As the Path to Unity Project heads to Bay County, MLG shares the biography of James “Jim” Kracht, a Florida lawyer fierce in his fight for disability equality. Kracht is one of the five “faces of change” covered by The Florida Bar’s Committee on Diversity & Inclusion in its statewide Path to Unity Project. A champion for those with disabilities looking to join the legal field, keep reading to learn more about James Kracht.
Born prematurely, James Kracht lost all of his vision as an infant. After learning braille at a very young age, Kracht excelled in school. At 18, he married his high school sweetheart, Pat, and headed to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend Harvard Law School.
Upon graduating from one of the most prestigious law schools in the country, Kracht was shocked to find that he was continuously being denied applications for employment. However, after being offered an opportunity to join the Miami-Dade County Attorney’s office, James was admitted to The Florida Bar in 1976 and got to work immediately.
In 1977, Kracht was invited to speak at The American Council of the Blind’s convention in Miami. From there, he began a long journey of commitment to the American Blind Lawyers Association and its affiliates. According to the American Foundation for the Blind, Kracht has held leadership roles not only among blind lawyers but also blind library supporters, braille enthusiasts, and more.
He has served as president of the Florida Council of the Blind and has been a director on the national ACB board since 2018. Kracht also served more than 25 years on the Florida Council for the Blind, including as president, and has received the council’s President’s Award and the W.A. Ouzts Award.
Among his most notable advocacy work is his voting equality efforts. In 2005, Kracht urged Secretary of State Katherine Harris to require that any new voting systems be accessible for those with vision, hearing, and mobility disabilities. Over the years, Kracht has mentored numerous lawyers and, in 2006, helped organize the Florida Bar’s first CLE seminar about lawyers with disabilities. In 2012, James Kracht retired from his prominent legal career.
James Kracht is one of the only two living lawyers featured in The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s “Path to Unity” Project. According to The Florida Bar, “The ‘Path to Unity’ project is a traveling campaign that will tell the story of the Bar’s journey from its segregated past to the rich, multicultural organization it is today.”
Student artists have painted the portraits of lawyers displayed at rotating Florida courthouses. The “Path to Unity” project was unveiled in Jacksonville on September 20, 2021, and will be in the following cities during the remaining dates:
Bay County: Now – April 15, 2023
Polk County: April 11, 2023 – April 30, 2023
St. Lucie County: May 1, 2023 – June 20, 2023
On Saturday, March 4, from 3:00 – 5:00 pm, the Cultural Hub of Northwest Florida, Inc. will present the Path to Unity Program. MLG’s own Starlett Massey is a member of the Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and is excited to bring the event to her hometown of Panama City. Massey is the president of the Cultural Hub of Northwest Florida, Inc., which is housed at the Gallery of Art on Beach Drive.
The Cultural Hub’s mission is to elevate artists and the arts to advance community healing and resiliency. Massey believes that this program — which celebrates art and culture — emboldens and encourages the public, of all ages, to make a space to reflect, honor and be inspired by individual attorneys who have blazed a path to unity by being “firsts.”
If you are unable to attend or would like to watch Pinellas County’s presentation of the Path to Unity Project, check out MLG’s YouTube page for a live recording.
To learn more about James Kracht and other “faces of change” featured in The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Path to Unity program, check out their website. MLG provides a platform for sharing these lawyers’ stories to promote diversity, inclusion, equity, and the “Path to Unity” project. Enjoy previously featured stories about attorneys featured in “Path to Unity,” including Anna Brenner Meyers, Larry Smith, Mario Goderich, and James Weldon Johnson.
In honor of Black History Month, MLG shares the story of James Weldon Johnson: An African American trailblazer in the legal profession as well as a champion for the civil rights movement in America.
James Weldon Johnson’s Background
James Weldon Johnson was born in Jacksonville, FL, in 1871. At the time, Jacksonville only offered education through eighth grade for its black citizens, so he moved to Atlanta to attend high school and college. Upon graduation from Atlanta University in 1894, Johnson returned to his hometown to serve as Stanton Elementary’s principal, expanding the school to serve all 12 grade levels.
