The official unveiling of a composite photo of 303 Black law students who graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School over the past 115 years (click here to view) as well as the presentation of the fourth annual The Honourable Lincoln Alexander ’53 Award will be the culminating events of Black History Month at Osgoode.
Taking place on Wednesday, Feb. 24 from 4 to 6pm in Osgoode’s Moot Court Room, the Lincoln Alexander Award for 2016 will be presented to Yolande Edwards, who is employed as Duty Counsel Staff Supervision at the Ontario Court of Justice in Scarborough.
Edwards has “dedicated her career to supporting unrepresented persons navigate the complex criminal justice system and supporting young lawyers in doing the same, “ her nominators said. “Additionally, she has demonstrated relentless commitment to marginalized youth through her volunteer work, specifically with the Ontario Justice Education Network (OJEN).”
Previous recipients of the Lincoln Alexander Award – which pays tribute to the pioneering efforts of the late Osgoode graduate who was the first Black member of Canada’s Parliament and the 24th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario – are Toronto activist and scholar Christopher J. Williams (2015); Justice Donald McLeod of the Ontario Court of Justice (2014); and Justice Michael Tulloch (LLB ’89) of the Ontario Court of Appeal (2013).
Kyle Elliott, a third-year Juris Doctor (JD) student and President of the Osgoode Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA), said the members began planning for Black History Month last December.
“We wanted it to be a celebration of Black excellence,” Elliott said. “We thought long and hard about how we might properly acknowledge, celebrate and pay tribute to those Black students who have gone before us in a way that really grabs people’s attention and makes them stop and take interest.”
The students came up with the idea of reviewing photos of the graduating Classes of 1889 to 2015, and copying all of the shots of Black students into a single image that will be hung in Osgoode Hall Law School. Osgoode’s External Relations & Communications Office, which oversees alumni relations, jumped at the chance to help with the photo project, spending a good week working with second-year JD student and BLSA Vice-President Shani Ocquaye combing the photo archives for Black graduates. They discovered that Osgoode’s first Black law graduate was in the Class of 1900.
“We just got Anita (Herrmann) and Meghan (Carrington) really excited, and they were more than happy to help us make it happen,” said Elliott, adding that one of the neat things about the composite is that you have a legend like the Honorable George E. Carter ’48, the first Black judge in Canada, next to a recent graduate.
“I think it will be great for the Black law students who are here right now to see the composite. It’s important to have that sort of representation. They’ll be inspired,” Elliott said. “And those who have recently graduated from Osgoode will hopefully be thrilled to see their photos included with some notable trailblazers.”