Published on February 19, 2024 by Morgan Black  
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Thurgood Marshall 2024
From L to R: Mercedes Davis, 2024 symposium chair; De'Janae Tookes, assistant director of multicultural initiatives and events in the Office of Student Success and Diversity; Chinelo Dike-Minor, assistant professor of law and BLSA faculty adviser; Abha Khanna; Malik Moore, symposium co-chair
Samford University Cumberland School of Law hosted the 30th annual Thurgood Marshall Symposium on Tuesday, Feb. 13. The 2024 event focused on voting rights in Alabama and a recent United States Supreme Court ruling regarding Alabama's congressional district map. Abha Khanna, a nationally recognized voting rights attorney based in Seattle, Washington, served as the symposium’s keynote speaker.
In her practice, Khanna largely focuses on voting rights and redistricting litigation. Khanna leads Elias Law Group’s redistricting practice, and over the course of the post-2020 cycle has overseen nearly 20 redistricting cases from trial to appeal. In 2023, she successfully argued the Allen v. Milligan case, resulting in a historic U.S. Supreme Court ruling that Alabama's congressional district map violated the VRA by diluting the votes of Black residents.
Khanna said, “Voting rights is a really important area of the law, especially for law students in Alabama. This litigation is taking place in these students’ backyard. It’s crucial for them to become familiar with the tools that lawyers have when it comes to the power of the courts and the power of advocacy to litigate these claims.”
For 30 years, the symposium, named in honor of the U.S. Supreme Court’s first Black justice, Thurgood Marshall, has honored his legacy by addressing historical and contemporary issues that affect minority communities. In recognition of her involvement in the symposium named for him, Khanna added, “Justice Marshall is a hero and has been a leading inspiration for a lot of the work that I do.”
Each year the symposium is presented by Cumberland School of Law’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) in coordination with Samford’s Office of Student Success and Diversity. Mercedes Davis, a third-year student, BLSA member and chair of the 2024 symposium, said, "We were honored to have Ms. Khanna as our keynote speaker this year. I hope we all took away from her talk the importance of our fundamental rights to vote and that we all deserve that right."
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. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 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 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.