Early Law Career
During his time as an educator, Johnson also began studying law. Eventually winning admission to the Bar in 1898 after examination by three lawyers and a judge, Johnson became the first Black man admitted to the Florida Bar since Reconstruction. Johnson recalls one lawyer refusing to participate in admitting a black man to the Bar and even leaving the room. However, Johnson was able to take his experiences in the field of law with him as he navigated the fight for civil rights in America.
Civil Rights Leader
While balancing his dual career in education and law, Johnson also became a novelist, historian, editor, and civil rights leader.
In 1900, he penned the poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” to honor Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. Later, Johnson’s brother set the poem to music, and it famously became known as the Black National Anthem.
In 1916, Johnson became a field secretary for the NAACP, where he helped expand membership through new branches of the organization. In 1920, Johnson became the NAACP’s executive secretary, where he vowed to fight against segregation and voter disenfranchisement in the south.
He also served as ambassador to Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Azores and, in the 1920s, was a leader in the Harlem Renaissance literary and artistic movement.
James Weldon Johnson passed away in 1938, but his legacy is still widely felt today. While the fight for diversity, inclusion, and racial justice is far from over, trailblazers like James Weldon Johnson have laid the foundation for true equality.
Path to Unity
James Weldon Johnson is one of five attorneys featured in The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s “Path to Unity” Project. According to The Florida Bar, “The ‘Path to Unity’ project is a traveling campaign that will tell the story of the Bar’s journey from its segregated past to the rich, multi-cultural organization it is today.” As the project moves from city to city, volunteer lawyers will share the stories of the five featured lawyers with middle and high school students. They will connect their stories to the history of the U.S. Constitution, our country’s civil rights history through the evolution of amendments to the Constitution, the implementation of federal laws, and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. Their stories explain how the modern civil rights movement has affected racial and gender equality as well as civic, disability, and LGBTQ+ rights.
Portraits of the lawyers have been painted by student artists and have been displayed at rotating Florida courthouses. The “Path to Unity” project was unveiled in Jacksonville on September 20, 2021, and will be in the following cities during the remaining dates:
Hillsborough County: February 1, 2023 – March 1, 2023
Bay County: March 1, 2023 – April 15, 2023
Polk County: April 11, 2023 – April 30, 2023
St. Lucie County: May 1, 2023 – June 20, 2023
If you are unable to attend or would like to watch Pinellas County’s presentation of the Path to Unity Project, check out MLG’s YouTube page for a live recording.
To read more about James Weldon Johnson and learn about the other “faces of change” featured in The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Path to Unity program, check out their website. MLG provides a platform for sharing these lawyers’ stories to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity and the “Path to Unity” project. Enjoy previously featured stories about attorneys featured in “Path to Unity,” including Anna Brenner Meyers, Larry Smith, and Mario Goderich. Stay tuned for our final feature, James Kracht, coming soon!
The Collab at 3833 held its annual holiday party on Thursday, December 15. After a year of focusing on our clients, the attorneys, paralegals, and administrative team of 3833 Central Avenue enjoyed celebrating their community with a festive holiday party!
The Collab at 3833 includes four women lawyers who came together to promote female empowerment in the legal profession. The group is made up of Starlett Massey of Massey Law Group, Kristina Feher of Feher Law, Liz Moneymaker of Ferrari, Butler, & Moneymaker, PLLC. and Rachel Soffin of Milberg. The collective office space also includes our most recent office mate, House Representative Michele Rayner-Goolsby and her staff.
MLG’s firm administrator, John Brant, always goes above and beyond to make every day at the office feel like a celebration, and the holiday party was no exception. The event was catered by Maggianno’s and featured a delicious Italian menu, holiday cheesecake, and a festive poinsettia cocktail — yum!
