February 2022 Newsletter
February 2022 Newsletter
Salesia Smith-Gordon, Esq. ('92)
Celebrating Us
Black History Month is celebrated each February paying tribute to the generations of African Americans throughout U.S. history. From the stench of slavery to the adversities our ancestors faced to become acknowledged as full American citizens, many strides and advancements have been made in society regarding race relations. However, racism is alive and well seen as by the recent bomb threats against HBCUs, racial epithets against the 1st US Supreme Justice nominee, US Senate’s refusal to make voting rights for all citizens fair and accessible, the killing of unarmed blacks by law enforcement, the attempt to sanitize the educational teachings of Black American history under a narrative of Critical Race Theory, political gerrymandering, NFL coaching and owners hiring discrimination,  and the acknowledgment that Black lives matter equal to that of all other races and creeds of people. Despite the challenges, we rise and thrive.

Though the struggle is real, we give voice and honor to our survival and the vast contributions Blacks have made across the US and the world. We as a network of FSU College of Law (FSU COL) Black Alumni pay homage to all that is good in celebration of Black History Month, as our story and our legacy.

As we continue in our Tradition of Excellence, we look forward this month to highlighting the iron-clad bonds of friendship of three amazing Black Alumni Network (BAN) members: Attorneys Ben Crump (‘95), Daryl Parks, (‘95) and Sean Pittman ('94), who are masters of networking and advocacy. We will honor Congressman John Lewis’s legacy in demystifying the Voting Rights Advancement Act. We recognize the honor that our BAN judiciary brings to the bench and spotlight BAN Judicial Chair, the Honorable Stephen Stokes (’91).

Let us celebrate the achievements of many and encourage those generations that follow our lead. I’ll say it proudly and unabashedly, WE ROCK!

Salesia Smith-Gordon, President

For many if not most people, encounters with judges are not their most pleasant day. However, we BAN members are extremely proud of our jurist leaders as they deliver justice from the bench and lead active lives within the communities they serve. Retired Broward County Circuit Judge Zebedee Wright was the first Black to enter FSUCOL and the first to graduate in 1971. In 1974, the first Black woman to graduate FSUCOL was Palm Beach County Circuit Court Judge Catherine Brunson.
These BAN members are truly trailblazers and I do not use that word lightly. Being the first of anything is rough. But being the first black in an environment where you are not warmly welcomed, and you succeed in spite of the challenges is remarkable. Below is a list of all of the black judges who are alumni of the FSUCOL and shown above in alphabetical order as listed here.
  • Augustus D. Aikens, Jr. ’74 – Leon County Court Judge
  • Faye L. Allen, ’90 – Orange County Court Judge
  • Michael F. Andrews, ’91 – Pasco & Pinellas Counties Circuit Court Judge
  • Catherine M. Brunson, ’74 – Ret. Palm Beach County Circuit Judge
  • Nikki A. Clark, ’77 – Leon County Circuit Judge & FL 1st District Court of Appeal
  • W. James Condry, Jr., ’83 – Orange, Seminole, Lake & Osceola Counties Workers Compensation Claims Judge
  • Jessica G. Costello, ’09 – Hillsborough County Judge
  • Zina Cruse, ‘ 93 – St. Clair County, Illinois Circuit Judge
  • Henry E. Davis, ’76 – ret. Duval County Circuit Judge
  • Judith W. Hawkins, ’84 – Ret. Leon County Court Judge
  • Barbara K. Hobbs, ’81 – Leon County Circuit Court Judge
  • Joseph Lewis, Jr., 77 – FL 1st District Court of Appeals Judge
  • Anthony B. Miller, ’00 – Leon County Circuit Court Judge
  • Carlos Moore, ’02 – Municipal Judge Clarksdale, Missouri
  • Errol H. Powell, ’78 – Ret. FL State Administrative Law
  • Debra Roberts, ’85 – Pasco County Court Judge
  • Mary S. Scriven, ’87 – Middle District of Florida Magistrate
  • Elijah Smiley, ’85 – Bay County Circuit Court Judge
  • Kerra A. Smith, ‘06 – Escambia County Judge 
  • Julie S. Sneed, ’94 – District Court for the Middle District of FL Federal Judge
  • Matthew Stevenson, ’78 – Ret. 4th District Court of Appeals Chief Justice
  • Stephen Stokes, ’91 – District Court Judge, Fayetteville, NC.
  • Emerson R. Thompson, Jr. ’73 – Ret. Orange County & Circuit Judge & 5th District Court of Appeals 
  • Charles L. Webb, ’95 – Dekalb County Pro Hac Judge (North District of Georgia)
  • Zebedee W. Wright, ’71 – Ret. Broward County Circuit Judge
Judicial Spotlight: Hon. Stephen Stokes
“American history, apart from Black history, is a one-dimensional vacuous and bland truth.”

