January 26th, 2022

Board Member Profile: “What I say can’t be unheard.”: Khandikile M. Sokoni

Khandikile Sokoni


This is a second in a series of BIPOC board member profile.

“We have a story — it’s important to have a seat at the table — using her voice — “what I say can’t be unheard.”

Khandikile M. Sokoni is fierce in work ethic, in commitment to community, in caring for her family, and in her belief in what Black Americans have to offer this nation, and as a microcosm of the nation — our local community (especially through philanthropic efforts).

The Community Foundation Executive Director, George Ferrari recruited Khandi several years ago, and though she initially declined (due to an already perennially full calendar), she asked that they try again another time. The Foundation came calling again a few years later; this time, she had passed on the mantle of president of the Tompkins County Bar Association and was a little more available so she accepted. Because ultimately, she said, “I believe in their work.” When asked about the Black female lens and philanthropy, Ms. Sokoni spoke of how focusing on the local community and the idea of enduring philanthropy truly resonated with her. She spoke of being inspired by the likes of Marcia Fort (former Director of The Greater Ithaca Activities Center [GIAC]. Marcia’s example was that of building services and commitment — being part of an organization that allocates to and invests in its community. The Community Foundation does this…it delivers much needed funds and a variety of services locally.

An immigrant from Zambia, Khandikile considers Ithaca her “home away from home”. Her local professional experience started in the Ithaca City Attorney’s Office, where she spent fourteen years, the last six as Assistant City Attorney. Then she moved into private practice eventually becoming a partner with the law firm, True, Walsh, and Sokoni, LLP. Her practice areas include immigration law, municipal law and zoning/land use. She, and her husband, Mutale, are parents to three children. Yes, she is wife, mother, attorney, board member, committee member, voice in the community, and so much more. Khandi’s response to what important impact do you offer as a Black Woman/Attorney is a perfect way to close her profile. Hers is a “mic drop” moment even while offering a challenge to look through a new lens for understanding and serving. Her impact is that of lived experience. “We are a complicated people — we are diverse, even in our Blackness. I/We wear multiple hats, and have multiple perspectives. It’s a prism.”

Former Commissioner on the Independent Judicial Election Qualification Commission (IJEQC), for the Sixth Judicial District from 2015 to 2018.
Past president of the Tompkins County Bar Association, and the Finger Lakes Women’s Bar Association, a chapter of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York (WBASNY).
Current member of the NYSBA Committee of Bar Leaders.
Former member, Board of Directors of Catholic Charities of Tompkins and Tioga Counties, Kids Count Inc., and the Drop-In Children’s Center in Ithaca.
Former Assistant City Attorney — Ithaca, New York.
Former attorney for the Towns of Dryden and Ulysses.