Thirty five years ago, a group of African-American attorneys, calling themselves the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys Organizing Committee, gathered to form a professional bar association to address their unique struggles as women of color in the legal profession. The Committee compiled the first known comprehensive listing of African-American female practitioners in the Commonwealth.
In May of 1981 the Committee sponsored a Spring Brunch to introduce the idea of forming the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys. This working meeting was attended by a diverse group of African-American female attorneys, from all areas of practice, in the Commonwealth. The idea engendered overwhelming enthusiasm and support, and discussion ensued concerning the organization’s structure, goals and activities.
Shortly after the Spring Brunch, the Committee formed the Ida B. Wells Barnett Law Society. The Society elected Bernice McIntyre as its first President. The Society later voted to change its name to the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys, an organization dedicated to the memory of Ida B. Wells Barnett.
Since 1981, the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys has sought to preserve and advance justice for all people. Its mission is to assist in ensuring the fair and even-handed administration of justice particularly as applied to women of color. The Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys is similarly concerned with social policy and civil rights issues in the greater minority community.
The organization also seeks to promote legal education by sponsoring educational seminars, lecture series and panel discussions on subjects that affect its members. The Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys serves as a useful resource by aiding African-American women attorneys to become more effective advocates and a direct link to our communities.
Judith Nelson Dilday
Helaine A. Simmonds
Beverly Towns Williams
1981-1983 Bernice K. McIntyre
1983-1986 Dianne Wilkerson
1986-1987 Kathryn Allen
1987-1989 Pamoja Burrell
1989-1991 Evelynne Swagerty
1991-1993 Dorothy Sanders
1993-1995 Yvette Mendez
1995-1996 Yvette Mendez & Francine Applewhite
1996-1999 Francine Applewhite
1999-2001 Beverly Coles Roby
2001-2002 E. Selena Samm
2002-2004 Marjorie O’Reilly
2004-2007 Belinda Taylor
2007-2013 Keidi S. Carrington
2013-2015 Tiffanie Ellis-Niles
Deborah L. Johnson, ESQ.
Deborah L. Johnson is MBWA’s current President. She has had a distinguished legal and professional career in both the private and public sectors, including corporate America, nonprofit business, government, and higher education. She is currently the Director of Diversity & Outreach and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Roger Williams University School of Law (“RWU Law”) in Bristol, Rhode Island.
Deborah began her legal career as a law clerk to the late Honorable Napoleon A. Jones, Jr. of the United States District Court for the Southern District of California and then spent several years as an associate with Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, P.C. representing clients in various stages of commercial litigation. She also maintained an active pro bono practice, representing domestic abuse victims in obtaining orders of protection and families in legal guardianship proceedings. Additionally, Deborah did a six-month rotation as a Special Assistant District Attorney in Middlesex County. After Mintz Levin, Deborah worked for two years with high school youth around community leadership and social justice issues at the Boston Center for Community & Justice before returning to the insurance and legal worlds at Resolute Management, Inc. At Resolute, she handled complex, high exposure environmental litigation claims, analyzing and interpreting insurance policies and managing declaratory judgment actions and other litigation. In 2011, Deborah joined the senior administration of RWU Law where she oversees and implements the law school’s diversity initiatives and leads the administration in creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive community within the law school, and in supporting all RWU Law students as they prepare to serve an increasingly diverse population. More recently, Deborah joined the adjunct faculty and teaches Insurance Law.
Deborah is a longtime Roxbury resident and an active community member in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards and committees in addition to MBWA, including the Elizabeth Stone House, the Center for Collaborative Education, the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School, and the Women’s Resource Center in Rhode Island. She is also a member of the Thurgood Marshall Law Society of Rhode Island.
Deborah received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Notre Dame and Juris Doctorate from Northeastern University School of Law. She is admitted to practice in three states – California, Massachusetts and New York. Deborah is an avid learner of languages and can communicate in Spanish, American Sign Language and French.
Stephanie L. Everett, ESQ.
