Spring/Summer 2023

@UMICHLAW

The 2023 Black Alumni Reunion: "Celebrating Our Legacy, Empowering Our Future"

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Black Alumni Reunion at University of Michigan law school.
Black Alumni Reunion attendees gathered for a welcome reception at Michigan Stadium.

Michigan Law’s Black Alumni Reunion brought together more than 200 alumni and their guests to support, learn from, and celebrate the Law School’s Black community, and to promote the matriculation and success of Black students at Michigan Law. It was the fourth edition of the Black Alumni Reunion and the first to take place in person since 2017.

Keynote Panel on Election Denialism

In addition to social events, the weekend was packed with substantive programming about critical issues facing society and the legal profession, anchored by a keynote panel about the increase of election denialism and misinformation in Michigan and other states. Khalilah Spencer, ’01, moderated the panel, which had a specific focus on the rights of Black voters in the 2024 presidential election. Spencer is a partner at Honigman in Detroit and the president of Promote the Vote, a nonprofit voting rights organization behind successful ballot initiatives in Michigan in 2018 and 2022.

Ekow N. Yankah
Ekow N. Yankah

“Engaging the people one-on-one and making people believe that there is a reason to vote matters. I have students, and I have a sister who tells me why ‘it just doesn’t matter.’ There are people out there spending billions of dollars making sure that the people who are in this room don’t vote. They’re not doing that for no reason.”

-Ekow N. Yankah, Michigan Law’s Thomas M. Cooley Professor of Law


 

Guy-Uriel Charles
Guy-Uriel Charles

“We have a multiracial democracy with a bunch of people who were once on the outside who are not just on the inside now, but they’re counting the ballots, they’re elected officials, they’re graduates of great law schools and partners and making sure other people get to vote.” 

-Guy-Uriel Charles, ’97, Harvard Law School’s Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law 


 

Jonathan Brater
Jonathan Brater

“At the election official level, one of the ways that the misunderstanding of the process or the spreading of misinformation makes our lives more difficult is that we have to be prepared for every aspect of the process to, without warning or without expectation, suddenly become the source of conflict or a conspiracy theory.”

-Jonathan Brater, ’11, director of elections in the state of Michigan


 

A Reunion in Ann Arbor

Plenary Sessions

In addition to concurrent sessions throughout the day on Saturday (which are listed below), the Black Alumni Reunion featured two plenary sessions that brought together all attendees to discuss issues relating to abortion rights and the state of policing in the United States. 

After Roe and the Future of the Rule of Law

This plenary session examined the aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, with a focus on its impact on women, marginalized communities, individual rights, and the rule of law. 

  • Renee Chelian, Northland Family Planning Center
  • Nicolas Kabat, ’17, Center for Reproductive Rights
  • Lisa A. Martin, PhD ’10, University of Michigan, Dearborn
  • Michele Coleman Mayes, ’74, New York Public Library
  • Aracely Muñoz, Center for Reproductive Right
  • Eboni Taylor, BA ’08, MPP ’13, Mothering Justice

What the Police? 

Saturday afternoon’s plenary session was a conversation about the state of policing in the US, with a particular emphasis on the laws and policies that govern those departments and grant officers significant discretion, including use-of-force policies, phantom budgets, police unions, and more. The panel was moderated by Osahon Okundaye, ’17.

  • Saul Green, ’72, Miller Canfield
  • Barbara McQuade, ’91, University of Michigan Law School
  • Jerika Richardson, ’07, National Urban League     
      

Other Sessions 

Health Care Disparities During the Pandemic

  • Christopher Burtley, ’15, Black Leadership Advisory Council, State of Michigan, and DC United
  • Kya Henley, ‘16, Cadwalader
  • Gail Pabarue, ‘85, Henry Ford Health System
  • Dr. Claudia Richardson, Detroit Health Department

Current Issues in Student Debt Relief

  • Jenelle Beavers, ’05, Alvarez & Marsal
  • Charles H.F. Davis III, University of Michigan School of Education
  • Daniel Zibel, ’04, National Student Legal Defense Network

Lions at the Bar: Trial Lawyers and their Greatest Cases

  • Harold Kennedy III, ’77, Kennedy & Kennedy
  • Jamala McFadden, ’01, The Employment Law Solution
  • Christopher Porter, ’08, Quinn Emanuel

Alternative Careers: The Power of Transferable Skills

  • Jenelle Beavers, ’05, Alvarez & Marsal
  • Rasheeda Creighton, ’02, Jackson Ward Collective Foundation
  • Adrian Ohmer, ’13, Kresge Foundation

Hybrid Work and Self-care: Managing the Challenges of the Legal Profession

  • Alexis Robertson, ’07, Foley and Lardner
  • Frederick Nance, ’78, Squire Patton Boggs
  • Tom Grden, Michigan State Bar
  • Ron Falls Jr., ’05, Fireblocks Inc.  
 

Other Reunion Highlights

  • A welcome reception at Michigan Stadium
  • The 45th annual Butch Carpenter Scholarship Gala, hosted by the Black Law Students Association
  • A meet and greet for private practitioners and alumni working in-house for companies seeking to hire outside legal counsel
  • Multiple opportunities for alumni to engage with prospective and current students in formal mentoring programs as well as more casual settings
  • A Law School update from Dean Mark West and Dana Thompson, ’99, clinical professor of law and co-chair of the Law School’s Advisory Board on Race and Racism 
     
 

The Black Alumni Reunion would not have been possible without the support of more than 40 alumni who generously gave their time to help plan the event. It was a truly generational effort, with volunteers from the class of 1974 all the way through to a pair of current students who served on the programming committee.

Elizabeth Campbell, ’78
Michele Coleman Mayes, ’74
Marty Dunn, ’84
Travis Townsend, ’03
Co-Executive Chairs