Law Students See Diminished Glass Ceiling - Black Enterprise

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Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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Black Law Students Association

Before running for the U.S. Senate, Sen. Barack Obama served as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 until 2004 and was a senior lecturer from 1996 until 2004. Members of the Black Law Students Association at the University of Chicago, though not present during his tenure, said that Obama’s accomplishments have opened up doors for everyone no matter what race they are. But his run and potential presidential victory has specific significance for black students.

“It sort of makes you feel like that ceiling is a little bit higher at this point. There are always going to be racial barriers. Diversity and race relations are still a huge issue for law firms. Seeing Barack Obama potentially be the president of the U.S. and break a huge barrier makes me feel like maybe it’s not going to be a huge struggle with my race as far as my ambitions,” says Venita Cooper, president of the BLSA.

Cooper, a second-year law student at the University of Chicago says that race absolutely plays a factor in why she will be voting for Obama. “I’m excited that this guy has taken a different path to success than every other leader before him,” she says.

Gizachew Wubishet, a first-year law student met Obama when he was running for U.S. Senate. Wubishet was making a documentary about the Chicago Housing Projects and he interviewed Obama because of his work helping to remove asbestos in the Altgeld Gardens Housing Project. “You could tell even back then, that even though he was only a state senator he had a lot of potential,” says Wubishet, 28, a native of Ethiopia. “His sincerity, his realness, just looking at his background and what he had already accomplished, you could tell he was going to be big in politics, but the [housing project still mattered to him].”

Twenty-four year old Cooper, born of a Korean mother and black father believes that Obama’s perspective as a biracial person is a commodity for America and the world. Race isn’t a factor for Wubishet, but he thinks that the world will look at America differently if Obama is elected.

Richard Leverett says that Obama’s path opens up doors for people who use community service as an entrée to politics. “It changes the rules on how you develop as a politician. I can see that merit and hard work is involved but caring for the community is also involved,” says Leverett, a second-year law student from Gary, Indiana. “I think as far as raising the bar, it opens up opportunity across the board to all young lawyers who come from different backgrounds and have different pedigrees, and who are not first generation lawyers. I think it validates the career path or aspiration to care for others and work for people who don’t have a voice. Once you validate that it opens up the doors

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.