A couple weeks into my 1L year, on my drive into school, I heard a report on public radio about a recent Supreme Judicial Court (the Massachusetts state supreme court) decision. The court had found that black men might have a reason, even if they were not guilty of a crime, to run from the police. Even as a greenhorn law student, I could tell that this sort of decision was radical. When I got to school, I printed the opinion, pushed Torts, Contracts, and CivPro to the side, and raced through it.
Citing to a study conducted by the Boston Police Department, which found that black men are more likely to be stopped and questioned by police officers, and repeatedly so, the court noted that a black male, “when approached by the police, might just as easily be motivated by the desire to avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled as by the desire to hide criminal activity.” This was the outcome I hoped to (but did not often) see in judicial decisions. I looked at the opinion’s author, Justice Geraldine Hines. The first black woman to serve on the Massachusetts Appeals Court and Supreme Judicial Court, she had worked in civil rights and defense before joining the bench. It seemed like the coolest career possible, and controverted the typical image of a judge as a stuffy old white man. Maybe if I was lucky, I thought, one day I would get to meet her.
That day would come sooner than I thought.
As the second son of a poor rural family in South Korea, he moved to the city of Seoul alone to attend high school at the young age of 16. He continued his education at the nation’s most prestigious university and earned his PhD in the US (Boston) with full tuition and cost-of-living scholarships provided to him by the Korean government. While his accomplishments as a microbiologist themselves are admirable, it is his curiosity, patience and persistence that never fail to inspire me. “You will have good experiences and bad experiences, but none that are useless,” is one of the things that he said when I told him I was considering law school. Thanks, dad, and congratulations on your (upcoming) retirement!
Walking the streets of Barcelona with my father used to involve a mild amount of embarrassment. In the city, where he was born and raised, and where most residents speak both Catalan and Spanish, there is a social convention: If you speak to someone you don’t know in Catalan, and they respond in Spanish, you should follow their cue and switch to Spanish because they do not speak Catalan. When someone responded to my father’s Catalan in Spanish, he persisted in Catalan. Sometimes they would call him out, explicitly telling him that they did not speak Catalan. Sometimes he would respond, “But we are in Catalunya.” I would stand by, hand blocking my face, hoping the interaction would end quickly. After seeing the national police bludgeon citizens throughout Catalonia with truncheons in a feeble attempt to block the October 1 independence referendum, I have a harder time seeing my father’s obstinacy as embarrassing.
I’m pleased to host a guest post from 2L Yetunde Buraimoh, discussing the Black Law Student Association’s recent “Know Your Rights” training.
When I sat down with the Black Law Students Association’s (BLSA) E-board last spring to plan programming for the 2017-18 academic year, we unanimously agreed that it was necessary to increase BLSA’s presence in the greater Boston community. Given our nation’s current social climate, particularly the increased exposure of police brutality, we felt that it was crucial to facilitate programming that would equip individuals in over-policed communities with the knowledge necessary to make the best decisions for their safety.
The personal statement section of the law school application can sometimes seem like an artificial reconstruction of particular stories in a person’s life that is carefully molded solely to convince administrators that they should choose one individual over the thousands of other people they evaluate. And, for some, the statement turns out to be exactly that. Yet, the process of writing my personal statement forced me to re-evaluate my pedagogical journey in attempting to justify to myself why I was going to law school and what I could possibly do afterwards. Thus, I can think of no better introduction to who I am for the readers of BC Law: Impact than the personal statement that put me on this path.
I see each person as an accumulation of his or her experiences. More specifically, they are a representation of the events, cultures, opinions, ideas and ideologies that shaped who they are and inform their perspective. This perspective, in turn, shapes how they see the world, and how they understand their responsibility to other people.
Now, what is my perspective? I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico to parents of Spanish and Cuban ancestry. My maternal grandmother was raised in San Juan by her grandfather, Jose de Diego, an active voice of the Puerto Rican independence movement in the late nineteenth century. As an independentista, he fought for sovereignty and the equal rights of Puerto Ricans under colonial rule. My grandmother was a firsthand witness of his struggle for equality, as the status of our island was debated and its future decided. Although neither of my parents were able to attend college, they worked long hours to start a cargo business from the ground up. Consequently, my grandmother took care of me during much of my early years and I have vivid memories of coming home to sit on her lap and listen to stories of de Diego’s battle for the people of Puerto Rico.
I am pleased to host a guest post today from Vincent Lau, BC Law ’97. Alumni, please note that the Sung sisters will be special guests speakers for the Alumni Assembly at this year’s Reunion on November 3. If this is your reunion year, we hope you will attend! ABACUS will be screened earlier that day on the Law School campus, and the Rappaport Center will also host a panel discussion after the screening, open to all.
ABACUS premieres on PBS Frontline on September 12.
I was recently invited to a special screening of the new PBS documentary film ABACUS: Small Enough to Jail. First of all, a disclaimer: this is not a film review. I have no credentials to dissect whether ABACUS was well done from a technical or an artistic standpoint. What I can share are my reactions, and this documentary resonated with me on several fronts. The fact that the story (and film) involves several BC Law alumnae makes it even more compelling for our community. I would encourage everyone to go see it.
Abacus is a community bank located in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. Thomas Sung, an immigrant and a lawyer, opened the bank so that he could meet the needs of the people there. He later convinced two of his four daughters (one a BC Law alum) to join him, by arguing that working in a community bank lending money to local entrepreneurs is an important and effective way of giving back to the community. Continue reading
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.
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.