‘Advocacy in the face of adversity’: Deja Bryant’s drive toward the law

Over the 2022 holiday break, the BC Law Impact blog is running a series of some of the most powerful and fascinating admissions essays from first-year students. These personal statements, submitted as part of their admissions applications, tell a variety of compelling stories, but the thread connecting them all is the kind of person who is attracted to a BC Law education: one who is driven to work collaboratively with others, achieve great things and make a real difference in the world.

We want to thank the Office of Admissions, and all of the student essay writers, for agreeing to share their stories with us. For more Admissions tips and other content, check out BC Law’s new TikTok channel.

I have felt immense pressure to tell a story about one particular instance in my life that sparked my calling to become a lawyer; a unique, personal, extraordinary occurrence intimately intertwined with justice that would make it clear to you, the reader, as to why I want to become an attorney. However, the truth is that there have been a multitude of occurrences in my life that contribute to my “why” for becoming an attorney. I would like to speak to three times in my life in which my desire for a profession in law and advocacy was completely lucid: as a young girl taking care of and living with my aunt battling HIV/AIDS, as the Howard University “voter registration girl,” and my time as a seventh grade teacher.

During my childhood my aunt’s battle with HIV/AIDS taught me the role of advocacy in the face of adversity. In 2005 HIV/AIDS began attacking my aunt’s immune system, robbing her of her mobility, speech, eyesight, and more; she spent over a year in the hospital. There were many conversations with doctors concerning my aunt’s terminal condition and chances of survival. With relentless faith and inner strength, my mother did everything in her power to fight for her sister. She simply did not allow doctors, family members, or anyone else to convince her that my aunt’s life was over. My mother’s actions taught me what a great responsibility it is to be in a position where someone’s fate is dependent upon your decision making. After years of spending every evening going straight from school to dance practice to the hospital, I witnessed my aunt’s miraculous recovery. Following her release from the hospital, my aunt moved into our home and alongside my mother I became a caregiver to my aunt for the next ten years. Being my aunt’s caregiver taught me at a very young age how to communicate with, communicate for, care for, and guide individuals even in their most compromised state. This served me well, especially as a young adult whose instinctive desire is to help, advocate, and fight for individuals who may not be in a position to fight for themselves.

As a freshman at Howard University, the lessons that I learned in caring for my aunt manifested in my passion for activism. During my freshman year I became a member of the NAACP. Prior to establishing any form of executive leadership in the NAACP, I took on the role of organizing weekly voter registration drives on Howard’s campus and the local DC community; I was dubbed the “voter registration girl.” Every Thursday, I would load up a box full of materials and set up my table in the student center or somewhere on the corner of 14th Street NW. Despite me doing this every Thursday in the winter and spring months of 2016, I was always taken aback by the sense of either apathy or hopelessness from individuals primarily from disenfranchised and underrepresented populations. I also encountered individuals who simply did not believe in their ability to affect change and refused to register. While I wanted to so badly convince every individual of their power, I realized that my role was more than the “voter registration girl,” but rather a duty I have in being an advocate for those who feel powerless in a system, to be the voice of the voiceless, and to eventually dismantle a sense of apathy through action and change.

Prior to becoming a teacher, I was confident that the rigor of Howard University, my heavy involvement in the NAACP, immersing myself in our Nation’s capital, living in the United Kingdom for a year while obtaining my master’s degree at one of the most international universities in the UK, and my return to the US amidst racial and civil unrest, gave me a keen awareness of the deepest struggles that our society faces; furthermore, I believed I garnered the knowledge and maturity to face these struggles head on with passion and enthusiasm. However, teaching and supporting seventh graders during a pandemic has been a true lens into vulnerability, trauma, and the desperate need for leadership, advocacy and justice in a variety of systems. None of the volunteering I did, books I read, academic research I conducted, panels I sat on, or podcasts I listened to, prepared me. I found myself supporting twelve and thirteen year olds describing their experiences ranging from foster care, to fear of their parent being deported for illegal immigration status, to the trauma of watching their father being shot and killed in their home. I came face to face with the frequency at which injustices occur and the innocence that is stripped away from individuals. As a result, I have gained a level of maturity and deeper understanding as to why I desire to study and practice law.

It has become strikingly clear through my diverse set of experiences that my purpose and desire is one that calls for me to be an advocate at the most influential level. I am confident that I have the qualities, character and enthusiasm to be an exceptional student and stellar practitioner of law.

Deja Bryant is a first-year student at BC Law.

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