Friday, October 19, 2012

NOLA and DU host delegation from sister city of Matsue, Japan

He hosted a cool event today. The press release shares the details. I promised the next time they visited I would give my remarks in Japanese!

The Prez




New Orleans, LA – Today, the City of New Orleans reinforced its cultural ties and friendship with its international sister city, Matsue, Japan, by hosting a delegation of business leaders for several special activities, including a plant exchange that will yield educational fruit for students at Langston Hughes Academy Charter School.

At a ceremony this morning at Dillard University, a delegation from Matsue presented the City and students from Langston Hughes Academy (LHA) with Japanese fig tree cuttings that will be housed and cultivated in Dillard’s greenhouse during a required quarantine period. The fig trees will then be planted in school gardens that are part of FirstLine School’s Edible Schoolyard New Orleans Initiative, including the Langston Hughes Dreamkeeper Garden.

In return, the LHA students presented the Matsue delegation with the City’s gift of okra seeds and a cookbook of favorite New Orleans recipes.

“We’re eager to see these fig plants grow and thrive, just as we hope our relationship with Matsue will flourish,” said New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “This visit was an important step toward continued cultural understanding, a strong sister city relationship with Matsue, and many future cultural and economic exchanges.

The idea of the edible plant exchange came from Matsue, and representatives from that city chose fig trees, which are widely grown in Japan for their fruit. In order to fulfill U.S. Department of Agriculture quarantine requirements for foreign plants, the City reached out to Dillard University to house the 30 fig tree cuttings in its greenhouse. Dillard has an existing partnership with Langston Hughes Academy on a program called “From Seed to Table.” The program creates the opportunity for Dillard University students and LHA scholars to use the greenhouse located on Dillard’s campus as an educational facility twice a week.  As part of the project, vegetable seeds will be planted in the greenhouse for initial growth and then transplanted to the LHA Dreamkeeper Garden.

The fig tree cuttings will remain in the Dillard greenhouse for two years, and then will be transplanted to gardens at five FirstLine Schools across the city.

“I am always excited when we can find new ways to partner and engage the community. This is exactly that kind of partnership,” said Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough, president of Dillard University. “Working with the City of New Orleans, our sister city Matsue, Japan, and the Langston Hughes Academy, we have a unique opportunity for learning on many levels,” he added.

”The Edible Schoolyard New Orleans is thrilled to partner with our fellow garden enthusiasts from our sister city of Matsue to broaden the knowledge our scholars have about international horticulture,” stated Claudia Barker, Executive Director of Edible Schoolyard New Orleans.  “Our scholars will participate in an intercultural exchange through which they will learn about a similar climate, thousands of miles away, where a non-traditional Louisiana crop, like okra, can thrive.  This lesson will continue for years as the Japanese fig trees flourish throughout our five gardens.”

The Matsue delegation’s visit also included a tour highlighting New Orleans’ rebuilding efforts, several meetings with City officials and local business leaders, and a luncheon hosted by the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and the New Orleans Business Alliance.

Although Matsue, which sits along the banks of the Ohashi River in Japan, is thousands of miles from New Orleans, the two cities share much in common.  Matsue is sometimes called the “water city” because of the prominence of lakes, the river and a network of canals in the city-scape and scenery. Like New Orleans, Matsue is also a popular tourist destination.

New Orleans and Matsue signed an official sister city agreement in 1994, but the cultural exchanges ended following Hurricane Katrina. Last year, Matsue Mayor Masataka Matsuura visited New Orleans to meet with Mayor Landrieu and to attend a luncheon in his honor, to discuss restoring and developing cultural and economic ties between the two cities.

This week’s visit by the Matsue delegation is a direct result of those meetings.

Unofficially, New Orleans’ ties to Matsue stretch back more than 100 years with a shared connection to author and journalist Lafcadio Hearn, who lived in New Orleans from 1877 to 1887 and moved to Matsue in 1890 and became a naturalized Japanese citizen. Hearn became gained international fame for his writings about Japan, particularly his ghost stories, and remains a favorite writer in that country.

