This week has been a fantastic week to be black law student in Boston. On Wednesday night I had the pleasure of attending Massachusetts Black Lawyer’s Association annual gala, where I had the opportunity to meet and commiserate with student friends, mentors, and practitioners. The night gave me a spectacular view of all of the different career tracks and privileges that I may be able to experience throughout my legal career. I was able to be in the same room with a lawyer who won the life time achievement award for his legal work, and who also had the opportunity to fulfill his lifetime dream of singing on stage with the temptations, at his OWN BIRTHDAY PARTY no less. I saw the promise of the future as I watched my friend Patrice be honored for her dedication to community service, and I listened to the CEO of American Express talk about the importance of having a personal and professional ethos that includes community service. Through it all, I listened to very well-to-do and privileged black attorneys speak about the importance of not forgetting where one comes from.
Two days later my weekend began with a forum to start the Black Law Students Associations alumni weekend. Over the course of two days I had the ability to have interesting conversations with black alum from BU about their career trajectory, I was able to receive tips and advice from our Dean of Students, our Dean of Career Development and other distinguished professionals. The weekend culminated with our annual gala where I served as the Master of Ceremonies, in a beautiful ball room, decorated with fresh flowers, with flowing wine, and widely circulated appetizer trays.
I was able to see close friends honored for their dedication to the organization as well as laugh, joke, and dance with newly acquired alumni friends as well as friends who have recently graduated and now find themselves back in the real world.
I was able to do all of these things against the backdrop of the ever evolving story of Trayvon Martin, the 17 year, hoodie wearing teenager whose life was tragically ended, by what seems to be an overzealous community “watchman” simply for “looking suspicious.”
Given my own experiences before law school, and my experiences in Boston shortly after beginning law school, the tragic ending of Trayvon Martin’s life was the unfortunate but perfect reminder to myself and my friends that we must remain cognizant of the fact that the newly acquired privileges of a law student and future practitioner does not insulate me or us from the realities and dangers that await me (us) outside of the walls of the law school and it is important that I NEVER EVER FORGET THAT!
My everyday law school attire is jeans, a hoodie, and a baseball hat turned to the back. I, while attending one of the best law schools in the country wear the uniform that got a 17 baby face young man killed. The same uniform that had Geraldo Rivera proclaim that black and Latino parents should not allow their children to wear hoodies, if they want to keep them safe. The underlying premise being that a brown student in a hoodie is understandably scary or menacing.
This weekend was fantastic, some of the best times I have ever had…but as they say it was the best of times and the worst of times, because while I was standing in awe of a man who became successful enough to throw a birthday party with the temptations and of a man who is CEO of one of the biggest credit card companies in the world. I was also forced to stand in awe of the fact that either one of those men, just like me and my friends, and just like my cousins and family members could be gunned down simply for wearing a garment of clothing…The law is a powerful tool for change, but I was also forced to ask myself as I have many times before, how powerful is that tool when a boy can be gunned down, and the shooter can possibly be insulated by a piece of legislation that was written probably with the help of people with the same training I am receiving,that allows someone to shoot someone with impunity if they “feel threatened?”
I don’t know…you tell me… DO I LOOK SUSPICIOUS?