Cleary NY Office Celebrates Black History Month With Political Commentator Angela Rye

February 28, 2019

On Wednesday, February 27, the New York office of Cleary Gottlieb held its Black History Month celebration, An Evening With Angela Rye.

Over 300 participants attended the event featuring the American attorney, Principal and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, and CNN and NPR political analyst.

After welcome remarks from Cleary partner Sandra Flow, who is Chair of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, and an introduction from associate Michael Athy-Plunkett, who is a member of the firm’s Black Affinity Group, Angela delivered her keynote address and participated in a fireside chat with Akilah Browne, Cleary’s senior pro bono specialist, and a Q&A session. Associate Claudy Bince, a member of the Committee on Diversity and Inclusion, delivered closing remarks.

Among the themes expressed throughout the program, Angela emphasized the importance of striving for greater diversity and inclusion in the legal profession, especially in the current political climate, and embracing a “work woke” approach to one’s pursuits, namely, an acknowledgement that “faith without works is dead.” (For more information on what it means to #WorkWoke, click here.)

Angela made several specific points to highlight the importance of “working woke” and dedicating oneself to “attainable action.” These include recognizing:

  • The unique opportunity that lawyers have to be “social engineers for justice,” an idea famously presented by scholar, educator, and lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston.
  • The potential ramifications for companies that fail to include diverse members on their boards and in their C-suites, and how this can lead to tragic oversights in how they conduct their businesses (Angela cited recent examples from the fashion industry).
  • The fact that 2019 marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans to be sold into bondage in North America, in 1619 at Jamestown, and the importance of reflecting on the progress made and the work still to be done.

At one point during the Q&A, Akilah asked how we should attempt to overcome the challenges of “working woke” in environments such as law firms, where being overly and outwardly political might not be appropriate, even if the firm fosters an inclusive culture. In her response, Angela referenced author Toni Morrison, American essayist, novelist, and professor emeritus at Princeton University, and how we should embody her unapologetic spirit in the face of such challenges: she was often asked why the focus of her novels centered around race, to which she would counter that the question itself is flawed.

Angela is featured as an influential politico, lawyer, and advocate by several publications and outlets including Marie Claire, Ebony, and The Washington Post, and has an unwavering commitment to ensuring positive change in the political process. She is a prominent political strategist who offers regular on-air commentary for several media outlets including BET, CNN, MSNBC, and TV One. The depth of her dialogue ranges from political campaigns to more complex legislation that bears long-term implications nationally and internationally.