BESLA CELEBRATES 35th ANNIVERSARY IN JAMAICA
Jamaican Senator Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Dr. Kenneth Wykeham McNeill, Larkin Arnold
(NEW YORK) – November 12, 2015 – On October 21-25, the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA) hosted its 35th Annual Conference at the Hyatt Ziva Rose Hall in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Hundreds of the nation’s top legal minds and executives were in attendance to celebrate BESLA’s milestone anniversary and to reflect on the conference theme: “Exceeding the Vision: Honoring the Past, Treasuring the Present, Shaping Our Future.”
BESLA board members arrive at the Blossom Gardens Childcare Facility for a day of volunteering
As part of BESLA’s 35th anniversary celebration, the board expanded its philanthropic efforts to include outreach to the local community. Arriving early, the board partnered with the Because of Them We Can Campaign to provide financial and in-kind donations to the Blossom Gardens Child Care Facility, a group home that helps children who are orphaned, neglected and abused. Books and personal care items were also donated courtesy Just Us Books and Mixed Chicks.
The conference officially kicked off Wednesday evening with a festive Welcome Reception hosted by Wells Fargo Advisors. The program included greetings from conference co-chairs Emily M. Dickens and Lawrence Hinkle II (Fox Rothschild, LLP), Jamaica’s Minister of Tourism and EntertainmentDr. Kenneth Wykeham McNeill and BESLA Chairman Matt Middleton (Sweeney, Johnson & Sweeney LLP). Guests were treated to a lively steel drum performance and a gourmet buffet of traditional Jamaican dishes. The highlight of the reception was a keynote address from former BESLA chairman Larkin Arnold, who shared his personal story, his work with BESLA, and the importance of BESLA to helping lawyers over the last 35 years and continuing its legacy of protecting the legal interests of black entertainers and athletes.
The 2015 BESLA Board of Directors before the Gala Dinner & Awards
The conference panels began Thursday and continued through Saturday with topics such as
“Understanding Digital Content Distribution in the Age of Hulu, Netflix and Crackle”, “Representing Millennials in the Global Sports Landscape”, “Succeeding as a Woman in Sports,” “Playing in the Big Data Leagues: Mining Consumer Data and the importance of Corporate Data Security,” “Scripted TV Stars, Digital Media Giants, Reality TV Personalities – The Changing Landscape of Representing Talent,” “It takes a Village: Counseling Entertainers and Athletes on Protecting Their Finances,” “Black Lives Matter: Change Agents – Counseling Celebrities to Use Their Influence to Impact Social Change,” and a BESLA 35 Legends panel featuring founding BESLA members and leaders Larkin Arnold, Leroy Bobbitt, Bob Holmes, Joe Porter, Virgil Roberts, Ray Tisdale, and Louise West.
On Friday evening, the annual Gala Dinner & Awards – sponsored by Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment and hosted by actress Vanessa Williams – inducted veteran attorneys Nancy Taylor, Theresa Cropper (Perkins Cole, LLP) and Joi H. Rideout (Telepictures Productions) into the BESLA Hall of Fame, while NBCUniversal received the Corporate Diversity Award (accepted by Tamara Woolfork).
BESLA also awarded over $35,000 in scholarships to several deserving students both at Historically Black College and University Law Schools and through its annual Student Essay contest. This year, several students attended the Gala and were recognized during the program, including: Erin Darden, North Carolina Central University, Makeda Gibson, Florida A&M University, Brittani Halliburton, Texas Southern University, Mia Hill, Southern University, Shaquila Montgomery, Howard University. Ms. Montgomery’s scholarship was granted in partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Essay contest winners, Terrica Carrington, George Mason University (1st place) and Latisha Mais, Tulane
University (2nd place) were also recognized.
A silent and live auction – featuring coveted items such as a General Manager’s Suite experience at Yankee Stadium, tickets to the 2016 BET Awards, and VIP tickets to a taping of “Live with Kelly & Michael” – raised money to support the organization’s programming for 2016. The gala concluded with an after-party hosted by ASCAP Urban featuring DJ B-Hen.
Attendees enjoyed evening entertainment throughout the week, including an offsite “Empire”-themed party hosted by Fox Audience Strategy and featuring a live performance by Grammy Award-winning recording artist and actress Estelle with music by DJ D-Nice; a hilarious karaoke night, and a trip to the famed Margaritaville strip.
The conference concluded with the Chairman and President’s Reception hosted by Chairman Matt Middleton and President Elke Suber. Both thanked the guests for their support and invited them to join BESLA for their 2016 conference in Cabo San Lucas!
For more information on BESLA, visit www.BESLA.org.
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