On October 19-23, 2016, the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA) held its 36th Annual Conference at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.
At the conference hundreds of legal professionals convened for five days of networking, sharing and reflection on its theme “The Doctrine of Success: Addressing Global Business Challenges through Excellence and Inclusion.”
For the second year in a row, BESLA board members engaged in a day of community service. This year they visited Casa Hogar, an orphanage in Cabo San Lucas that cares for children and adolescents who have been the victims of physical or psychological abuse. The board provided monetary and in-kind donations to the facility and spent time with the children.
On Wednesday evening, the conference officially opened with a festive Welcome Reception hosted by Microsoft. Conference co-chairs Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard (Viacom/BET) and Tony Brackett (Disney) welcomed attendees, followed by greetings from BESLA Chairwoman Elke Suber (Microsoft) and Hyatt Ziva general manager Francisco J. Silva Meana. Guests were treated to a lively mariachi band performance and a gourmet buffet of traditional Mexican cuisine.
On Thursday, BET Networks and Viacom hosted the BESLA Sports Legend Breakfast which honored the life and legacy of NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown. Dr. Harry Edwards, Professor Emeritus at U.C. Berkeley and Staff Consultant to the San Francisco 49ers, moderated a one-on-one conversation with the football legend and activist who shared his perspective on today’s social justice movement and the role athletes should play in it.
The conference panels began on Thursday and continued through Saturday with topics such as “Indie vs. Major Label Distribution;” “Black Lives Matter, Now What?” “Twitter, Social Media, Digital Media and Sports;” “The Return of the Sneaker Wars;” “It Takes a Village: Protecting Your Clients from Themselves – Counseling Athletes and Entertainers on Protecting Their Finances;” “The Music Business: Inside and Outside the Beltway;” and “Athletes, Social Responsibility & Social Activism.”
On Friday evening, the attendees enjoyed the annual Gala Dinner & Awards Program. Sponsored by Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment and hosted by TV personality Towanda Braxton, the glamorous affair honored Jim Brown with the Lifetime Achievement Award; Melvin Felton (Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp LLP) received the BESLA Achiever Award; and Fox Audience Strategy received the Corporate Diversity Award and Nicole Bernard, Senior Vice President at FOX, was on hand to accept the award.
At the Gala, BESLA awarded a total of $30,000 in scholarships to several deserving law students including: Jordan Franklin (Southern University), Allanah Wynn (Howard University), Courtney Walker (Suffolk University Law Center), Dorwin Howard (N.C. Central University), Tim Chalumeau (Florida A&M) and Sidonie Becton (University of Maryland), and Mark Houston (Villanova Law).
The Gala attendees participated in an exciting silent and live auction which allowed BESLA to raise money to support its programming for 2017. The auction featured coveted items such as a General Manager’s Suite experience at Yankee Stadium, tickets to the 2017 BET Awards, autographed cleats from NFL quarterback Cam Newton, signed Steph Curry sneakers, and VIP tickets to a live taping of CBS Sports’ “The NFL Today”. The gala concluded with an after-party featuring DJ B-Hen and sponsored by ASCAP Urban and Viacom/BET.
The conference provided plenty of relaxing and entertaining experiences throughout the week, including the BESLA Spa Takeover, karaoke night, a trip to the popular Pink Kitty Nightclub in Cabo San Lucas, and an all-white party aboard a Sunset Cruise also sponsored by Viacom/BET.
On Saturday evening, BESLA Chairwoman Elke Suber (Microsoft) and President Lawrence Hinkle II (Fox Rothschild, LLP) held an intimate reception and thanked the sponsors and attendees for their support of BESLA.
Special thanks to our BESLA 2016 sponsors BMW, Morgan Stanley Global Sports & Entertainment, BET Networks, Viacom, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Sound Exchange, Fox Audience Strategy, Merrill Lynch, Microsoft, ASCAP, Cary Hall, Covington & Burling, Disney/ABC Television Networks, Fox Rothschild, Garvey Schubert Barer, Loeb & Loeb, Manatt, Phelps, Phillips, Mitchell, Silberberg and Knupp, TV One, Bennett Thrasher, ColorofChange.org and Discovery Communications.
The BESLA 37th Annual Conference will be in Puerto Rico tentatively from October 18-22, 2017.
Early bird registration is available now at www.BESLA.org.
Photo credit: 1) The 2017 BESLA Board of Directors before the Gala Dinner & Awards at the Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico. 2) BESLA board members were honored to give back to the community. 3) Conference attendees with NFL legend Jim Brown (right). 4) The mariachi band put everyone in a festive mood. 5) Elke Suber, Tony Mulrain, Eve Wright and Emily M. Dickens. 6) Ashley Woods and Towanda Braxton (right). 7) Guests mixed and mingled on the deck. 8) Nicole Bernard accepted the Corporate Diversity Award on behalf of FOX Audience Strategy, presented by Lawrence Hinkle II. 9) The sunset.