What it’s like to feel at home with people who share your history and culture

Humans are meant to be among each other

By Zainab Adejumobi

Zainab Adejumobi

The year 2020 greeted us with gloves and masks. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed everything online. The 2021 Black Law Students’ Association (BLSA) virtual conference was my first BLSA conference.

In 2022, I attended law school in-person for the first time. The safety blanket of staying home and taking classes online was gone. I balanced work, school, and volunteering.

I could pay for rent, daily expenses, and groceries without missing classes; however, travel and associated costs like outfit shopping and dining out, kept me from attending the in-person BLSA conference in 2022. Once again, I was a virtual participant.

But this year, it all lined up: the BLSA announced that its 2023 conference (their 32nd and my 3rd) would take place in Halifax, the city where I’m currently living.

The anticipation started early. I bought some formal clothing last summer to prepare. Not only was the location right, but so was the timing: the conference took place after Valentine’s Day, during Black History Month, towards a long weekend, and right before reading week.

After my last class for the week, I headed to the Halifax Marriott Harbourfront Hotel for the event.

There, I met law students, articling students, junior and senior lawyers, law firm representatives, and other external company representatives. Participants came from all over Canada and even some from the United States.

The participants’ different origins helped me gain a better understanding of their different regions. I also learned that the BLSA conference has widespread popularity.

My physical presence at the conference made me feel visible.

Unlike virtual attendance, here I was able to pose for photos with other attendees, join conversations in real time, and show off my outfit.

The events examined themes such as togetherness, through the sister-to-sister and brother-to-brother events, and self-care, thanks to the Black mental health and practice event.

Other events examined topics such as diversity and equity, and AI’s impact on Black people. The atmosphere and my own key takeaways aligned: dedication, determination and understanding your difference are keys to success.

Work hard and avoid regrets. That’s the specific advice I received from one articling student.

My most significant conference experience was the trip to North Preston, the largest black community in Canada, just outside Halifax.

We toured the community by bus. A local guide shared the community’s stories. North Preston’s population survived, despite their struggles. The people were very welcoming.

Community members, including the mayor of Halifax, met with us, spoke with us, and shared with us.

Land titles have challenged North Preston, but Black love flows there. One lady told us we are the future of Black justice. Those words stuck with me. Besides being called “up home,” North Preston’s motto is, “We’ve come this far by faith.”

My community and church give me a sense of belonging. It’s a sense of home for me to attend events like the BLSA annual conference with people I share history and culture with.

Getting here and being here, felt like coming home.

Zainab Adejumobi is a third-year law student at Dalhousie University.