Nagin Discusses New Orleans with BLSA

This weekend, the Black Law Students Association held its annual spring conference, titled “The Fierce Urgency of Now: Effecting Change at Home and Across the Globe” with New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Jr., as a keynote speaker.

The conference, which ran from Friday through yesterday afternoon, was open to Harvard students and the general public. It was intended to inform attendees of issues affecting the Black community, according to the BLSA’s Web site.

Brigid K. Ndege ’10, a Harvard Law School student and BLSA member, said she attended the event to learn about topics that aren’t brought up on a daily basis and also to interact with a larger community.

Similarly, freelance business consultant Melanie Morris, a Boston resident, said she was there to network and to meet people of color who share her interests and goals.

One of the speeches that attendees, including Morris, looked forward to the most was Nagin’s keynote address.

Nagin, who gave the speech at Friday’s dinner, delivered the message that challenges are everywhere and that odds can be defeated.

“You can overcome even when you think you can’t...[but] it’s also about being willing to accept [your] Katrina,” he said.

He spoke about what he had done for the city, the changes he had made to procedures in dealing with hurricanes, the new charter schools, and the new playgrounds.

New Orleans faced a dip since Katrina, according to Nagin, “but [New Orleans] has risen every year since. Katrina’s rainbow is in effect,” referring to the idea that with every storm comes a rainbow.

Brian C. Smith, a representative of sponsoring law firm WilmerHale, said the mayor’s words were honest and it was inspiring to hear about a city that is coming up after having been through so much.

Smith said his firm contributes to the annual conference because they are committed to informing students about their options and to let Harvard graduates know they can practice outside of Boston.

Smith added that he thought the conference gave a home to “a community who wants to get to know each other while pushing each other to strive.”

BLSA Co-Chairs Rachel E. Clarke, Katrina J. Copney, and Nicole A. Thompson could not be reached for comment yesterday.