The Matsue delegation’s visit coincides with the opening of a special Tulane University exhibition titled, “The Open Mind of Lafcadio Hearn,” featuring writings and other artifacts from Hearn. The delegation attended the exhibit’s opening reception that featured a lecture from Hearn’s great grandson.

City officials expect there to be continued cooperation and exchanges between New Orleans and Matsue going forward.

District D Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said, “I am excited about the rejuvenation of our sister-city relationship with the people of Matsue. I had the pleasure of leading a delegation of students to Matsue prior to Katrina, and will forever remember the kindness and hospitality of our sister city.”

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

DU students national debate correspondents

Last week I got a tweet from my man Jeff Johnson asking if Dillard would participate in the VP debate. I immediately said yes, and we pulled together a debate party the very next day. Tonight was the presidential debate, and I was proud to watch them on Skype giving their reflections on the debate.

This was a great experience for them, as well as a great way for Dillard University to continue to gain national exposure. Having our students in this kind of forum is priceless.

So thanks to Charlie Coleman (left), senior, JaKararh Porter, senior and SGA president, and Nicole Tinson, a junior. Good job!

The Prez

Friday, October 12, 2012

Color of Justice

Today we hosted a group of high school students participating in the National Association of Women Judges program, The Color of Justice: Encouraging Students to Consider Legal and Judicial Careers.
The program is described on their website as:
"To encourage girls and minority high school students to consider pursuing careers in the law and judiciary, NAWJ developed this highly effective program. Experienced judges and lawyers discuss law school and the requirements for admission, share their experiences including the reasons why they chose their careers, and answer questions in small groups. Students, judges and lawyers laud the project, and it has been reproduced simply and successfully around the country."

My wife, an attorney licensed in four states, welcomed the studens on behalf of the university. She is working with a group o faculty to create a unique pre-law program for Dillard students.

The Prez

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Michael D. Jones to Serve as Co-Chair of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Board of Directors

Congrats to Trustee Michael Jones, Dillard Class of 1982.

The Prez

Michael D. Jones to Serve as Co-Chair of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Board of Directors

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 5, 2012, 2012 – Michael D. Jones, partner in the D.C. office of Kirkland & Ellis LLP, was officially installed as co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s board of directors on September 10th.  As co-chair with Jane C. Sherburne, senior executive vice president of BNY Mellon and the company's general counsel and corporate secretary, he will lead an influential board of over 200 members.  His term officially began on September 1st and a welcome reception was held his honor on September 18th. 

“Mr. Jones brings a wealth of experience, leadership skills and compassion to our board,” said Lawyers’ Committee President and Executive Director Barbara Arnwine.  “His invaluable insight will help to further distinguish us as a leading civil rights organization as we continue our quest to move America toward justice.  Since joining the Lawyers’ Committee’s board of trustees in July 2003 and being elected to the board of directors in June 2009, he continues to be a creative and dynamic force.”

Jones and his colleagues have served as co-counsel with the Lawyers’ Committee on several key cases.  His numerous outstanding accolades include being noted as one of the top 10 trial attorneys in the nation by The National Law Journal in their feature, Winning: Successful Strategies From 10 of the Nation’s Leading Litigators.  Most recently, he served with Lawyers’ Committee Chief Counsel Jon Greenbaum in litigation work in the Maryland Historically Black Colleges and Universities case (Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, Inc., v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al.) in a six-week trial was held from January 3rd through February 9th in which equality in funding and programming for the state’s minority higher education institutions was sought.  This case spawned considerable media attention to stark inequities in funding of historically black colleges and universities in Maryland and became a rallying cause in the African American Community.  

“As the Lawyers’ Committee approaches its 50th anniversary in June 2013, I am honored to serve with Jane Sherburne as co-chair in fulfilling the vision of President John F. Kennedy of marshaling the bro bono services of the private bar to address racial discrimination, said Jones.  “I also look forward to continuing to work with board members, staff, volunteers and clients as we endeavor to fight the ongoing scourge of racism and inequality in this nation.”

