Published on February 10, 2022 by Morgan Black  
TMS 2022
Cumberland School of Law and its Black Law Students Association (BLSA) recognized Black History Month 2022 through two special events–the 28th Annual Thurgood Marshall Symposium and the inaugural BLSA Alumni Luncheon.

The Thurgood Marshall Symposium, co-hosted Feb. 3 with Samford University’s Office of Diversity and Intercultural Initiatives, honored the legacy of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court judge, and the impact he had on the legal industry and the communities around him. This year’s event, “Putting Out the Fire: Creating Meaningful Reform in Alabama Prisons,” highlighted Marshall’s advocacy for prison reform. 
 
Lauren Bradley, second-year law student and symposium chair, said, “For this year’s symposium, we reflected on this quote from Justice Marshall: ‘When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded.’”

The symposium's keynote speaker, Alabama state representative Christopher J. England, expanded on this notion through the lens of his public service. England discussed how incarcerated individuals are further separated from humanity,  the risk assessment and release processes in the state’s prison system, as well as the issue of overcrowding. He also called for people to take advantage of their power to change the way things are done. “Justice cannot happen when you are silent,” he said.

“The symposium was a great success due to the many who volunteered their time and effort to bring the event to fruition," Bradley said as she thanked England and his brother, the Honorable U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge England III, who introduced him. "The event was undoubtedly a call for reform in Alabama prisons as Representative England ignited a fire, inspiring the demand for true justice.”

The BLSA Alumni Luncheon on Feb. 5 brought together Cumberland School of Law alumni who were members of the organization as students. The inaugural event aimed to provide a reunion for the graduates and a professional networking opportunity for current students.

Monroe Thornton III, a second-year law student and BLSA vice president, noted that, according to the American Bar Association, 5% of attorneys in the United States are Black and that the group wanted to provide an opportunity for its members to connect with lawyers of the same background.

“We wanted to give our members, especially 1Ls, an opportunity to be surrounded by attorneys that look like us,” he said. “This kind of opportunity is precious and rare, which is why our executive board decided that Black History Month was the best time of the semester to connect with those African American Cumberland lawyers who paved the way for us. I believe that this event helped inspire our younger members to know that our communities need Black lawyers and Black law students.”

“Black History Month is an opportunity to highlight and honor the history and many achievements of African Americans, bring attention to continuing inequities and injustices, and to work to build a stronger community,” said Chinelo Diké-Minor, assistant professor of law and the BLSA faculty adviser. “Through the symposium and alumni luncheon, BLSA has done just that. I applaud the BLSA's membership for their hard work.
 
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. The Wall Street Journal ranks Samford 1st nationally for student engagement and U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 66th in the nation for best undergraduate teaching and 104th nationally for best value. Samford enrolls 5,683 students from 47 states and 19 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference, and ranks 3rd nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.