• Blue Bar


Group photos from black alumni events

4FIN_color_law_alu.jpgThe Association of Black Law Alumni (ABLA), led by Wayne County Probate Judge Terrance Keith '84 was created in 2019 as an affiliate of the Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Association. The ABLA's mission is to augment the resources of the law school and the legal profession by actively recruiting and mentoring black law students through scholarships and career networking opportunities. The ABLA also aims to facilitate communications between black law students, faculty, staff, and the administration and to enrich the legal education experience for black law students.

As the first Detroit Mercy Law alumni affiliate, the ABLA provides a template for future affiliate alumni associations seeking a way to give back to the law school. Anyone who earned a law degree from Detroit Mercy Law and supports the mission is eligible to join.

If interested in learning more about the ABLA or to get involved, contact detroitmercylawabla@gmail.com 

Make a Gift here to support the David Williams II and Gail Carr Williams Endowed Scholarship.

About the Association of Black Law Alumni

Open All | Close All



    The ABLA is dedicated to: 

    • Fostering a mutually beneficial and lifelong relationship between Detroit Mercy Law and black alumni.
    • Ensuring black law students are able to attend and thrive at Detroit Mercy Law.
    • Facilitating the successful transition of black law students into the legal profession and engaging black alumni to actively participate in events hosted by the School, the Alumni Association and the ABLA. 


    On Thursday, May 18, 2017, seventeen Detroit Mercy Law black alumni met in Detroit to discuss the formation of a black alumni association. Present were: Mikyia Aaron '15, Brandon Byrd '19, Charity Dean '15, Robbie Gaines '15, Michelle Hall '84, Kyra Harris '14, Ticara Hendley '16, Jessica Holmes '15, Derek Hurt '84, Aaron Jackson '17, Ryan Jackson '15, Hon. Terrance Keith '84, Melissa Kopriva '16, Macie Tuiasosopo '13 and Nishawn Spiller '17.

    There was unanimous support for an association of black alumni to support black law students and to create a network among black alumni. Support was shaped by shared racial discrimination experiences, both subtle and overt, across the decades, as well as concerns about the low enrollment of black law students and the absence of tenured black professors.

    On May 24, 2017, Hon. Terrance Keith '84 and Melissa Kopriva '16 met with Dean Phyllis L. Crocker to discuss the formation of a black law alumni association as an affiliate of the Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Association. With Dean Crocker’s endorsement, upon determining an amendment to the Alumni Association’s by-laws would be necessary, a motion to amend the by-laws for the creation of affiliate associations was made and approved at the Alumni Association's Sept. 2017 board meeting.

    The following year, on May 22, 2018, the Alumni Association approved a charter for the formation of the Association of Black Law Alumni (ABLA), Detroit Mercy Law's first affiliate alumni association. At the meeting, the Alumni Association expressed that increasing black alumni participation in Detroit Mercy Law events and programs was of vital importance to the long term mission and success of the Alumni Association and the School. The Alumni Association resolved the creation of ABLA would actively assist the School with increasing black alumni and student participation through fellowship, career networking, mentoring, student recruitment, retention, scholarship fundraising and other activities that enhance the Detroit Mercy Law experience.

    A number of events and activities have taken place since the initial formation of ABLA, including:

    • May 2018: ABLA charter approved by the Detroit Mercy Law Alumni Board.

    • April 2018: The University presented Judge Gregory Mathis '88 with the 2018 Detroit Mercy Alumni Achievement Spirit Award; the Law School held a reception honoring Judge Mathis the evening before the University's celebration.

    • Oct. 2018: The Fall 2018 issue of the Docket was dedicated to black alumni and alumni of color, a first in the history of the Docket. 

    • Nov. 2018: Research began on the history of black alumni.

    • March 2019: Portrait of Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise K. Langford Morris '82 was unveiled and is now displayed in the Detroit Mercy Law atrium, marking the first portrait of an African American and a woman at the Law School.

    • Summer 2019: ABLA’s administrative structure within the Law School and the university established.   

    • Aug. 2019: Professor Jelani Jefferson Exum becomes Detroit Mercy Law's first black tenured professor.


    Board of Directors

    Board Officers

    Judge Terrance Keith
    Hon. Terrance Keith ‘84  
    Jessica Holmes '15
    Coming Soon Photo
    Desiree Marks '13
    Board Members

    ABLA Charter


    ABLA Initiatives

    ABLA has established the following priority initiatives for 2020 / 2021: 

    1. Create a pre-graduation ceremony congratulating and welcoming new graduates as members of ABLA and introducing them to alumni. 

    2. Identify a pool of alumni to serve as mentors and participate in the dean’s annual admitted student reception. 

    3. Attend and support the annual BLSA Las Vegas Night Event fundraiser.

    4. Establish a major endowed scholarship for black law students to augment the financial assistance provided by the law school.  


    The David Williams II ’82 and Gail Carr Williams ’83 Endowed Scholarship Fund

    The Detroit Mercy Law Association of Black Law Alumni (ABLA) was established in May 2020 to serve as a voice and mentoring organization for Black law alumni and current students at Detroit Mercy Law. One of ABLA’s priorities is to raise $1 million for the David Williams II ’82 and Gail Carr Williams ’83 Endowed Scholarship Fund to support Black law students.  To make a gift, visit our Donate to the School of Law website and designate your gift to "Williams Scholarship"

Launch Events

Open All | Close All


    Jan. 30, 2020: Bending the Arc Toward Justice

    Bending the Arc Toward Justice - Tarrant Photo

    Detroit Mercy Law ushered in Black History Month by hosting an evening that acknowledges and celebrates our history, our present, our future. The event includes:

    • A portrait unveiling of Henry H. Tarrant ’22, our first known African American graduate.
    • Remarks by Godfrey Dillard, a civil rights trailblazer and one of the lawyers who represented BLSA in their lawsuit against the university in the early 1980s.
    • The announcement of the new Henry H. Tarrant Award for Black Student Excellence.
    • The official launch of the Association of Black Law Alumni (ABLA) and ABLA’s new scholarship for African American students.

Black History of Detroit Mercy Law

Open All | Close All


    A Brief History of Detroit Mercy Law Black Alumni

    A brief history of the Detroit Mercy Law black alumni, compiled by Judge Terrance A. Keith '84, can be found here.

    Trailblazers: First Known African American Graduates

    First Known African American Graduates:


    2018 Docket Feature: Bending the Arc Toward Justice

    Read the 2018 Docket for stories about Detroit Mercy Law alumni judges and attorneys of color:

    Docket cover - four attorneys of color