In keeping with the Collab’s yearly tradition, the team participated in a “white elephant” gift exchange. One of our office’s newest members, Sarah, received a cozy, cat-themed sweatshirt blanket — a highly sought-after gift this season, according to attorney Rachel Soffin.
Additionally, we remember that the reason for the season is giving. MLG and the Collab supported Champions for Children’s Holiday Tree project by donating holiday gifts to local families who receive their services. We were able to fulfill numerous children’s wish lists and help make the holiday season a little bit merrier. Check out the goodies under our fabulous peacock tree!
As another year comes to an end, the Collab at 3833 is grateful to reflect on all that we have achieved and urges you to stay tuned for exciting announcements in 2023. From the lady lawyers, paralegals, and administrative team of the Collab at 3833, Happy Holidays!
On Thursday, December 8, Creative Pinellas hosted a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course aligning with The Florida Bar’s statewide Path to Unity Project. MLG team members, including our own Starlett Massey, attended the event. Keep reading to get an inside look at an inspirational and educational night filled with productive conversation, art, and community support.
The Florida Bar’s Path to Unity project is an immersive program featuring five trailblazing Florida lawyers who have made significant contributions within the legal profession. Over the past year, the Path to Unity Program has traveled around the state with portraits of the legendary lawyers painted by commissioned student artists in Florida courthouses.
To wrap up the program’s stay in Pinellas County, Creative Pinellas hosted an educational panel featuring Manatee County Judge Charles E. Williams, his sister and retired lawyer Jaqueline Hubbard, and Larry D. Smith, one of the two living lawyers currently being featured in the Path to Unity program. Smith is a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community and the first openly gay member to serve on the Supreme Court Commission of Florida.
The three panelists outlined the Path to Unity project through storytelling and reading the biographies of each lawyer featured in the program. With insightful commentary and additional background included for each, audience members gained in-depth knowledge of American legislative history through the lens of the notable featured attorneys.
The four additional “faces of change” featured in The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee’s Path to Unity program and discussed by the panel include:
If you were unable to attend the CLE, the recorded version will be available to the public soon, thanks to The Webb Works. The Path to Unity Project will leave Pinellas County on December 15 and make its next stops in Sarasota and Manatee Counties. If you would like to learn more about the program, view the remaining stop dates, or support the Path to Unity by donating, please contact Charlie Ann Syprett, Chair of the Ad Hoc Path to Unity Subcommittee, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (941)350-1089.
The Florida Bar’s Path to Unity Program has made its way to Pinellas County! Making Pinellas County its home since November 1 and through December 15, this immersive program features five trailblazing Florida lawyers who have made significant contributions within the legal profession. Over the past year, The Path to Unity Program has traveled around the state with portraits of the legendary lawyers painted by commissioned student artists in Florida courthouses.
On December 8 from 3-5 p.m., Creative Pinellas is hosting a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course that aligns with the exhibit featuring Larry D. Smith, a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community and the first openly gay member to serve on the Supreme Court Commission of Florida. Larry is the only living lawyer to be honored with a Path to Unity portrait, and his course is currently pending 2.0 hours of CLE. This free event is filling up quickly, so make sure to reserve your spot via Eventbrite.
The four additional lawyers being featured in the exhibit currently being held at The Gallery at Creative Pinellas include:
MLG has been featuring, and will continue to feature, each of the lawyers’ stories in blogs to emphasize the importance of their contributions. MLG’s Starlett Massey has a personal commitment to justice and equality and has served on The Florida Bar Diversity and Inclusion Committee since 2018. She is a co-author of the Path to Unity school presentation and serves as Co-Chair of the Pinellas County Path to Unity Program Committee.
Starlett explained, “This program is a celebration of diverse attorneys who are each a trailblazer in their own right. It is designed to educate lawyers and non-lawyers alike about our country’s civil rights movement. Each attorney has lived and influenced the modern civil rights movement. Their stories remind us of our potential to impact positive change.”
