Alumni News, Student News, Year in Review

UCLA Law Magazine | Fall 2020

Amid Protests and Pandemic, UCLA Law Community Unites to Bolster Scholarship for Black Law Students

Lola Smallwood Cuevas, project director at the UCLA Labor Center, speaks at BLSA’s 50th anniversary gala in 2019, where the scholarship was launched.

Building on more than a year of work and propelled by this summer’s mass protests over systemic racism, UCLA Law alumni, board members and students joined forces in 2020 in a robust effort to raise substantial sums of money to support Black law students at UCLA Law and continue the growth of the law school’s new Black Law Students Association Scholarship.

Founded in 2019, the scholarship supports one promising student each year who comes to UCLA Law with a demonstrated commitment to racial justice, an intent to contribute to BLSA in a leadership role during law school and an aim to pursue racial justice issues during law school and professionally. More than $120,000 was raised to launch the scholarship at the student group’s star-studded 50th anniversary gala in April 2019, and a second party was planned for 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic made an in-person event impossible.

While the COVID-19 crisis at first increased the importance of supporting students, especially those acutely affected by the pandemic, the subsequent national reckoning over systemic racism reaffirmed UCLA Law’s need to step up and send a message. Law school faculty and staff engaged in several equity and anti-racism programs and initiatives over the summer, and leading alumni were similarly inspired.

Alicia Miñana de Lovelace ’87, who chairs UCLA Law’s Board of Advisors, embraced the opportunity for the board to show its support for Black law students and boost the scholarship. She reached out with an appeal, and her fellow board members quickly responded, raising $123,000. With an additional online solicitation effort, the scholarship added nearly $150,000.

“The BLSA students had indicated that this scholarship fund is their top philanthropic priority,” Miñana says. “These talented, motivated students had Dean Mnookin’s full support, and I was very hopeful that in that critical moment, we as a board, could show our support for BLSA, for our tremendous and talented Black students, and that we could collectively contribute to the critical importance of diversity, inclusion and anti-racism at UCLA Law.”

BLSA co-chair Justin Jackson ’22 recognizes the board’s commitment, which underscores the value of the scholarship and the importance of unity at UCLA Law. “Our No. 1 priority has always been making sure that our members are supported and feel a sense of community,” he says.

“Law school is always going to be difficult for everyone, but I think it is particularly difficult for Black students. If you don’t have that community, it can be very tough — especially this year, when you’re just at home by yourself, logging on to Zoom,” Jackson says. “It is important for BLSA’s members to know that Dean Mnookin and the board are so committed to helping us succeed. The effort to support this scholarship affirms that Black students at UCLA Law are truly valued.”