Stephanie was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of 19, Stephanie became a teen mother, giving birth to her first daughter. By the time she was 20 she found herself homeless with a 1 year old daughter. By 21, Stephanie had found an apartment and discovered she was pregnant again with her second daughter.
It was during this pregnancy that Stephanie decided she would not let society determine her fate or that of her family and enrolled back into college. In 2002, Stephanie received her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice from Northeastern University. Completing her educational goals, Stephanie earned her Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School in 2008 and was admitted to practice law in Massachusetts the same year.
Stephanie presently operates a multi-service law firm with an emphasis on criminal law, family law, and real estate matters. Prior to practicing law, Stephanie devoted her professional career to public service and ensuring equal access to state and local resources and advocating for women rights.
Her past roles included serving as the Executive Director for Multiple Boards with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH), Chief of Staff to the Department of Transitional Assistance, Deputy Chief of Staff to State Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. Deputy Chief, Adjunct Professor at Roxbury Community College and as a Public Safety Manager of youth violence prevention grants and public safety initiatives. Stephanie continues to serve her community as the Affirmative Action Liaison to Ward 17 and volunteering on campaigns for progressive candidates to state and local elections.
In 2012, Stephanie was recognized as a Top Woman of Law by Lawyer’s Weekly and in 2013 was received the Woman of Color Changing Our Community by the Eastern Stars of Prince Hall.
In January 2009, Stephanie was appointed by the Caucus of Women Legislators to serve as a Commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, an appointment she proudly held in 2013 and previously has served on the boards of Mass Alliance of Teen Pregnancy, Roxbury Youthworks and Think Politics. Stephanie continues to reside in Boston with her husband and children.
Francesse Canty, ESQ.
Francesse received her Juris Doctrine from Suffolk University Law School and was regularly on the Dean’s List. During law school, Francesse worked with victims of domestic violence in the Suffolk University Battered Women’s Advocacy Program. She also represented the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as a student prosecutor with the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Roxbury Office.
After law school she worked as a volunteer lawyer with the Volunteer Lawyers Project of the Boston Bar Association representing and advising both landlord and tenants on the rights and legal remedies.
She currently works at Boston Water and Sewer Commission as an assistant general counsel where she focuses on litigation, property rights, and constructions and procurement contracts. Francesse is the secretary for the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys and sits on the board of the Haitian Coalition.
Shahria Boston, ESQ.
Shahria H. Boston, Esq. is a seasoned attorney with extensive litigation experience. Attorney Boston operates a full service law firm that delivers high-quality legal representation to individuals and businesses. While Attorney Boston specializes in real estate, employment law and premises liability/personal injury, she handles a variety of civil matters. She practices in both state and federal court across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
She serves on the Board of Directors for the Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts – a subsidiary of South Coastal Counties Legal Services and Boston’s Bridge to Excellence. She is also a volunteer for the Pilgrim Advocates’ Attorney for the Day Program at Southeast Housing Court and Women’s Bar Foundation’s Family Law Project in which she represents domestic violence survivors pro bono.
Ms. Boston is the Region I Director for the National Bar Association and on the Board of Directors for Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys. Attorney Boston is a Life Member of Massachusetts Black Lawyers’ Association and a member of the Massachusetts Bar Association, Real Estate Bar Association, Women’s Bar Association, Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, Old Colony YMCA – Fundraising Committee, Greater Boston Real Estate Board and Massachusetts Association of Realtors.
Tinia L. Snow, ESQ.
Tinia L. Snow is public defender within the Youth Advocacy Division of the Committee for Public Counsel Services, where she represents indigent juvenile defendants in various delinquency and youthful offender matters.
Tinia grew up in Boston, MA and graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern University with a B.S. in Criminal Justice. Tinia earned her J.D. from Northeastern University School of Law and participated in the Frederick Douglas Moot Court Competition.
Patrice C. Dixon, ESQ.