On November 3, the Collab at 3833 hosted its second Creator of the Quarter event. Surrounded by friends of the Collab, featured artist Ashley Rivers, and her furry friend Oreo, the night was filled with appreciation of the arts, delicious hors d’oeuvres, and lots of laughs!
The Collab at 3833 is a group of lady lawyers dedicated to collaboration, promoting female empowerment in the legal profession, and giving back to the community in tangible ways. The Collab’s Starlett Massey of Massey Law Group, Kristina Feher of Feher Law, and Liz Moneymaker of Ferrari, Butler, & Moneymaker, PLLC celebrate and support local, emerging artists by providing a platform and some of the tools needed for success.
Each quarter, the Collab chooses an artist to utilize their shared law office space as a gallery for the three months that the artist is featured. The Creator of the Quarter enjoys a free art show where they may sell their work commission-free. Additionally, they receive a complimentary limited liability company set up courtesy of Massey Law Group, P.A., and a basic estate planning package courtesy of Ferrari, Butler, & Moneymaker, PLLC.
Ashley Rivers is a multitalented painter and sculptor whose work offers intimate moments of time and space and depicts stages of a journey in which individuals can engage with personal feelings, emotions, and thoughts. A St. Petersburg local, Ashley received her Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a concentration in sculpture, from the University of South Florida in the Spring of 2021.
Ashley’s show contained both paintings and sculptures — check out some of her work below!
The Collab at 3833 would also like to extend a warm thank you to Sara-Ellen with the Lay Low Chateau for catering the event and to Jim Webb with The Webb Works for the amazing photos! Sara-Ellen and Jim have become quite the staple at every Collab event!
If you or someone you know is a local, emerging artist and would like to be featured as our next Creator of the Quarter, we invite you to apply via our website. The deadline for completed applications to be emailed to email@example.com is February 28, 2023. Additionally, please make sure to follow the Collab at 3833 on Facebook for news, updates, and more information on upcoming events!
Massey Law Group has selected ceramist Dakota Parkinson for its sponsorship of an emerging artist at the Florida CraftArt Festival. Dakota is a talented resident artist at the Morean Center for Clay. A non-binary trans woman, Dakota prefers they/ them pronouns. Their early work can be characterized as midwestern folk art through a lens of the transgender experience. Their work has evolved into functional abstract ceramics that provides a perspective on the existential experience of mourning that comes with being a trans person, especially in today’s current social and political climate. Keep reading to learn more about Dakota, their work, and how you can join MLG in supporting St. Petersburg’s art community in tangible ways.
Dakota followed a unique path to finding their artistic voice. After studying exercise physiology at the University of Columbia Missouri, Dakota began working long hours as a professional in microbiology labs. At the same time, Dakota was introduced to ceramics as a hobby and began assisting in pottery classes. When the pandemic hit, Dakota decided it was time for a change. So, they quit their job as a scientist and began volunteering at a local pottery studio where they were able to spend more time furthering their practice, eventually becoming a resident artist.
Dakota says they tend to draw inspiration from abstract artists, as abstract art is about tapping into the primal connection with personal worldly experiences. Dakota mentioned that with certain pieces they will be creating functional art and following paths of deviation directed by their inner self. A lot of their work feels movement-oriented, making the process of creating feel like a performing art. Dakota says they are drawn to working with clay because its reaction to movement is very direct, and they aim to create an empathetic response within their pieces.
One of Dakota’s most notable works was a solo exhibition, “MARKERS,” a collection of expressionistic funerary sculptures placed within a clinical environment. Dakota aimed to create a space for mourning the trans people who are unable to live their truth, those who had passed away, and as a reflection of Dakota’s own experience before transitioning.
Bowls4TheGirls is an event started by Dakota to give back to the trans community who had been supportive of them and their artistic journey. Partnering with The Café Berlin, Dakota created 120 bowls for serving soup to event goers. After covering their costs, Dakota donated 30% of the proceeds directly to trans women in need.
