CLEO EDGE AWARD HONOREES


2021 CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award RECIPIENT
Bryan Stevenson
Bryan Stevenson

defend civil rights as a practicing attorney. He has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court

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Bryan Stevenson’s life and career is documented in the 2019 film Just Mercy, with Michael B. Jordan portraying Bryan. In the film—as in real life—Bryan achieves what many believed impossible by overturning the wrongful conviction of death row inmate Walter McMillan, a poor Black man sentenced to death for murdering a white woman in rural Alabama.

In 1993, Bryan earned a complete dismissal of charges against his client after winning a new trial. The case Bryan built for his client’s innocence was so compelling and so overwhelming that the District Attorney joined the defense in urging the charges to be dropped.

The McMillan case was a classic case of racial injustice. At the time of the murder, McMillan was at a church fish fry attended by dozens of witnesses, making it impossible that he could have committed the crime. McMillan also had no prior felony record.

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But he was involved in a romantic relationship with a white woman, which made him a suspect in the eyes of police, who were looking to make a quick arrest. When McMillan explained that he had a conclusive alibi, the sheriff told him, “I’m going to put twelve people on a jury who are going to find your g–d— black a– guilty.”

Bryan Stevenson’s commitment to justice did not end with the McMillan case. In 1989, he founded the Montgomery, Ala.-based Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). EJI is a not-forprofit organization committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

The organization provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. In addition, EJI provides research and recommendations to assist advocates and policymakers in the critically important work of criminal justice reform. Finally, EJI opened the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in 2018. These national landmark institutions chronicle the legacy of slavery, lynching, and racial segregation, and the connection to mass incarceration and contemporary issues of racial bias.

Bryan also continues to defend civil rights as a practicing attorney. He has argued and won multiple cases at the United States Supreme Court, including a 2019 ruling protecting condemned prisoners who suffer from dementia and a landmark 2012 ruling that banned mandatory life-imprisonment-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger. He and his staff have won reversals, relief, or release from prison for over 135 wrongly condemned prisoners on death row and won relief for hundreds of others wrongly convicted or unfairly sentenced.

Upon reading Bryan’s memoir, Oprah Winfrey called it a “book that changed my life.” For his work in saving Walter McMillan’s life—and his three-decade commitment to equal justice—Bryan Stevenson would be an outstanding recipient of the CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award.

2021 CLEO EDGE AWARD HONOREES

EDUCATION
EDUCATION

Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq., Ed.M.

Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq., Ed.M.

Diversity
Diversity

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista, Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista

Greater Equality
Greater Equality

Cuong Quy Huynh

Cuong Quy Huynh

Click names below to read more

About our 2021 Honorees

EDUCATION HONOREE

Evangeline Mitchell

Evangeline Mitchell
 
Evangeline M. Mitchell, Esq., Ed.M.

Is a social entrepreneur, author, lawyer, and documentary filmmaker. She is the founder of Hope’s Promise Publishing, the first niche publishing company dedicated to producing books geared to aspiring Black lawyers. She is the author or editor of several books including The African American Pre-Law School Advice Guide, Profiles & Essays of Successful African American Law School Applicants, The African American Law School Survival Guide, Conquering the Bar Exam, and Creating Your Personal Strategic Action Plan for Law School Admission Success. She is currently working on Race, Racial Trauma, and the Black Law Student: Real Stories of Racism Experienced in American Law Schools.

She is the founder of the National Black Pre-Law Conference and the National HBCU Pre-Law Summit, the country’s only major national information-sharing, networking and empowerment events created especially for aspiring Black lawyers, and for current HBCU students and alumni. She also launched The Bridge Builders Esq. Mentorship Program for Aspiring Black Lawyers with the goal of providing mentoring circles for prospective law students to enable them to have law student and lawyer mentors and peer pre-law accountability partners to support them in their journeys to law school. In addition, she is the founder of HBCUPRELAW.com and BLACKPRELAW.com informational resource websites.

Further, she is a documentary filmmaker, and is the creator and executive producer of the docu-series/web series “Becoming Black Lawyers: African Americans and the Law School Experience.” Through her self-initiated grassroots programming and other efforts and her ability to bring people together around a common cause, she has helped thousands of Black people across the country with law school aspirations better understand what it takes to get into law school and succeed while there. Additionally, she mentors numerous prospective law students across the country.

