Offers to host the “Path to Unity” campaign — a traveling Florida legal history project that will tell the story of the Bar’s journey from its segregated past to the rich, multi-cultural organization that it is today — poured into the Zoom server as soon as the Diversity and Inclusion Committee convened its October 7 meeting.
“There are a lot of responses in the chat room,” committee member Harriett Williams reported. “This is just overwhelming.”
More venues need to be secured before the February 25 Orlando premiere of the exhibit, and fundraising will be challenging during the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting hard economic times, organizers acknowledged.
But early interest in hosting the project is no surprise, said Board of Governors member Scott Westheimer of Sarasota.
“The quality of this program speaks for itself,” Westheimer said.
The quality of this program speaks for itself
Westheimer chaired the Program Evaluation Committee’s subcommittee that shepherded the project through the board. The approval process, according to Westheimer, generated a great deal of enthusiasm.
“Just so you know, it was approved at every level,” he said. “When this comes to your town, your local Board of Governors member will be there.”
The first element of the project, a portrait of James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938), the first Black lawyer to be admitted to The Florida Bar by examination, has already been painted, said committee Chair Charlie Ann Syprett.
“Our mission, our objective, our goal is to inspire young students to pursue a career in the law,” she said. “We’re going to see more and more underrepresented students attending college.”
The project will include “five faces of change,” portraits of five pioneering Florida lawyers “who inspired by example, through personal recognition or prowess, and who made a significant, lasting contribution to changing the historic misperceptions, and thereby making an easier path to those who came afterwards,” Syprett said.