MLG is always looking to spread the word regarding how to support the art community. As explained by Dakota, supporting artists monetarily and voting for policymakers who support funding for the arts are two of the best ways to show solidarity.
Additionally, Dakota offered a bit of wisdom for other emerging artists looking to elevate their practice: “People like to help,” they said. “So don’t be afraid to ask for help.” Dakota emphasizes that “if there isn’t space for you, create space for yourself.” Elevate others in your community, create a channel of support, and work to expand opportunities for yourself and others – there is room for everybody.”
Dakota, along with numerous other talented artists, will be featured as emerging artists at this year’s annual Florida CraftArt Festival on November 19th – 20th. Art lovers and philanthropists are offered the opportunity to support emerging artists at the Florida CraftArt Festival. This is an opportunity to forge a relationship with artists at the beginning of their careers and become a part of their progress. Florida CraftArt’s emerging artists receive a 10’x10’ booth in the festival, professional mentoring by Duncan McClellan, photography of their work by Brian James, postcards, and a meal stipend. This is their chance to show and sell their work to a crowd of art lovers, and we encourage you to attend!
Massey Law Group is always looking for opportunities to give back to the art community. MLG’s offices are located in the Collab at 3833, a shared space for lady lawyers looking to make a change in the community. The Collab is also dedicated to supporting local, emerging artists and hosts events like Creator of the Quarter art shows. MLG’s own Starlett Massey serves as a legal advisor to The Coalition of Hispanic Artists and also serves on The Florida Bar’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, which is currently sponsoring the statewide Path to Unity Project featuring portraits painted by local student artists. Learn more about Massey Law Group, our legal services, and our other community outreach here.
MLG’s furry family is growing! Since our office building became pet certified by the city of St.Pete, we have fostered numerous cats and welcomed our team’s personal pets to join us at work. Recently, the last of our original office kitties were adopted out to our employees’ homes. But, we knew we couldn’t stay cat-less for long, so MLG decided to adopt a pair of bonded female kitties!
Our Newest Friends
Meet Thelma and Louise, our fabulous new felines! After much deliberation and the help of our amazing MLG community, who participated in a cat-naming contest, our team decided on these names for our new friends. Thelma is our 6-year-old Hemingway cat, with six toes on her two front paws! Louise is our 5-year-old tabby who has made herself quite at home in our office space.
The Importance of Adopting
According to the ASPCA, approximately 1.5 million animals are euthanized at kill shelters each year. Lack of space, resources, and people looking to adopt often leads to older animals, animals with health issues, or animals who have been at the shelter for an extended period, unfortunately, being put down.
For this reason, MLG is proud to support Pet Pal, a local shelter on a mission to rescue dogs and cats from kill shelters and provide them with an opportunity to be adopted. Pet Pal is also dedicated to educating the public about pet overpopulation, the importance of spaying and neutering, and fostering responsible pet ownership in the community. In 2008, the shelter built a veterinary clinic offering affordable pet services to the community. Pet Pal also opened a thrift store where 100% of the profits are used to operate the shelter. As a non-profit organization, Pet Pal relies solely on donations. If you would like to make a charitable contribution and learn more about their mission, please visit the Pet Pal website.
Since MLG is a pet-friendly office space, clients are welcome to bring their cutest companions when visiting our attorneys. While all members of our team are animal lovers, we know that furry friends aren’t for everyone, which is why we also offer restricted parts of our space, including a pet-free conference room, to accommodate all of our client’s needs. Looking for real estate or business legal assistance? Schedule a consultation with MLG today!
The Collab at 3833 has selected its second official Creator of the Quarter – Ashley Rivers! Ashley is a multitalented painter and sculptor whose work offers intimate moments of time and space and depicts stages of a journey in which individuals can engage with personal feelings, emotions, and thoughts. A St. Petersburg local, Ashley received her Bachelor of Fine Arts, with a concentration in sculpture, from the University of South Florida in the Spring of 2021.
