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Honoring Avery Eli Okin during our 150th anniversary celebration

April 18, 2022 Robert Abruzzese, Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Brooklyn Bar Association will celebrate its 150th Anniversary with a dinner at El Caribe on Thursday, June 2. To make the night even more special — the BBA is honoring the most important person to the association in at least 50 years — Executive Director Avery Eli Okin.

Okin graduated from Brooklyn Law School and was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1984 and almost immediately went to work at the Brooklyn Bar Association. He has served as executive director for more than 36 years.

“He was a brand-new executive director just barely out of law school, but he picked it up right away,” past president Joseph Farrell once said.

Okin took over for former Executive Director Henry “Kell” Gross when his father, Julius Okin, a well-known BBA member at that point, had suggested his Okin, who hadn’t even been out of law school for four years.

Past presidents of the BBA know how influential Okin has been during his time. Andrea Bonina explained that he took on extra work the year she was president and one of the members of her family became ill. Bonina said that it was Okin’s way to always support the presidents as best he can.

“When you’re president, Avery is unwaveringly supportive of you personally and professionally,” Bonina said. “I just remember Avery bending over backwards to accommodate me. I remember him taking my calls on weekends, early morning, late in the evening, no matter when. His only question was, ‘How can I make this easy for you?'”

The people who remember the time before Okin have credited him with being a big part in helping the bar association transition from an “old man’s club” to the diverse group that is seen today by getting other bar associations and organizations involved.

Tickets for the Brooklyn Bar Association’s 150th Anniversary Dinner are available online at www.BrooklynBar.org.

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The following is a press release from the BBA’s Diversity Committee

Brooklyn Bar Association Celebrates Champions of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

April 2022 is shaping up to be a remarkable month, particularly for all who value diversity, equity, and inclusion.  On April 7, history was made as the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of the Hon. Ketanji Brown Jackson as an associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, making her the first African American woman to serve in that esteemed position. On the same date and much closer to home, the Brooklyn legal community celebrated as the Hon. Lillian Wan was inducted as the first Asian American elected as a Supreme Court judge in Kings County. Today, the Brooklyn Bar Association (BBA) announces another first: the recipients of the inaugural Lynn Terrelonge Bridge to Diversity Awards.

Created by the BBA’s Diversity Committee, the award is named in honor of Lynn Terrelonge, the BBA’s first African American president (2002). Ms. Terrelonge was considered a mentor, trailblazer and extraordinary individual by those who knew her. The BBA’s video tribute to Ms. Terrelonge is available here: https://brooklynbar.org/?pg=News&blAction=showEntry&blogEntry=69415.

Joy Thompson, head of the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Diversity Committee.

The Lynn Terrelonge Bridge to Diversity Award recognizes individuals and/or organizations throughout Brooklyn that are making a positive impact by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession and/or the community at large. Each recipient exemplifies a unique blend of experiences, skills, and accomplishments in the effort to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, profession, judiciary, and/or education.

After soliciting and reviewing nominations, the Diversity Committee, led by Joy Thompson, the Hon. Joanne Quinones and Kwok Kei Ng, selected the following distinguished individuals for the award: Hon. Raja Rajeswari, acting Supreme Court justice and chair NYS Unified Court System Advisory Committee on Language Access; Charles A. Small, Esq., chief clerk for Civil Matters, Civil Term, Kings Supreme Court; and the Hon. Carolyn Walker-Diallo, administrative judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York. The awards ceremony will take place during the BBA’s annual dinner in December.

Ms. Thompson credits the members of the Diversity Committee for coming up with the idea for the award. “I sincerely appreciate the support of President Armena Gayle and the board of the Brooklyn Bar Association, which approved the Committee’s proposal for the award,” she said.

State Supreme Court Justice Joanne Quinones.

The members of the BBA’s Diversity Committee, in addition to Co-Chair Judge Quinones and Vice Chair Ng, are Carrie Anne Cavallo, David Chidekel (past BBA President and founder of the Diversity Committee), Christina Golkin, Turquoise Haskins, Wendy Hernandez, Adam Kalish, Joseph Kenny, Natoya McGhie, Angelicque Moreno, Hemalee Patel, Gil Perez, Matthew Porges, Sheldon Siporin and Judge Wan.

It is most appropriate for April to be designated as Celebrate Diversity Month, Ms. Thompson said. At least three major world religions recognize holidays in April 2022: the Muslim observance of Ramadan, Islam’s most sacred month of fasting (start date April 2); the Jewish observance of Passover, commemorating the Biblical story of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt (start date April 15); and the Christian observance of Easter, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ (April 17).  This month also marks the 39th Annual Gathering of Nations Pow Wow, the world’s largest gathering of Native American and Indigenous people (April 28-30); Earth Day (April 22), an international day celebrating the environment; Scottish American Heritage (shared by people as varied as the Founding Fathers, Johnnie Cash, Jennifer Aniston and Barack Obama); and a monthlong recognition of “Autism Acceptance,” promoting understanding of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), described by the Centers for Disease Control as a disability characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication.

On a sobering and important note, April 28 marks Holocaust Remembrance Day, when the international community is called to acknowledge the six million Jewish victims of the Holocaust and millions of other victims of Nazism during World War II, and honor rescuers and liberators. The recent attacks and atrocities against civilians and innocents in the Ukraine serve as a fresh reminder that darkness and evil remain the adversary of enlightenment and peace. The poignant refrain of “Never Again” is for all who strive to replace hatred with compassion, intolerance with understanding, and bigotry with brotherhood.

“The Brooklyn Bar Association aims to do its part to promote the noblest aspects of humanity in Kings County and beyond,” Ms. Thompson said. “And we are pleased to celebrate those remarkable individuals, such as the recipients of the Lynn Terrelonge Bridge to Diversity Award, who do the same.”

Robert Abruzzese is the former Legal Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle and the current Director of Member Services at the Brooklyn Bar Association. Now as a legal columnist for the Eagle, Abruzzese writes about the BBA and the local legal community. For information about joining the Brooklyn Bar Association, you can reach him via email at [email protected].


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