Joy Anastasia Thompson, WBASNY’s Immediate Past President, and Jasmine I. Valle, a delegate for the Queens Chapter, received awards from the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission at its Annual Diversity Awards Ceremony on November 9, 2021. Ms. Thompson and Ms. Valle were among 11 honorees recognized during the hybrid in-person and virtual event, which was live-streamed from the rotunda of the New York Supreme Court Courthouse. The event also marked the Commission’s 30th Anniversary.
Since its creation in 1988 by the New York State Unified Court System, the Franklin H. Williams Judicial Commission has conducted studies, presented programs, and provided training throughout the state, in keeping with its mission to ensure racial and ethnic fairness within the court system. The Commission is named for the distinguished civil rights attorney, Ambassador Franklin Hall Williams (1917-1990), whose significant and historical contributions to equal access to justice are chronicled in the award-winning PBS documentary “A Bridge to Justice: The Life of Franklin H. Williams,” (available for viewing here: https://www.pbs.org/video/a-bridge-to-justice-the-life-of-franklin-h-williams-enve1j/)
The co-chairs of the Commission, the Hon. Shirley Troutman (Associate Justice, Appellate Division, Fourth Department) and the Hon. Troy K. Webber (Associate Justice, Appellate Division, First Department) opened the awards ceremony by thanking those who have partnered with and supported the Commission in its work. The event also featured remarks from Chief Judge Janet DiFiore, Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence Marks, and the Hon. Edwina Richardson Mendelson, Deputy Chief Administrative Judge for Justice Initiatives. Also in attendance were several distinguished jurists, members, and friends of WBASNY, including the Hon. Elizabeth Garry (Presiding Justice, Appellate Division, Third Department).
The “Advancement of Diversity” Award was presented to Ms. Valle, who serves as the Principal Law Clerk to the Hon. Lourdes M. Ventura (Queens Supreme Court – Civil Term). Ms. Valle is also a first-generation college and law school graduate. Commission member L. Austin D’Souza (Principal Law Clerk to the Hon. Faviola A. Soto, Court of Claims) explained that the award “recognizes the work of a non-judicial employee who opens doors to people of color through mentorship and other programs.” Mr. D’Souza cited Ms. Valle’s work with the Dominican Bar Association, Queens County Women’s Bar Association, and the Commission’s mentoring program. In accepting the award, Ms. Valle said: “I hope that my presence offers a beacon of hope for young legal aspirants who dare to dream as I did.”
In presenting the “Leading the Way Award” to Ms. Thompson, Commission member Paul Kenny (Chief Clerk, Appellate Term, Second Department) explained that the award “recognizes the outstanding achievements, commitment, and leadership of one who has paved the way for a more inclusive and diverse workforce.” Mr. Kenny said that the Commission was impressed to learn that, during her tenure as president of WBASNY, “she went to great lengths to not only [promote] ethnic and racial diversity but also geographic diversity.” He also cited her work as a founding co-chair of the Brooklyn Bar Association’s Diversity Committee. In accepting the award, Ms. Thompson thanked her mentor, the Hon. Joanne D. Quinones (Acting Justice, Supreme Court, Kings County), and her fellow honorees for championing human dignity and equity.
Ms. Thompson’s acceptance speech is below. For more information about Ms. Valle, please see the article by Queens Chapter President Fay Parris under “Chapter News.” A video of the ceremony is available on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqILt2bgYf0.
Joy A. Thompson’s Acceptance Speech:
“Love all people.”
My grandmother, a child of the Jim Crow South, suffered the dual injustices of racism and sexism throughout her life. Yet, she could look into the eyes of her grandchild and say those words to me with absolute conviction. And she lived those words until the day she died.
I struggled to understand what those words meant, practically. Ultimately, life and experience provided me with a “working translation”: “Do your best to see the humanity in others.” I have since accepted this charge as a personal mission and strategy for success.
Changing the status quo in terms of diversity and inclusion requires commitment, creativity, and persistence. The results — multicultural, multilingual, multitalented, much more marketable — are worth the effort. In her book, Becoming, First Lady Michelle Obama described her approach to changing the homogenous culture at her big law firm: “If we were serious about bringing in minority lawyers, I asserted, we’d have to look more holistically at candidates. . . The point wasn’t to lower the firm’s high standards: It was to realize that by sticking with the most rigid and old-school way of evaluating a new lawyer’s potential, we were overlooking all sorts of people who could contribute to the firm’s success.”
True success looks like the diverse communities the legal profession serves. My grandmother’s love and acceptance helped me realize my potential and place in this world. As you honor me, I honor her and myself by doing as much for others.