THE RECORDING ACADEMY HONORS THE BLACK ENTERTAINMENT AND SPORTS LAWYERS ASSOCIATION AT THE 23RD ANNUAL ENTERTAINMENT LAW INITIATIVE EVENT
Today, the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA) earns recognition by the Recording Academy at the virtual 23rd Annual Entertainment Law Initiative Event & Scholarship Presentation. BESLA stands out as a nationally recognized leader in legal education and professional development for lawyers and professionals in entertainment, sports, and related industries.
During a historic GRAMMY® Week among the nation’s most prominent entertainment attorneys, BESLA proudly received the 2021 Entertainment Law Initiative Service Award. This achievement highlights leading entities that have demonstrated a commitment to advancing and supporting the music community through service. Additionally, BESLA celebrated its 40th Anniversary in 2020 and commemorated the founding group of attorneys in Philadelphia during the First Annual Black Music Association Conference. Their actions sprung from a need to create a continual learning and networking environment for underrepresented attorneys in the entertainment industry, one that today reflects the incredible tenure adopted and developed over 40 years ago.
To continue elevating the trajectory for professionals of color, BESLA has recently committed to establishing an endowment that will support future generations of aspiring executives. This endowment serves as an acknowledgment of BESLA’s commitment to empowering and uplifting its community through service.
On the honorable mention, BESLA‘s Chairwoman Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard said, “We are honored that the Recording Academy has selected BESLA to receive the ELI Service Award for our commitment to creating an equitable, inclusive and diverse industry. While this award is in recognition of what we have accomplished to date, it is also a reminder that we must continue to create pathways for people of color to gain entry, access, and opportunities to excel in entertainment, media, and sports.”
As part of their mission to support and advance the excellence of professionals in entertainment and sports, BESLA has consistently opened doors for members via annual conferences, regional events, key initiatives, and most recently through the establishment of their endowment. Today, it continues to build on a 40-plus year legacy to advance people of color in the entertainment industry, as recognized by the 2021 ELI Service Award.
BESLA was founded by like-minded professionals who saw the need for an organization where collective experiences and knowledge could be shared for professional development, networking, and the advancement of people of color. Before BESLA, artists, athletes, lawyers, and professionals of color in the sports, entertainment, and legal professions were anomalies– exceptions to the rule. Black professionals like Muhammad Ali, Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thurgood Marshall, and Hank Aaron all fought uphill battles for fair and equitable treatment and the rights of others, like themselves, who did not have the celebrity, platform, or voice to call attention to their respective struggles. They were agents of change. They challenged the status quo and forced society to reevaluate their preconceived notions of the skills, capabilities, and ‘place’ of people of color.
As a result, the Black Entertainment Lawyers Association (BELA), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was formed in 1980. To incorporate growing opportunities in the sports arena, the name was changed to the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA) in 1986.