BBA History

On January 24, 2008, an inaugural ceremony was held at the Will County Courthouse to celebrate the formation of the Black Bar Association of Will County. For nearly a decade preceding this historic event, African-American attorneys in the southwest suburbs of Chicago gathered from time to time, in social settings, to network with one another. Each time, the formation of a suburban Black Bar Association was discussed, but not realized until a group of energized, community-minded, young black lawyers answered the call to service.

In early 2007, the founding members met for the sole purpose of forming a bar association. This group consisted of extraordinarily accomplished lawyers with diverse legal and personal biographies. Their level of experience in practice ranged from those recently admitted to the bar to a career that spanned nearly fifty years. Among this group were the Honorable Raymond Bolden, the Honorable Carmen Goodman, Vincent Cornelius, Chrystel Gavlin, Litricia Payne, Eric Mitchell, Jean Kenol, Greg Smith, Keith Jones, Gregory Reeder, Masah SamForay, April Roberson Simmons, Michael Knight, Raychel Wesley, Sherri Hale, and Anita Kontoh Scott.

From the minds and hearts of these strong, distinct personalities emerged the Black Bar Association of Will County. The Black Bar Association was incorporated under the laws of the State of Illinois in December 2007 as a non-profit organization. On December 20, 2007, at the first general body meeting, Litricia Payne was elected as the first President for this developing organization. Chrystel Gavlin and Gregory Reeder were elected First Vice President and Second Vice President, respectively. April Roberson Simmons was elected to the position of Financial Secretary, while the membership elected Masah SamForay to the Secretary position, and Raychel Wesley to the Treasurer’s post. The first members elected to the Board of Directors included Raymond Bolden, Vincent Cornelius, Eric Mitchell, and Anita Kontoh Scott.

Since inception, the Black Bar Association of Will County has worked diligently, through community outreach efforts, to provide free legal services for the disadvantaged, to promote advocacy about the needs of the local community, and to produce educational opportunities for the future generations of legal minds. In order to fund these efforts, the organization instituted an annual Barrister’s Ball to serve as the signature event to raise funds and celebrate organizational successes with the entire community. The inaugural ball was held on February 7, 2009, with the theme An Evening of Firsts.

Although there have been many successes in the time since inception, the Black Bar Association recognizes that the fight for justice has just begun. From hosting candidate forums, providing free legal advice, and partnering with other local organizations to develop a charitable arm to support scholarships and advocacy initiatives, the Black Bar Association embraces the needs of the community. We, as attorneys and judges, commit to growing this organization with the overall goal of serving the legal interests of the disadvantaged throughout Will County.

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