Saint Louis University School of Law’s Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) showcased their skills by participating in the national BLSA Mock Trial competition after placing second in regionals. BLSA also hosted several events in February to celebrate Black History Month.
On Feb. 2, 2022, the Black Law Students’ Association Mock Trial Team joined the regional Midwest Mock Trial competition. The team, consisting of Austynn Hicks, Heaven Persaud, Jada Flynn and Remington Harris, won second runner-up and earned the ability to go on to nationals. Assistant Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, JP Bonnet-Laboy (‘18) coached the team, familiar with the methods as a former BLSA Mock Trial team member from his own days as a SLU LAW student.
"2017 was the last time the team met. I was approached and asked to coach the [Mock Trial team revival],” Bonnet-Laboy said. “I thought about it and [Mock Trial] was something I was always passionate about. So, I figure this would be one way to get back involved in BLSA.”
“Because it all took a little bit to get together, we started December 17th, and our trial was on February second. We met over zoom during Winter break and when we returned, we hit the ground running and were met with a lot of success, I was just really proud to see Austynn, Jada, Remington, and Heaven put together something that was so well-organized and well done,” Bonnet-Laboy said.
The Mock Trial team virtually attended the national competition on March 17 during the students' spring break. Here, the team made it to the semi-final round.
While displaying their expertise in the courtroom, the group encouraged awareness and celebration during Black History Month. The School of Law’s calendar was packed with events hosted by BLSA. Events such as “A Critical Race Theory talk with Professor Middleton” and “BLSA Game Night” brought in a well-deserved sense of excitement after a long time of online-only activities. Vice President of BLSA and 2L Austynn Hicks describes how her membership in the organization has developed. “It was a little bit different stepping into this role this year because we could have in-person events,” Hicks explained.
BLSA is currently led by President Jaylen Johnson, 2L, Vice President Hicks, and their dedicated faculty sponsor and Assistant Dean of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, Belinda J. Dantley (‘13). The BLSA student leadership honored Black History Month by celebrating Black excellence and educating the law school on select subjects of interest.
“[Johnson and I] have been discussing Black hair and wanting to emphasize the importance of it,” Hicks said. “We wanted to definitely make sure that it was a part of Black History Month.”
Two events covered this topic: an educational presentation called “CROWN Yourself” lead by Dantley, describing the history and impact of the 2019 C.R.O.W.N. Act, and a photo shoot that allowed students to receive professional headshots. “Our goal with that was to showcase different Black hairstyles and say that our hair can be professional whether it’s curly, straight, in braids, or however we choose to wear it,” Hicks said.
BLSA’s momentum is certain to hold strong as the semester continues. Keep an eye out for more events, including the Judicial Reception on April 7, where Bonnet-Laboy will be honored with the Rhonda F. Williams Service Award. While becoming involved in BLSA, expect to see amazing accomplishments while meeting dedicated SLU LAW students, faculty and staff.
“Don’t be afraid to reach out and talk to us,” Hick encourages. “I think it’s a really a great community with great support and is a group of people that wants to help everyone succeed.”