Memorial for Michael Starks
We stand on the shoulders of giants. We constitute a collective of alumni, current students, and future students of Tulane Law School. The giants who came before us challenged a social institution of racism, segregation, prejudice and inequality and gave us the opportunity to do the same for others. They were giants in terms of their strength of character, desire for academic excellence, commitment to community and commitment to the legal profession. And they were giants in that their presence, contribution, and legacy is greater than they could have ever imagined.
Michael Starks was one of those giants. When he enrolled at Tulane University Law School, he not only embarked upon his own professional career, but he forever changed this institution.
What must it have been like to walk the halls as Mr. Starks did – the first and only African American at Tulane Law School, integrating this institution after 120 years of existence. But in trying to think of what it was like then, I can only think of what it is like now.
To be a law student requires passion, focus, determination, academic excellence, and commitment to justice. But to have been in a classroom with students and professors who may not have thought you belonged, who did not want to see you succeed, and who did not think of you as a member of their community would make the challenge of law school even harder than it already is.
The experience of students now does not have to be the same as what Mr. Starks may have endured. But what we enjoy as a right now, Mr. Starks earned as a privilege, and we continue to honor it as such.
Because of Mr. Starks, Tulane is able to boast a commitment to diversity. Not only do we have organizations such as the Black Law Students Association, La Alianza, and the Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association, but we have students who comprise and support these wonderful organizations and their missions. Because of Mr. Starks, we can promote culture, commitment, and diversity of persons, ideas, backgrounds and beliefs. Because of Mr. Starks, we can pursue a more complete legal education, and even more, a life of service.
Many of us who are students now never met Mr. Starks. However, his spirit is a part of this institution, and will forever be a part of us. We keep the spirit of Michael Starks’ legacy alive through striving for success in the classroom, performing service in the community, mentoring, and reaching out to those who might also follow in our footsteps. We write on journals, argue on moot court teams, lead student organizations and do pro bono work. We – like Michael Starks – are hard-working, focused, dedicated, passionate, determined, driven and HUMBLED. For when we too face challenges – personal and professional – we honor Mr. Starks’ memory by meeting and overcoming those obstacles to become better people and better professionals.
We will forever be grateful to Michael Starks for his pioneering spirit, his bold actions of integration, and the opportunities that he ensured would be available to us.
And today, the members of the Black Law Students Association wear Black in honor and in memory of Mr. Michael Starks, TLS 1968.