Mayor Eric Adams speaks at celebration of Black excellence in the law

May 24, 2023 Rob Abruzzese
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The Metropolitan Black Bar Association (MBBA) held its 39th Annual Anniversary Gala last Friday at Chelsea Piers, a night dedicated to the celebration of black excellence in the field of law.

The gala honored trailblazers in the legal profession for their significant contributions to justice and equality. Among the celebrated were Deborah Archer, Trailblazer of the Year; Hon. Tanya Kennedy, Jurist of the Year; Camille Chin Kee Fatt, Public Servant of the Year; Conway Ekpo, Corporate Counsel of the Year; Nexus U. Sea, Private Practitioner of the Year; and Jeremy Garcia, the Presidential awardee.

Camille Chin-Kee-Fatt, Public Servant of the Year, radiates grace and strength at the Metropolitan Black Bar Association Gala.

“Oh, what a night,” exclaimed President Carl Forbes, Jr. “Our celebration of Black Excellence showcased a room full of ‘Prominence, Presence & Professionalism.’ It is a tremendous honor and a privilege to be the President of the Metropolitan Black Bar Association.

“I was deeply moved by everyone’s love and support on Friday,” Forbes continued. “To the Officers and Directors of the MBBA, and all those that contributed, thank you for your work in putting together an amazing event. To our Sponsors, thank you for your continued support of the MBBA.”

President Carl Forbes, Jr. shines in his stunning gold-and-black suit at the MBBA’s 39th Annual Gala, embodying the event’s theme of ‘Prominence, Presence, and Professionalism’.
Lola Waterman, Member of the Year, proudly displays her award at the 39th Annual Metropolitan Black Bar Association Gala.

One of the spotlights that Friday night was on Lola Waterman, an MBBA Director and Chair of its Community Outreach and Pro Bono Committee. Waterman, a native of Brooklyn and current candidate for Civil Court Judge, was honored as the Member of the Year.

During her speech, Waterman recalled her humble beginnings in East Lansing, Michigan, and explained that she has tirelessly devoted herself to the pursuit of justice ever since her father’s tragic death in Nigeria ignited in her a relentless passion for the law.

Waterman’s honor arrives at a critical time as she sets her sights on the role of Civil Court Judge in Brooklyn. Renowned for her pro bono work and unwavering dedication to equal access to justice, Waterman’s commitment to her community has been a cornerstone of her legal career. As she continues her campaign, she carries the support of her fellow MBBA members, further exemplifying the profound impact she has had on her legal community.

In addition to the honorees, the event also drew some of the biggest names from the legal community including NYC Corporation Counsel Sylvia Hinds-Radix, Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz, and Congressman Gregory Meeks. Award-winning WNBC anchor David Ushery served as the master of ceremonies for the evening.

One of the evening’s biggest surprises was the unexpected appearance of Mayor Eric Adams, the second Black mayor in NYC’s history. The Mayor, lauded for his dedication to justice and community service, was warmly welcomed by the attendees, lending an even greater sense of prestige and significance to the gala.

Mayor Eric Adams, only the second Black mayor in NYC’s history, delivers a compelling and inspiring address at the Metropolitan Black Bar Association’s 39th Annual Gala.

President of the MBBA, Carl Forbes Jr., announced the second surprise of the night, revealing plans to honor Chief Judge Rowan Wilson at next year’s gala. This news heightened the anticipatory spirit of the evening, demonstrating the MBBA’s continued commitment to recognizing excellence in the legal field.

“Congratulations to our honorees,” Forbes said. “Thank you for the work that you do and will continue to do. You are all an inspiration to the MBBA to continue advocating for the advancement of equality and excellence in the pursuit of justice.”

While the MBBA’s 39th gala provided a stunning showcase of Black excellence in the legal field, it also signaled a promising future, with leaders like Waterman continuing to make their mark. The event served not only as a testament to the MBBA’s continued commitment to fostering legal excellence but also as a reminder of the profound impact these trailblazers have on their communities and the legal system at large.

Conway Ekpo, Corporate Counsel of the Year, captured mid-speech, sharing his insights and gratitude at the MBBA’s prestigious gala.
An unforgettable moment as President Carl Forbes, Jr. presents the award to Nexus U. Sea, Private Practitioner of the Year, at the MBBA Gala.
Hon. Tanya R. Kennedy, Jurist of the Year, beams as she poses with her prestigious award.
Deborah N. Archer, Trailblazer of the Year and President of the ACLU, illuminates the room with her presence at the MBBA Gala.


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