By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor,

Before Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) gave D.C.’s vote-less voice amplified sound, she taught law courses full time at Georgetown University.  From her history in teaching, the 2nd Annual Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Legacy Fund Scholarship Luncheon on Oct. 6, used to raise money for law students, was a special moment for Norton, last year’s scholarship recipients, and those who were able to take part in the momentous occasion for furthering academia.

“I can think of no better use for my name than if it is of service, to use my name in raising funds for young people to study the BAR.  And I say that as a member of Congress,” Norton, 82, said at the luncheon, which was held at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown, D.C. “And one thing I continued to do, since I was a professor at Georgetown, was continue to teach Law.  So with these young people, who are receiving scholarships to go to law school, you are speaking to me close to my heart.”

Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton with last year’s scholarship recipients Jennell Thomas, Margarita Varela Rosa and Nebiat Solomon and Dean Renee Hutchins of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke Law School at the 2nd Annual Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton Legacy Fund Scholarship Luncheon on Oct. 6 at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown, D.C. (Photo by Micha Green)

The DC Federation of Democratic Women (DCFDW) and the Eleanor Holmes Norton Legacy Fund, which provides scholarships to law students at the University of the District of Columbia, hosted the luncheon.  

The Metropolitan Women’s Democratic Club (MWDC), a subset of DCFDW, also supported the event and shared why giving back to students was so important to their work.

“One of our missions is to work and support women and children.  We are advocates for them so education is one of our key components,” Estell Lloyd, president of MWDC, told the AFRO. “We think the key to a successful life is a good education.  So it was important for the Metropolitan Women’s Democratic Club to support the Federation in this Scholarship Fund.”

Participants included powerhouse attorneys, politicians and respected leaders, such as celebrated lawyer, celebrity manager and media strategist Raymone Bain, who served as mistress of ceremonies; At-Large D.C. Council member Anita Bonds and Dean Renee Hutchins of the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke Law School.

“I am delighted to be here today with our students who are last year’s recipients of the Legacy Scholarship. UDC is one of six HBCU law schools in the country, it is the only public law school in the District, and it is a law school that is focused, almost exclusively, on populating the BAR with students who are engaged in the social justice mission,” Dean Hutchins told the AFRO. “The scholarships for the students that the luncheon provided today are deeply meaningful.  They allow our students to pursue legal careers.”

“We are very grateful for the support and are honored to have a scholarship that is named after our notable and indomitable Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton,” Hutchins added.

Last year’s recipients briefly spoke at the luncheon in order to thank their benefactors for the assistance.  After their remarks, each spoke to the AFRO about the incredible honor in receiving the scholarship and the impact it was to their lives and careers.

“I’m here to thank the organization that allowed me and my classmates to receive the inaugural scholarship.  Thanks to their support and contribution I was able to complete a clinic at the University of the District of Columbia helping D.C. residents that reside in a cooperative, to complete their renovation project,” Margarita Varela Rosa told the AFRO.  “And also, the scholarship allowed me to conduct research that resulted in the first 501(c)(3) organization that trains women in Puerto Rico for office. Thanks again to that contribution. We have been able to train approximately 600 in less than a year,” she added.

Jennell Thomas, a fourth year law student at the David A. Clarke School of Law, emphasized the feelings of empowerment that the scholarship has provided for her and her family.

“It just means a great deal to me as a student- as a non traditional evening student- someone with a family and children and all of the other obligations outside of focusing on school.  So this scholarship means a lot to me, just on a personal level, to have support of the community. To say as a minority, we support you. We support your continued education and that means more to me than the financial side of it, just having the support,” Thomas told the AFRO.  “And being honored in this special way just gives me the push to say, ‘Yes this was the right decision, and ‘Yes, you can do this.’ And to be an example for my daughter, who can see this and say, ‘I can do whatever I want to do in life because my mommy did.’ And I waited until after I had gotten a successful career and had a family to go to law school.  So time doesn’t matter. Whenever you want to do something, do it and take the step and this scholarship shows me that that’s possible.”

As a Washingtonian who worked for the District government, scholarship recipient and third year evening student Nebiat Solomon, shared that the fund’s connection to D.C. made the honor even more special.

“This scholarship is a fabulous honor, partly because I’m so D.C.  I don’t think there’s any other way to put it,” Solomon told the AFRO with pride.  “I’ve worked for a mayor before. I’ve worked in District government, even though I work in the federal government now.  I love this city, and to see women who are so active and caring about what happens to the future of our city and to be a recipient from that group means a lot.  It’s all very exciting.”

AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor