What is in your hands to make a difference in the world? This compelling question has served as the inspiration for my life’s journey. Daily, I challenge myself to make a difference by overcoming the roadblocks and impasses which restrict access to the path to justice and freedom. As a teacher, author, lawyer, and change agent, I stand ready and equipped for the journey ahead.
I am determined to use my education and legal training as tools in the struggle for justice. In fact, this is a dream come true since I always wanted to become Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire. “Basically, Wonder woman with a law degree and an afro.” I cannot accomplish this mission alone. Therefore, I enlisted the assistance of the modern day “Justice League,” a group of tenacious law students and public policy students who are determined to leave the world a better place than how they found it. The classroom is the training ground where I prepare my students to become leaders and change agents.
In the classroom, I created a space for re-imagining education by placing an explicit focus on leadership development and social justice advocacy. In my TEDx talk, I shared my experience of transforming the classroom into a learning laboratory where students develop innovative solutions to the pressing social justice challenges of our time. My team works in partnership with community members to lead social change through criminal justice reform:
Criminal Justice: The team has raised awareness about the tangled web of mass incarceration with far too many entry points but far fewer exit points. The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with over 2 million people behind bars. The rate of incarceration disproportionately impacts people of color. For instance, there are “more black men are under the control of the criminal justice system in America today than who were enslaved in the 1800s.” How can we live up to our ideal as a force of moral good with this challenge in our own front yard?
Further, the team has joined policy campaigns like Restore the Vote (coalition supporting voting rights restoration for people convicted of felonies but living in the community) and the Campaign for Prison Phone Justice (challenging prison phone kickbacks and the U.S. Prison Telephone Industry) in order to advance policy reform related to the criminal justice system.
What is in your hands to make a difference in the world? This leadership challenge extends beyond the constraints of the four walls of my classroom to the homes, community centers, schools and public meeting spaces across the globe. We each have within our hands – power. The type of transformative power needed to address the social justice challenges of our time. The transformative power to look beyond race, tribe or creed to realize the stake in our common humanity and our shared destiny.