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Detroit Mercy Law Association of Black Law Alumni

Group photos from black alumni events

The 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. 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. 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, 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 of ABLA is eligible to join.

If interested in joining ABLA contact April Ellison, director of alumni relations at ellisoal@udmercy.edu.

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

 

About ABLA

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    Mission

    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 ABLA. 
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    Background

    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 celebr
    • 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.
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    Board of Directors

    The by-laws provide for up to 24 members, including the current president of the Detroit Mercy Law Black Law Students Association. The by-laws also provide for four chairs, including the appointment of three subcommittees chairs:

    1. Chair of ABLA (serves as Alumni Board liaison)
    2. Chair of the Engagement Committee
    3. Chair of the Fundraising Committee
    4. Chair of the Student Success Committee

    The Detroit Mercy Law Office of Alumni Relations will provide administrative support and will maintain an updated list of alumni and coordinate communication and outreach efforts. 

    A governing committee has been formed to establish a board of directors. The committee members are:

    • Mikyia Aaron '15
    • Brandon Byrd '19
    • Charity Dean '15
    • Robbie Gaines '15
    • Michele Hall '84
    • Ticara Hendley '16
    • Jessica Holmes '15
    • Derek Hurt '84
    • Aaron Jackson '17
    • Ryan Jackson '15
    • Hon. Terrance Keith '84
    • Melissa Kopriva '16
    • Jennifer Marks '13
    • Macie Tuiasosopo '13
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    ABLA Charter

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    2020 Initiatives

    ABLA has established the following priority initiatives for 2020: 

    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.  
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    The David Williams II and Gail Carr Williams Endowed Scholarship

    ABLA is thrilled to announce the creation of the David Williams II and Gail Carr Williams Endowed Scholarship.  Our goal is One Million Dollars.  This scholarship will help black students enroll and thrive at Detroit Mercy Law.  Join us in supporting this scholarship!  To make a gift go to:  https://community.udmercy.edu/donate/law  The scholarship is listed under Designation.  

Launch Events

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    Jan. 30, 2020: Bending the Arc Toward Justice

    Bending the Arc Toward Justice - Tarrant Photo

    Detroit Mercy Law will usher 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.

    LEARN MORE & RSVP >

Black History of Detroit Mercy Law

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    A Brief History of Detroit Mercy Law Black Alumni

    Read A Brief History of Detroit Mercy Law Black Alumni written by Wayne County Probate Court Judge Terrance A. Keith '84.
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    Trailblazers: First Known African American Graduates

    First Known African American Graduates:

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    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