Hon. Stephen Stokes ('91)
FSUCOL-BAN Judicial Chair

Photo Caption: “Preparing the next generation” Grandpa Stephen Stokes holds 11 yr old granddaughter London Stokes.
Hon. Stephen C. Stokes ‘91 currently serves as FSUCOL-BAN Judicial Chair. He presides over the 12th Judicial District Court in Cumberland County (Fayetteville, NC). However, he has worn many professional hats in law enforcement, US military, business owner, and litigator. The Retired Major of the US Army, Judge Stokes received both his BS and JD degrees from Florida State University and a dual Masters Degree from Webster University.

He has served as a Tallahassee deputy sheriff, assistant state attorney, JAG Corp trial counsel, and US Attorney Special Assistant, 82nd Airborn Division Defense Attorney. The parachute infantry jump master and formerly ranked #1Light-Heavy Weight Black Belt Division is also a 6th Degree Black Belt - in Shinjumasu Karate. 

Though dedicated to many organizations, the Kappa Alpha Psi Life Member and Master Mason member’s primary dedications are to his faith and family.

Radical Advocacy Corner: Alumna Launch Black Female Law Society
"There were so few women of color nationwide meeting these criteria that researchers were able to identify 90% of women of color practicing in law firms over 30 years within minutes."
Sia Baker-Barnes (’00) 
Chair & FL Bar Board of Governors Liaison 
As a lawyer, I am often the only "one" in the room -- One meaning the only African-American female lawyer. Whether at the counsel table in the courtroom, a deposition, mediation, or at trial, I am usually the only one. This occurrence has been my experience since I began practicing law 21 years ago. My story is not uncommon. The American Bar Association's Commission on Women in the Profession recently conducted a study assessing the status of women of color in the legal profession entitled "Left Out and Left Behind: The Hurdles, Hassles, and Heartaches of Achieving Long-Term Legal Careers for Women of Color." This study operated as a follow-up to a survey conducted 14 years ago which evaluated the relative experiences of women of color practicing in law firms for over 30 years. The results were alarming.

There were so few women of color nationwide meeting these criteria that researchers were able to identify 90% of women of color practicing in law firms over 30 years within minutes. As they delved deeper into the unique experiences of the women they were able to gather, to better understand why there were so few women of color with long-term legal careers, several key findings emerged. Women of color represent only approximately 2% of equity partners at large law firms. While law firms have hired more women of color as associates in the last 20 years, attrition is high, and very few attain partnership. The women surveyed across the board expressed experiencing bias, stereotyping, and racism in the workplace.

They described the challenges of isolation, when one is constantly the only woman of color in the law firm, or the courtroom, or the boardroom, and the inability of their colleagues to relate to their experiences. Many women described limited opportunities for advancement. In the end, over 70% of the women surveyed desired to leave the legal profession altogether because they did not see any viable alternative to their current situation. No one teaches this in law school. There is no preparation for it. There are few mentors available to help women understand and develop tools to cope with these challenges.

