In April, I had the privilege of presenting a talk to the Boston College community as part of BC’s Graduate Student’s Association’s program GradTalks. It’s an annual event that provides a forum for a diverse selection of graduate students to present ideas that interest them. I spoke about felon disenfranchisement, and what we have to do in Massachusetts to overcome barriers to voting rights.
Watch the video after the jump.
Over winter break I watched The Pianist. As the film opens, the main character is playing live on the radio in 1939—just as Warsaw is being bombed by Germany. With the bombs falling, the pianist rushes home. His family is Jewish, and his sister is a young lawyer.
The bombing continues for days. The family is relieved when France and Britain announce that they have declared war on Germany, but no nation comes to their rescue, and before long Warsaw is under the umbrella of one ideology. The pianist and his family, who are forced to wear blue Star of David armbands and are not allowed to work, eventually are relocated to a Warsaw ghetto. The pianist is separated from his family by a friend serving in the Jewish Ghetto Police. It is a heartbreaking moment as the rest of the family—including the pianist’s sister—are shoved into a cargo train and sent to their certain deaths.
That scene and the sister’s character arc have haunted me this entire semester. Although the movie is primarily focused on the pianist, I wanted to know more about her, what she was thinking—as an attorney, she must have agonized over the supposed legal justifications as the Jewish population lost their jobs, then their homes, until finally they were transported to the Treblinka extermination camp. What I found so frightening (and chilling) about the sister is that despite being a lawyer, she was unable to protect her family. Under the circumstances, what could she have done?
Everything was moving so fast. In a time of war, Poland’s civil society and its institutions were collapsing. The moment was bigger than one person, one attorney, or one Jewish woman.
But it still haunts me. And I have not been able to shake that feeling.
At BC Law, your education does not only consist of the material you learn in your courses. BC hosts many conferences, functions, presentations, and discussions on just about every subject you can think of, from panels put on by professors addressing recent political actions to all-day events sponsored by BC’s journals and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Policy. Recently, the Rappaport Center sponsored an all-day conference on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts that was open to both students and practitioners. There were three panels as well as a keynote address by Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
She was only seventeen when she realized she was pregnant. Having grown up in a predominantly white town in Ohio, she knew better than to bear a black man’s child, especially at that age. An adopted child herself, she decided someone else could provide her son a better life than a struggling high school student could. But my mother suddenly changed her mind seconds after holding me; by and large, my life’s greatest blessing. The struggles that would confront her may not have been clear at the moment, but she was willing to sacrifice plenty: forgoing college dreams, working multiple low wage jobs to put food on the table, being shunned by family for the color of her child’s skin, and most of all, being forced to do so alone. It was the nights that I awoke to her muffled sobs, seeing her still dressed in dirty waitressing clothes, that impacted me the most. I learned early on in life that the cards may not always be in your favor and that some people have to work harder to succeed. Yet by witnessing her struggle, I ultimately learned the value of resiliency and hard work. My mother’s perseverance instilled an insatiable hunger and an unrelenting drive, which ultimately would guide me through life. Continue reading
Even though I was not able to attend the Women’s March in D.C., I’ve been able to live vicariously through the experiences of several classmates, like my friend Molly McGrath. Molly is a 2L at Boston College Law School and originally from western New York. At BC, she is involved in LAMBDA and the Environmental Affairs Law Review. Although she doesn’t know exactly where her legal career will take her, she is grateful to attend an institution like BC Law and use its resources to navigate a rapidly changing legal and political climate.
A classmate and I sat in a law library study room several days after the election. We’d originally reserved the room to cram for our Admin Law final, but found ourselves brainstorming ways to act with more intention and become more politically involved. My friend agreed to stop buying clothes online from retailers with supply chains reaching deep into the third world. I decided to schedule more time to read about the origins of the social justice movement. We both agreed to attend the Women’s March on Washington.
No, really, this isn’t a trap. It’s okay.
I got to thinking about this the other day at my bartending job when a customer made a comment on my hair.
She was an older white woman (we’ll call her Jane) sitting with her husband. Since we had all of ten customers in the bar at the time, I’d been shooting the breeze and answering questions from Jane and her husband, when Jane smiled and said, “Your hair is so gorgeous. How do you do it?”
Let’s begin with this: I have a lot of hair. Both the hair that grows out of my scalp and the hair that is only mine thanks to capitalism and the laws of possession.
On Tuesday night, I lay in bed refreshing the New York Times app and checking Twitter franticly. I voted for Hillary Clinton, and supported her from the first day of the primaries to the last day of the general; in fact I’d hoped that she would be running long before she announced it. When the push notification came into my phone naming Trump as president-elect, I cried.
The results of the election were gutting, for a number of reasons. After a campaign fueled by hatred and fear, Donald Trump’s presidency validated every anxiety I had felt during the general election—that there were more people willing to put the rights of others on the line to salvage their own privilege than there were people willing to work to correct the injustices in this country. We now know that Hillary won the popular vote, and while that is in and of itself reassuring, it does nothing to assuage my concerns about what a Trump presidency will mean for the safety of people of color, women, members of the LGBTQ community, disabled people, Muslims, or immigrants. Almost half the country voted for someone who admitted to sexually assaulting women, who called Mexicans rapists, who promised to ban Muslims, and who mocked a disabled person, and that is a stain on our history that will never come out.
I am thrilled and honored to be hosting this guest blog today from 2L Mousa Al-Mosawy on the impact of this incredibly important election.
My niece, May, is a witty six-year-old girl who just entered the first grade of elementary at the American Community School in Jordan. Even though she lives in the Middle East, May is an American citizen. Usually, I get to see May on Skype or over her summer holiday when she comes to the United States. We talk about everything from her school activities to new Disney releases to questions about my disability and wheelchair. Watching a child grow and communicate, in different ways, is a true wonder. May is curious yet cautious, she opens topics by asking pointed questions and forms an opinion based on the responses. In our last Skype session, my sister, Nour, told me about a conversation she had with May. It went something like this:
We’re coming up on the 60th anniversary of the television becoming a staple in American homes. And I can’t be the only one who’s noticed the spectacularly colorful fall line-up of shows this year.
Marvel’s Luke Cage (Netflix). Insecure (HBO). Atlanta (FX).
But I’m already fearful for these shows’ longevity. Because there are some who feel uncomfortable by their very existence.
“We got married August 9th, 2014. We went to the Caribbean for three days, and then we came up to move in and go to orientation the next day. 1L year, we basically did everything together except go to class. We were both here that summer, and we realized that we both wanted the same thing: to go to a big firm and do corporate work. And then this past summer, our 2L summer, we were both in New York, and we’ll be going back there after graduation…with a baby! Continue reading