Evangeline is the recipient of several awards including the Leadership Empowerment Award from the National Black MBA Association-Houston Chapter, the Roberson L. King Excellence in Education Award from the Houston Lawyers Association, the Sadie T.M. Alexander Service Award from the National Black Law Students Association, the Nation’s Best Advocates – 40 Lawyers Under 40 from IMPACT and the National Bar Association, the Top 50 Black Lawyers of Houston and the Trailblazer Award from D-Mars.com, Who’s Who in Black Houston, the Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program Equal Access Champion Award, the Legacy of NBLSA Award, the CLEO Edge Award for Education, Ms. JD’s Road Less Traveled Award, The National Black Lawyers – Top 100, the National Black Law Students Association Pre-Law Division Honoree Award, and the Lawyers of Color Power List 2020.

Evangeline is a graduate of HBCU Prairie View A&M University, the University of Iowa College of Law, and the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She is working on a distance Certificate in Documentary Arts from the Duke University Center for Documentary Studies. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana and raised in Houston, Texas, she currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her husband Michael and two children Nyla and Michael II.

DIVERSITY HONOREE

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista

Yolanda
Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista
Associate General Counsel at Freddie Mac

Yolanda Hawkins-Bautista served as Co-Vice-Chair of the Legal Division’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council. Yolanda served as a strong advocate for diversity within the company, in the legal industry, and in the mortgage finance industry as a whole. She is not afraid to push the envelope with senior executives and has earned the respect and praise of her Legal Division colleagues, business clients, and people throughout the legal industry.

One of the most successful programs at Freddie Mac to advance diversity in the legal profession is our Engage Excellence program. Yolanda worked with one of her former colleagues to design a program to expand opportunities for diverse-owned law firms and diverse partners at majority-owned law firms to do work for Freddie Mac. The program requires our attorneys to identify and consider diverse outside counsel for all new matters and seek approval before hiring outside counsel; specifies that, at our direction, majority-owned law firms must work with diverse-owned law firms for Freddie Mac matters; mandates that diverse partners hired for Freddie Mac matters be given law firm origination credit; helps ensure diversity in staffing our matters; gives preferences to the use of certain under-represented diverse outside counsel; and sets annual targets for retention of diverse outside counsel for each department within the Legal Division.

Once the Engage Excellence program that she designed was in place, Yolanda worked with another colleague to design an extensive assessment of the diversity programs at Freddie Mac’s top law firms. They extensively analyze their programming and demographic information and meet in person with law firm management for each firm for 90 minutes to 2 hours. During those meetings, she would summarize our diversity programs and numbers, give them feedback on their diversity work, and tell them whether they are meeting the expectations or not. The conversations are frank and multiple diversity professionals at the law firms privately reported they have been immensely helpful in advancing diversity at their firms. Yolanda’s leadership and creativity has been critical to the success of this program.

During Yolanda’s tenure as Vice-Chairperson of the DEI Council, there was increased hiring and retention of diverse lawyers and professional staff, greatly expanding financial and other support for national organizations promoting diversity in the legal profession, and pushed law firms to track and promote their own supplier diversity efforts.

The fact that Yolanda was able to balance her diversity work at Freddie Mac, her legal work, her work in the community, and her role as a wife, mother, and valued support for elderly relatives speaks volumes about Yolanda’s commitment to diversity, her abilities as a lawyer, her organization skills, and her caring approach to those in need.

Yolanda has advocated for a broad range of diverse communities, but particularly for women and African-Americans. Yolanda, however, does not only advocate for her communities, she has also been a strong ally for other diverse communities such as her recognition that the LGBT community is underrepresented in the partnership ranks at large law firms and pushing to have the LGBT community, as well as racial minorities receive a special emphasis in our hiring of diverse outside counsel.

In addition to all her efforts to promote diversity in the legal industry, Yolanda has also made valuable contributions to the community at large, which will no doubt benefit diverse communities. She is Chair of the Board of Commissioners for the Housing Authority for Prince George’s County where she provides oversight of the Authority’s rehab and development projects, housing programs, commercial structures, and policies, in addition to other issues. She has also held key positions for several diverse candidates for political office, including Washington, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser.

In addition, in her substantive legal work at Freddie Mac, Yolanda has also pushed for changes in the company’s practices that will help ensure better access to housing and employment for diverse individuals.

GREATER EQUALITY HONOREE

Cuong Quy Huynh

Cuong Quy Huynh
Cuong Quy Huynh

Cong Quy Huynh has dedicated his life assisting populations that many leaders would avoid. Cuong founded two nonprofit organizations Enlightened Initiative (EI) whose mission is to work with immigrant and low-income youth training them in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) plus servant leadership skills. EI aims to train the next generation of refugee and immigrant youth to be leaders to help their communities and families across the American society. The non-profit is based in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

Another success for Cuong is co-founding Rende Progress Capital (RPC). His organization has deployed 27 loans to the Excluded Entrepreneurs. RPC has created 13 new jobs and has retained close to 150 jobs for the Excluded Entrepreneurs to assist them and their families to get out of poverty and to build wealth in order to sustain inter-generational wealth creation.

