968, after which he entered the political sphere and made history as the first Black member of Parliament. After serving four successful consecutive terms, Alexander was appointed as Lieutenant Governor of Ontario in 1985, once again making history as the first Black person to hold such a title. Throughout his golden years, Alexander achieved several other high-profile positions, such as Chancellor of the University of Guelph, Chair of the Canadian Race Relations Foundations, and Champion of the Order of Canada. Lincoln Alexander was a fighter for equity and broke many colour barriers during his lengthy career, ensuring the advancement of Black Canadians.
The Lincoln Alexander Award honours his commitment to offering the Black community better opportunities and advancement in career and education. The recipient of the award is a professional in the community who displays leadership values, professional excellence and a commitment to optimal public service. Evidence of this would be through their professional experiences, contributions to the Black community and legal advocacy.
To be nominated, a form must be completed and submitted no later than the last day of January every year, and the ceremony takes place February 25.
The eligibility requirements are as follows:
- All Black-identifying professionals substantially engaged with the Black community in Canada are eligible to be nominated for the above award.
- Nominations for awards may be submitted by any individual, as long as the nominee meets the nomination criteria.
- You may nominate more than one individual for this award. Please use one form for each individual nominated.
- A short narrative explaining the reasons for your nomination is required.
For more information on BLSA Osgoode, or to be kept up to date on their events and any applications, see their contact list below:
Email | BLSA@osgoode.yorku.ca
Twitter | @blsaosgoode
Instagram | @osgoodeblsa
LinkedIn | Black Law Students’ Association of Osgoode
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.