So a group of lawyers in Palm Beach County, after living through similar experiences, the 2020 reckoning on race and the COVID-19 pandemic, decided to do something to fill the gap. Desiring to provide mentorship, guidance, and support to black women lawyers, the women co-founded the Palm Beach County Sheree Davis Cunningham Black Women Lawyers Association ("SDCBWLA"). The Honorable Sheree Davis-Cunningham was the first black female judge in Palm Beach County. 

The founders--Sandra Powery Moses, Esq., Destinie Baker Sutton, Esq. and Rosalyn Sia Baker-Barnes, Esq. (00')--sought to create a board of charter members that reflects diversity in the areas of practice and length of experience. In addition to the wide-ranging expertise of its charter members, the organization boasts seven Judicial Advisors, all African-American women, including a U.S. magistrate, Circuit Court Judges, one County Court Judge, and two county magistrate judges. BAN President Salesia Smith-Gordon ('92), the organization's Secretary/Treasurer, and Kalinthia Dillard ('98) also serve as Charter Members.

The organization's leadership decided to provide intentional and meaningful solutions to long-term, complex problems in our profession. The mission is to provide the foundation, support, mentorship, and guidance for success as black women in the legal profession; to bridge the gap and connect each member with a hand-selected mentor or mentors, to guide them through the success and challenges in their legal careers. Ultimately, the idea is to help equip black women lawyers with the tools necessary to face the unique challenges we face every day as lawyers.

In honor of Black History Month, the organization's Inaugural Installation Ceremony will occur on Thursday, February 24, 2022, at the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The event will feature Retired Florida Supreme Court Justice Peggy Quince, Michael G. Tanner, Esq., President of the Florida Bar, and Tricia "CK" Hoffler, Immediate Past President of the National Bar Association. Although in-person attendance is limited, the event will be live-streamed.  

To learn more about SDCBWLA, visit:
https://sdcbwla.wildapricot.org or https://www.facebook.com/SDCBWLA/.

February 9th at 7 pm | BANtv with President-Elect Attorney Conti Moore and Host Marlon Hill, Esq.
February 10t at 12 pm | BLSA Civic Organizations Engagement Fair at the College of Law  (Rotunda/Green Room)
February 21st at 7 pm | Special Interview with Attorneys: Sean Pittman ’94, Daryl Parks ’95 & Ben Crump ’95 on the Strength of Black Brotherhood: Mastering the Art of Friendship Network & Advocacy
BAN-TV presents a riveting Black History Month special! Join us as attorneys and alumni Ben Crump, Daryl Parks, and Sean Pittman discuss the strength of k Brotherhood. These powerhouse attorneys have a friendship dating back to freshman year of college. Tune in on February 21st at 7 pm as they share how their bond has been the catalyst for their success.

This special episode will be co-hosted by BAN President Salesia-Smith Gordon, Esq. and Marlon Hill, Esq.
February 23rd at 7 pm | Demystifying John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act with U.S. Congresswoman, Attorney Sheila McCormick, and National Bar Association President Hon. Carlos Moore
BAN invites you to join us for a discussion regarding the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. This virtual chat will include U.S. Congresswoman, Atty. Sheila McCormick, and NBA President Hon. Carlos Moore. Register today for this all-important discussion.
  • Sheree Davis Cunningham Black Female Lawyers Association Launched by BAN Members
  • Judge Anthony Miller is on the ballot for Re-Election, Leon County Circuit Judge (FL)
  • Judge Stephen Stokes is on the ballot for Re-Election in District 12 Judge, Fayetteville (NC)
  • Kareem J. Spratling ('06) elected as Managing Shareholder of BMO’s Tampa office

  • Call for Submissions: send us announcements of honors (professional & community), celebration - births, book or article publications, new business or employment, employment opportunities, board positions opportunities to celebrate your achievements. Send via email by the 10th of each month for consideration to FSUCOL.BAN@gmail.com.
  • Share Your Wellness Tips: Being a lawyer can be utterly demanding and stressful. Every Wednesday we share ways to promote work-life balance and relieve stress. Submit your tips with a photo and quote showing the activities that help you achieve more balance.
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