Patrice C. Dixon is a Counsel at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Office of Labor Relations and Employment Law. In her role, she advises agency staff on labor and employment law matters thereby ensuring that the agency’s activities comply with applicable laws, policies as well as the collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, Ms. Dixon advises agency managers on disciplinary matters and seeks to resolve grievances filed by union representatives. She also represents the agency at administrative hearings, arbitrations and before the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance. In addition, Ms. Dixon also engages in collective bargaining negotiations and contract formation with various Unions representing a workforce of over 5,000. Ms. Dixon is a 2012 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law where she served as an active member of the Black Law Students Association.
In 2012, as part of Northeastern’s Due Diligence Project concerning violence against Women, Ms. Dixon worked as an intern with the Ugandan Association of Women Lawyers in Kampala, Uganda, where she conducted client counseling and mediation for over 30 indigent women clients on issues such as child support, child custody, domestic violence, and property disputes. Ms. Dixon has a strong passion for public interest and understands the importance of serving her community. Ms. Dixon makes it a priority to regularly volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club of America, local soup kitchens and homeless shelters in Boston, Massachusetts.
Danielle Byrdsong is an Associate Officer in the Technology Licensing Office at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she is responsible for negotiating and managing material transfer agreements, Institute-wide. In this role, Danielle acts as the primary contact person for MIT researchers interested in acquiring materials from companies and other academic research institutions.Danielle received her Bachelor of Science in biology with a minor in chemistry from Simmons College and Juris Doctorate with a concentration in intellectual property fromNew England Law | Boston.
Tiffanie Ellis-Niles, ESQ.
Immediate Past President
Tiffanie Cherie Ellis-Niles is a founding partner of Lyles and Niles, LLP, a general practice Law Firm on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Tiffanie focuses her practice on bankruptcy, domestic relations and landlord/tenant disputes. Tiffanie also has extensive experience representing clients in family law, real estate transactions, estate planning, small claims and contract matters.
Tiffanie is certified with the Committee of Public Counsel Family and Children division and represents children and parents involved with the Department of Children and Families.
In 1999, Tiffanie received her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Massachusetts Boston and her Juris Doctorate from Suffolk University Law School in 2004. She was admitted to practice in Massachusetts in 2005. In 2010, Tiffanie was admitted to practice in the Massachusetts Bankruptcy Courts.
Tiffanie is the immediate past President of the Massachusetts Black Women Attorneys and continues to sit on the board. Additionally, Tiffanie serves on the board of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and The Brockton NAACP Branch. In 2014 and 2015, Tiffanie was recognized as a Massachusetts Rising Stars, by Lawyers Weekly Super Lawyers. In 2010, Tiffanie graduated from the Initiative for Diversity in Civic Leadership. Tiffanie lives in Brockton, MA with her husband and children.
Keidi S. Carrington, ESQ.
Keidi S. Carrington is a business attorney with over 18 years of experience. She specializes in assisting entrepreneurs, startups and small to mid-sized businesses with their business formations, capital raises and general corporate legal needs.
Janette A. Ekanem
Janette A. Ekanem is an associate at Kotin, Crabtree & Strong LLP where she represents developers of commercial and residential real estate, real estate investors, landlords and tenants of office and retail space, private lenders, and individual home buyers and sellers. Ms. Ekanem is a 2013 graduate of Northeastern University School of Law. Prior to joining her firm, she served as a judicial intern to the Honorable Chief Justice Roderick L. Ireland (Ret.) of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, as a law clerk for the United States Attorney’s Office, and as a legal intern for the Employment Unit of Greater Boston Legal Services. During law school, Ms. Ekanem was a Constitutional Law Teaching Assistant, participated in the Civil Rights and Restorative Justice Clinic, and served as the Director of Academic and External Affairs for the Black Law Students Association. Ms. Ekanem holds a B.A. in Government and International Relations, Magna Cum Laude, (2009) and a Master of Public Administration (2010), from Clark University. As a Massachusetts Native, Ms. Ekanem is passionate about serving her community. She serves as a judge for Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournaments, and the Boston Debate League. Additionally, Ms. Ekanem serves on the Steering Committee of the Real Estate Section of the Boston Bar Association, the Employment Issues Committee of the Women’s Bar Association, and the Community Service Committee of the Massachusetts Black Lawyers Association.