Jones has a national trial practice that has ranged from New York to Hawaii. He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers and has been recognized by the Legal Times as a “Champion of Justice” and Georgetown University with the outstanding alumni award.

Jones graduated cum laude from Georgetown University Law Center in 1985 where he also received the Thurgood Marshall Award.  He received his B.A. from Dillard University, in New Orleans, La, graduating summa cum laude.   He is an adjunct professor of Trial Advocacy at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.  He also serves as a board member with Dillard University in New Orleans, D.C. Council for Court Excellence and Equal Justice Works

About the Lawyers’ Committee

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (“LCCRUL”), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. We are celebrating our 50th anniversary in 2013 as we continue our quest of “Moving America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers' Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending; community development; employment; voting; education and environmental justice.  For more information about the LCCRUL, visit

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Marguerite Washington

Today we held the funeral for Dillard freshman Marquerite Washington. She is another tragic victim of gun violence in thi city. The following are my remarks from the funeral today.
The Prez

Part of my duties is to speak on behalf of the university in all types of situation. That includes celebrations of life. Most of the time, I have spoken in this capacity at the service of a well lived alumnus. But what happens when you come to celebrate the life of an 18 year old in college for just over one month? I struggled on Tuesday when I thought about what I would say today. My wife tried to encourage me, reminding me that it will come to me by Saturday; it always does.

She had shared the news with our pastor’s wife in Little Rock, who was intrigued and began to try to learn more about Marguerite, and sent an e-mail Tuesday night with a link to a news story that aired this past July 4th. The title of the story was “She’s still alive in me.”

There, on the screen, sitting in this sanctuary, I watched Marguerite Washington and Cheryl Guillery, a mother of 3 who needed lung transplants. Marguerite’s birth mom, Umeka Smith, an organ donor, died at 36 due to a stroke. Cheryl received her lungs, and concluded that Umeka would be alive in her.

That made me think. It is all of our responsibility to make sure we keep Marguerite alive in us. Tuesday I attend the launch of the flip the script campaign with the Mayor and Spike Lee to address black on black crime. The one minute video shared a series of headlines: Black males earn respect by killing each other, and black male returns with gun and takes victims life. It was a powerful message.

We all need to be committed to flipping the script. We must find out what we can do to stop this violence. We have to stop accepting this as normal. In fact, we need to have the same kind of concern and outrage with Marguerite’s murder as we did with Trayvon’s. If we only get mad when George Zimmerman kills, we’re not serious about making our community better.

But in the midst of this painful event, I found profound stories of love. I learned about a 36 year old organ donor who saved two people’s lives with her lungs and liver. A woman who, out of love, gave her daughter for adoption but maintained a relationship with her.

I also learned more about a daughter of Dillard, who adopted a child and raised her as her own, providing grounding, as well as exposure through church and activities. Margaret, your act of unconditional love moved me this week. When I learned this back story, I thought here is a woman who doesn’t just participate in church regularly by singing in the choir or reading a scripture; she is the church. If we all would exhibit your example of love, taking responsibility for children that our not our own in one way or another, we could flip the script.

I better understand you now. Your e-mail to me after I was on the radio trying to field tough questions about an issue I just learned about, or the note just thanking us for coming here to worship; It now all makes sense. And while you grieve, please know that Marguerite will be alive in all of us. No, I don’t have one of her organs, but I have this story to share as a reminder of my responsibility, our responsibility to children that are not ours.

Finally, take comfort. Your story is a familiar one. I know of a woman who also raised a child that was not hers. She loved and nurtured him, and he grew up to be a man who worked to help people. He traveled around doing these good deeds, and even found others who followed him because of his wondrous works. But one day her son died violently on a hill I believe they called Calvary, and he was buried, only to rise on the third day. It’s because of that woman’s son that I know Marguerite lives with her heavenly father.

And yes, Marguerite is still alive, in me.