The Collab at 3833 is a group of three lady lawyers coming together to promote female empowerment in the legal profession. The Collab values and supports artists and the arts and features an emerging, local artist in their shared office space during each quarter of the year. The Collab’s Starlett Massey of Massey Law Group, Kristina Feher of Feher Law, and Liz Moneymaker of Ferrari, Butler, & Moneymaker, PLLC started the Creator of the Quarter program to provide artists with the space and resources they need to be successful.
In addition to a fully hosted opening art show, The Collab’s Creator of the Quarter also receives a limited liability company courtesy of Massey Law Group, P.A., and a basic estate planning package courtesy of Ferrari, Butler, & Moneymaker, PLLC.
On November 3 from 5 to 7 p.m., Ashley’s work will be featured in an art show sponsored by the Collab @3833! Ashley’s artwork will be on display and available for purchase, including new, never before seen artwork, sculptures, and paintings.
We invite you to join us as we celebrate & support Ashley, enjoy light food and drinks, and come together as a community to empower local, emerging artists. RSVP here.
Stay tuned for announcements regarding future Creator of the Quarters! We announce when applications are open on our Facebook page, and you can always check out the Collab’s website for more information regarding eligibility.
Sometimes, tragedies really do serve as a beautiful reminder of all the good humans in the world. Hurricane Ian left a terrible scar on Fort Myers and the surrounding areas. In just a couple of days, so many of you showed up with donations, donated cash, and gave your time that we collected over $10,000! We were able to get necessities to the pantry at Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Ft Myers and the shrimpers at Trico Shrimp Company on Ft Myers Beach.
We drove a 5-vehicle caravan filled with supplies and delivered them directly to those in need. We provided much needed formula, diapers, baby products, toiletries and cleaning products to Mount Pleasant, along with a number of other items. This church is keeping hope alive and keeping its community’s basic needs met in a truly magical way. I hope helps keeps coming and they can rebuild better than before.
We provided the shrimpers at Trico with food, 4 generators, chainsaws and the rest of our haul. These families live on their shrimping boats. When you see the photos of the boats washed up one on top of another, know that these shrimp boats are also their homes. They are camping nearby while they work to put their lives back together.
None of this happens without people who care a lot for the well being of strangers. Special thanks to Melissa Archer for spending the time to ensure the right supplies went to the right people, to Angie Day for logistics and always knowing what to do, to Dave and Denise Sherberg for their time and energy collecting provisions, and to Stacy Hatley, Joe Sakowski, Jayne Sutcliffe, Christian Marcelli, and Rebecca Yagerman Deming for giving up most of their weekend to make this happen.
Thank you so much to everyone who contributed: John Brant, Sara Fairbrother Davis, Ashley Gooch Frankenberg, Michele Gelsomino, Kevin Richardson, Chris Hieber, Bill Georgiou, Martha Ghobrial, Meg Cox, Niki Heanssler, Joanne Pak, Teresa Trejo, Joe Day, Bonnie Day, Lois Willard Marcelli, Casimira Pittman, Maressa Glass, Maggie Albersman, Deanna Tedone, Rebecca Deming, Serafina Baldacchino, Kristen Agin Baraky, Mary Archer, Tracie Mayo, Maria Cao, Heena and Gautam Thakkar, Denise Deack, Amy Christiansen, Sabrina Beavens, Heather Smith Cash, Mitzi Amon, Vicki Poiley, John Krauss, Jayne and Neil Sutcliffe, Stacy Hatley, Katherine Scott, Emily Burgoyne, Jill Hernandez, Sarah Hoerber, Staci Solomon Haahr and Hans Haahr, and our friends at Pinellas County Chapter of the Florida Association for Women Lawyers.
Special thanks to our corporate sponsors: Bayway Dental, The Burg Bar & Grill, ProVet Legal, Pine Brook Pharmacy, Haahr Law group and Massey Law Group, P.A.
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