Earl B. Gilliam Bar Foundation’s 46th Annual Gala

The audience of mostly Black attorneys and judges responded with a deep, guttural response of agreement and satisfaction for such a persuasive closing statement. That closing argument ultimately resulted in Derek Chauvin being found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to over 20 years in prison.

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PHOTOS: TJ Dunnivant

By TJ Dunnivant, SDVV News Correspondent

The 46th annual Earl B Gilliam Foundation Scholarship and Award Gala took place last Saturday evening at the US Grant Hotel. This year’s theme was “A PURPOSE DRIVEN PRACTICE: EMBRACING THE CALL” and the keynote speaker, Jerry Blackwell, told his fascinating experience doing exactly that.  

Mr. Blackwell was the lead Special Assistant Attorney General in the successful prosecution of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. Mr. Blackwell opened his speech with one of his closing lines of the trial stating, “George Floyd died, not because his heart was too big, but because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.” 

The audience of mostly Black attorneys and judges responded with a deep, guttural response of agreement and satisfaction for such a persuasive closing statement. That closing argument ultimately resulted in Derek Chauvin being found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to over 20 years in prison. 

Mr. Blackwell made it known that putting his hat in to be on the prosecuting team was a huge gamble for his career.  Blackwell proclaimed that there was a lot on the line getting involved in a trial like that, especially because he didn’t have any criminal experience as a prosecutor. His career was mostly representing Fortune 500 companies in cases that did not involve the courtroom. Mr. Blackwell made it a point to charge many of the young, career-driven attorneys in the room to remain purposeful and driven and to embrace the call to action as they moved forward in their careers.

The evening’s events also included entertainment by the TranscenDANCE Youth Art Project and a musical performance of “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” by Kingsley Jackson. The Mistress of Ceremonies was journalist Keristen Holmes and the invocation was by Bishop Lonie B. Lynch, Pastor of Rival Time C.O.G.I.C. 

“I heard we family,” Keristen proclaimed in a “keeping it real” tone. The audience responded with laughter and smiles. 

The 2022 Association President Maresa Talbert presented the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Association Awards and the 2022 Foundation President, Isaac Jackson, presented the Earl B. Gilliam Bar Foundation Awards. The presentation of scholarships was from Jocelyn B. Campbell, Jordan Turner, and Christopher Chandler. And the Installation of the incoming 2023 EBGBA and EBGBF Board of Directors and Presidents were by the Honorable Judge James Simmons Jr. The new 2023 Foundation President, David Middleton, gave the closing remarks.  

The evening concluded with upbeat music, excited energy, and networking chatter about all the successful careers to come from San Diego’s Black attorney community and network.

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