The Covid-19 pandemic has been challenging for so many. Hence, to deal with the pandemic, Rende Progress Capital (RPC) has innovatively created the Race4Progress Fund. The RACE4Progress is a COVID- 19 relief loan with features of a 1% rate, accommodating terms such as 90-day grace period before paying the principal and interest, five-year loan term, abridged application and review process along with progressive conditions such as being open to undocumented immigrant business owners. RPC has deployed over $375,000 to the Excluded Entrepreneurs, and RPC has provided innovative small business technical assistance services to the minority, women, and immigrant-owned business owners.

As a former refugee from Vietnam, Cuong has dedicated his life to training, empowering and supporting refugee and immigrant youth from low-wealth backgrounds across the nation. He has authored a book outlining this life and experience working with refugee and immigrant youth. “God’s crucible: We Who Dream of a Better life.” He is currently working on a second book “Leading Youth with a Servant’s Heart” to assist mentors and youth advisors working with young people. One of Cuong’s greatest successes is training young adults, especially refugee and DACA student to give them a voice.

Cuong exemplifies a great quality as a mentor to young people by sharing his journey as a refugee into this country. He outlines his story to give hope to those who dream a better life in these United States. When many people demonized minorities Cuong mentors them to see their full potential and pride in their own cultural origin. His two nonprofits trains, works with and mentors minority students and businesses. He helps them navigate through the challenges and obstacles getting out of poverty. Cuong practices the best of servant-leadership that the people he serves will “become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servant leaders.”


PREVIOUS CLEO EDGE AWARD HONOREES


2020 CLEO EDGE Vernon E. Jordan, Jr. Heritage Award RECIPIENT
Stacey Y. Abrams
Stacey Y. Abrams

former Politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives and 2018 Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia.

Atlanta, GA

Stacey Y. Abrams BIO

Stacey Y. Abrams is an American politician, lawyer, voting rights activist, and author who served in the Georgia House of Representatives froher mostm 2007 to 2017, serving as minority leader from 2011 to 2017.  In 2018, she was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Georgia, where she won more votes than any other Democrat in the state’s history.

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Over the course of her career, she has founded multiple organizations devoted to voting rights, training and hiring young people of color, and tackling social issues. Stacey is dedicated to civic engagement, and her most recent endeavors include launching Fair Fight to ensure every American has a voice in our election system; Fair Count to ensure accuracy in the 2020 Census and greater participation in civic engagement; and the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a public policy initiative to broaden economic power and build equity in the South.

She serves on the Board of Advisors for Climate Power 2020, the Center for American Progress, and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association, and is a lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Abrams received degrees from Spelman College, the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and Yale Law School.  Born in Madison, Wisconsin, she and her five siblings grew up in Gulfport, Mississippi, and Georgia.

 

 


2020 EDUCATION HONOREES
EDUCATION
EDUCATION

Penn State Dickinson Law

Carlisle, PA

Diversity
Diversity

Barbara McQuade

Ann Arbor, MI

Greater Equality
Greater Equality

Black Lives Matter Co-Founders

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi

Click names below to read more

About our 2020 Honorees

EDUCATION HONOREES

Penn State Dickinson Law

Penn State Dickinson Law
Danielle M. Conway
Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law

As the oldest law school in Pennsylvania and one of the oldest law schools in the nation, Penn State Dickinson Law’s mission is to prepare students to be leaders in the legal profession. While remaining steeped in the tradition and values that have distinguished Dickinson Law from its inception in 1834, the law school has reimagined how it is preparing students to succeed as lawyers and leaders in service to society. The education of its students is enhanced by the relationship with its world-renowned parent public research institution, The Pennsylvania State University; partnerships with the adjacent nonprofit, private, and public sector legal community; and national and international semester-long experiential opportunities.

Dickinson Law’s core values—intellectual discovery and knowledge sharing, excellence in teaching and learning, and an indefatigable commitment to building and sustaining community—define who its alumni are as lawyers and leaders. Dickinson Law fulfills and furthers its mission of Practice Greatness and its core values by equipping its students with the entire range of skills necessary to excel as legal professionals at local, state, national, and international levels. From its intentionally small class sizes to its emphasis on building one-on-one relationships between and among its students and the staff, faculty, and administration, the law school is dedicated to its students’ success as law students and later as its colleagues in the profession.

Students have the opportunity to learn from, and interact with, distinguished members of the faculty who are experts in their respective fields and who bring their scholarship and practice experience—as prosecutors and public defenders, federal environmental policymakers and securities professionals, health law advocates, leaders in the elder law movement, and recognized authorities in government policy and reform—into both the classroom and the experiential learning capstone activities.

