NLG Annual Dinner
The energy at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury was palpable on Friday, May 12, 2017, when the National Lawyers Guild-Massachusetts Chapter held its 36th annual Testimonial Dinner. This year the NLG awarded six highly deserving honorees to recognize their immense efforts towards radical and progressive justice.
Dinner guests enjoyed a cocktail hour under the high ceilings of the 3rd floor banquet room where they mingled, tried on “pussy hats” (made for the Women’s March and donated to the NLG by BrickBottom MadCats artist co-op in Somerville), and were treated to a fabulous buffet with a Caribbean twist crafted by chef Neil Porter and his team from Taste de Tropics. Then, following eloquent and hilarious introductions by Carl Williams, each of the six honorees took the stage to address the NLG guests.
Law students are a highly active and vibrant part of the NLG, and this year the awards went to two women who completely embody this sentiment. Derecka Purnell of Harvard Law School and Claudia Quintero of Western New England School of Law delivered powerful and profound messages about social injustice and encouraged everyone to be as actively involved in the struggle as possible (particularly if you are interested in being chained to a structure of some sort!)
The Legal Worker Awards went to two parties who also reflect the youthful energy of the NLG’s current work. Eighteen year old Mari Gashaw, a high school student at Cambridge Rindge Latin, drew the crowd in with her prophetic offerings that seemed astonishingly far ahead of her time. Along with her fellow members of Black Lives Matter Cambridge Mari had the audience energized and on their feet to chant along to a “Black Lives Matter!” beat. To keep the high energy going, the Student Immigrant Movement followed with a heartfelt plea for social justice for undocumented students before again rousing the crowd to follow them in a playful cheer, shouting “Undocumented!” while the audience shouted back “Unafraid!”
Amid the awards the dinner fundraisers Makis Antzoulatos and Jonathan Messinger led bidding on the auction items and collected pledges of financial support offered to the NLG. They nearly literally raised the roof! Given that most of the auction prizes this year were amazing houses for vacation getaways, Makis didn’t miss a step in pointing out the irony that NLG members and friends who disdain private property would own so much. Thankfully we are all generously ready to share what we own! Also of note, David Kelston’s generosity not only included putting up his vacation home for auction but then bidding on and winning another house, which he donated to the student groups of legal workers honorees.
After the excitement and flurry that always accompanies a live auction, Shannon al-Wakeel’s acceptance speech for the Lawyer Award took on a softer, more touching tone as she highlighted the plight of so many immigrants, Muslims, and the poor that her organization Muslim Justice League has been helping. This perfectly set the stage for Brian Flynn of GBLS to bring it home by building momentum and inspiration during his acceptance of the Rob Doyle Award, in memory of the NLG-MA’s co-founder who passed suddenly in 2014.
Riding out the night’s vibe, the lights dimmed and the dance floor lit up led mainly by Black Lives Matter Cambridge’s festive energy. A success on all fronts, the 2017 Gala definitely hyped up the crowd towards engagement for the year to come and beyond.
- Carrie Darman