Reclaiming the Narrative: The 23rd Annual Paul Robeson Gala and Conference


Conference keynote speaker Angela Rye (third from the left) pictured with conference Co-Chairs Shane Grannum ’18, Beulah Agbabiaka ’18, Antonia Hyman ’18, and Lilybelle Davis ’18; CJRL Editor-in-Chief Stephan Bradley ’17; BLSA President Wendell Ramsey ’17; and BLSA Vice President Norian Watson ’17.

Last month, the Columbia Law School Black Law Students Association and Columbia Journal of Race and Law co-hosted the 23rd Annual Paul Robeson Gala and Conference at the Columbia Club of New York City and Columbia Law School. The annual event celebrates the life of Paul Robeson ’23, the gifted lawyer, actor, singer and civil rights advocate.


The author (Shane Grannum ’18) introducing the Democracy Panel.

This year, the Conference’s theme was “Reclaiming the Narrative.” Planned by fellow co-chairs Antonia Hyman ’18, Lilybelle Davis ’18, Kendall Wells ’18, Nicole Nance ’18, Simi Obatusin ’18, Beulah Agbabiaka ’18 and myself, the conference highlighted the work of legal practitioners, policymakers, and activists who challenge structural inequalities and stereotypes about people of color. 


Khalil Cumberbatch (left), a Columbia University School of Social Work lecturer, delivered the opening keynote address before Angela Rye (right), CNN commentator and CEO of IMPACT Strategies, delivered the keynote address.

I moderated a panel called “A Path Forward for Democracy and Voting Rights After 2016.” Stuart Naifeh ’04 of Demos, Joanna Cuevas Ingram of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Adam Gitlin of the Brennan Center for Justice, discussed how litigators, law students, activists and advocates can advance voting rights at a time when reports of voter suppression are on the rise.

Among the day’s highlights: Keynote addresses from CNN commentator Angela Rye and Columbia School of Social Work lecturer Khalil Cumberbatch. 

Watch Angela T. Rye:

Watch Khalil Cumberbatch:

Shane Grannum ’18 co-chaired the 2017 Paul Robeson Conference. This summer, he will return to the Washington, D.C., office of Perkins Coie as a summer associate with the political law group. He is currently participating in Columbia Law School’s Federal Externship Program in Washington, D.C., as an extern in the Voting Section of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. He looks forward to pursuing a career as a voting rights litigator and election lawyer.


Posted on March 20, 2017