Since its founding, Dickinson Law has had a venerable tradition of producing lawyers and leaders for its communities, with 8,000-plus living law school alumni. Its graduates have committed their professional lives to public service at all levels of government; lawyers in private practice in firms ranging from solo to multinational enterprises; decision-makers working in-house in private and public corporations; leaders working in non-governmental organizations; and advocates working in public interest positions.

Learn more at dickinsonlaw.psu.edu.

DIVERSITY HONOREES

Barbara McQuade

Barbara McQuade
Professor from Practice
The University of Michigan Law School

Barbara L. McQuade is a professor from practice at The University of Michigan School of Law. Her interests include criminal law, criminal procedure, national security, data privacy, and civil rights. From 2010 to 2017, Professor McQuade served as the U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. Appointed by President Barack Obama, she was the first woman to serve in her position. Professor McQuade also served as vice chair of the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and co-chaired its Terrorism and National Security Subcommittee. As US attorney, she oversaw cases involving public corruption, terrorism, corporate fraud, theft of trade secrets, civil rights, and health care fraud, among others. Professor McQuade also serves as a legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Lawfare, Just Security, and Slate, as well as on National Public Radio, and she has been quoted in The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, Politico, and other publications.

Before becoming US attorney, Professor McQuade was an assistant US attorney in Detroit for 12 years, serving as deputy chief of the National Security Unit, where she handled cases involving terrorism financing, export violations, threats, and foreign agents. Professor McQuade began her career as a law clerk for US District Judge Bernard A. Friedman in Detroit, and then practiced law at the firm of Butzel Long in Detroit. Professor McQuade previously taught at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Professor McQuade has been recognized by the Detroit Free Press with the Neal Shine Award for Exemplary Regional Leadership, The Detroit News with the Michiganian of the Year Award, Crain’s Detroit Business as a Newsmaker of the Year and one of Detroit’s Most Influential Women, the Detroit Branch NAACP, and the Arab American Civil Rights League with its Tribute to Justice Award.

GREATER EQUALITY HONOREES

Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi

Alicia Garza
Patrisse Cullors
Opal Tometi
Black Lives Matter Co-FounderS

“I continue to be surprised at how little Black lives matter… Our lives matter.”

This Facebook post in 2013 by Alicia Garza in reaction to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teenager Trayvon Martin sparked the international Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.  Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi were the originators of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media and the call to action.  The co-founders expanded their project into a national network of more than 30 local chapters between 2014 and 2016.

The Black Lives Matter movement, a decentralized network of activists with no formal hierarchy, is perhaps the largest movement in US History with an estimated 15-26 million people participating. The broader movement and its related organizations typically advocate against police violence towards black people, as well as for various other policy changes considered to be related to black liberation.

Today, the co-founders are still politically active, but two have stepped away from the day-day activities of Black Lives Matter to start other organizations. 
Garza has started Black Futures Lab, “a policy platform reflecting ‘the most common concerns within Black communities across the political spectrum.’”  She has also written a book, The Purpose Of Power: How To Build Movements For The 21st Century.

Tometi is a feminist writer, organizer, and speaker.  Before BLM, she was the Executive Director of the United States’ first national immigrant rights organization for people of African descent, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration. She is the creator of the new Diaspora Rising newsletter, which was launched on Juneteenth 2020.  She is said to have set up the social media aspects of the movement.

Cullors, who is still involved with Black Lives Matter, is an artist, author, educator, and political strategist and organizer. She is credited with the BLM hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.  Additionally she is an associate faculty member who teaches Social Environmental Arts Practice at Prescott College in Prescott, Arizona.

All three have been named to Time 100: Most Influential People of 2020.


Thank you to our 2021 event sponsors:

Reflections from our previous CLEO EDGE Honorees

I very much appreciate the honor and the outstanding work CLEO does on behalf of the legal community!

Reyes Aguilar
Associate Dean, University of Utah, S.J. Quinney College of Law

We are honored to be an inaugural CLEO EDGE Honoree in the area of Diversity. We also congratulate CLEO on celebrating its 50thAnniversary of brining greater diversity to the legal profession!

Brent McCune, M.S., J.D.
Patricia and Paul Yetter Law School Preparation Institute, The University of Texas at El Paso

We are honored to be an inaugural CLEO EDGE Honoree in the area of Diversity. We also congratulate CLEO on celebrating its 50thAnniversary of brining greater diversity to the legal profession!

Roderick (“Rick”) Palmore
Senior Counsel, Dentons US, LLP
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Council on Legal Education Opportunity, Inc.

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