It is really a pleasure to be here today and I think we owe great thanks to Western New England College School of Law for hosting this historic First Annual Northeastern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference. I think there are two people who deserve special mention and to whom a great deal of thanks are in order. First, I would like to thank Dean Mahoney of Western New England College School of Law who made this conference possible. These events just do not happen without administrative and, more specifically, deaconal support. Her role and support are invaluable. The other person whom we must thank is Professor Leonard Baynes of Western New England College School of Law, who has done a lot of hard work in organizing the conference. We are all happy to have the opportunity to gather here and to enjoy each other's company and the fruits of his hard work. Having planned conferences before, as I am certain many of you have in the past, or will in the future, let me assure you that there is a lot of thankless work involved.
Before I begin addressing the issue of diversity, I think we need to look at the historic context of this conference. I see new exciting faces here today and that is why these events are so wonderful. They give us the opportunity to meet new Colleagues who are working on interesting projects. It seems, however, that 1996 is rather late to have the First Northeastern People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference.
I started teaching in 1982 and, with a few interruptions-as I describe it my career path has been non-linear-that puts me in about my tenth year of teaching. It is really wonderful to see how the numbers of persons of color in the academy has grown because I remember when it was very lonely. When I started teaching, there were a total of twenty-two Latinas and Latinos in full-time tenure track law teaching. I was one of two women. Sometimes that environment was lonely, and one could easily feel like a stranger in a strange land.
I do not know how many of you were in San Antonio this past January, but it was much more diverse than just fourteen years ago, which was the first time I attended an AALS annual meeting. Heterogeneity and diversity were not two words that one would use to describe the setting. Over the last fourteen years, the rank of faculty of color has grown. Yet this is still only the first time in the Northeast region that we are having a People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference. To me that is very intriguing, particularly when we have cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and New York in our region, with substantial Latina/Latino, African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander, and American Indian populations. Unfortunately, I think the reason is that, until very recently, we did not have enough representation in the academy in the Northeast to sustain a meeting such as this one. Some of us filled our need for community by attending conferences in other geographic regions. Some of us have been going to the Western, Midwest, Southwest, and Southeast People of Color Conferences for years. We are lucky that Reginald Robinson moved to the east coast and started the mid-Atlantic conference. Now we need to recognize the contribution that Western New England College School of Law is making in finally providing the Northeast with a similar forum.
Berta Esperanza Hernández, The Diversity Among Us, 19 W. New Eng. L. Rev. 19 (1997)