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.
If you are ever looking for a brutally honest opinion of yourself, swallow your pride and ask a five year old.
In the years I spent working with kids at a community non-profit, I had the pleasure of hearing such gems as, “Miss Morgan, your tummy looks like my mommy’s when there’s a baby inside!” and “Did you know you look a lot less pretty when you wear your glasses?” Though some took these remarks seriously, one look at the sweet little faces from which the comments sprang forth never failed to make me laugh out loud. The children who attended these programs, often with the help of scholarships and sliding-scale payment plans, were typically filled with a joy and sense of innocence that made me absolutely love my job. All too often, however, these amusing little observations were juxtaposed with unfettered comments about living situations that revealed just how much these kids had been through in their short lives. I cannot forget the five-year-old who told me she wanted to kill herself because she missed her father so much, or the look of shame in an eleven-year-old’s eyes when his mother arrived to pick him up while high on drugs. I often felt frustrated by my inability to help these kids beyond passing the information along to DCF. I wanted so desperately to be able to advocate for these children in a way that went beyond simply telling someone higher up than me.
People often ask me what’s different about 2L year compared to 1L year. Among other things, like more challenging classes and having a better handle on the way law school works, there’s one thing in particular that has made my 2L experience a whole lot different from my 1L year: being on a journal.
What’s a journal? At the end of their 1L year, BC Law students have the opportunity to participate in a writing competition in order to be on the staff of one of BC Law’s nationally-recognized law journals. Currently, there are five journals at BC Law: the Boston College Law Review (BCLR), the Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review, the Boston College International and Comparative Law Review, the Boston College Journal of Law and Social Justice, and the U.C.C. Reporter-Digest (note: with the exception of the U.C.C. Reporter-Digest, at the end of this academic year all the journals will be consolidated into the Boston College Law Review, and each subject area will be given appropriate space for articles within BCLR). All 2Ls hold staff writer positions in the journal to which they belong, while the 3Ls hold different editorial positions.
Governor Martin O’Malley may have taken a step back from the national stage to reflect and teach in suburban Newton, Massachusetts, but he is certainly not shying away from the issues at the heart of current American politics. In a talk entitled “Restoring Integrity to Our Democracy” at Boston College Law School on Tuesday, Gov. O’Malley contemplated the conditions that resulted in President Donald Trump’s election and urged action on a series of fronts in order to protect and revitalize our democratic system of government.
The former Governor of Maryland and Mayor of Baltimore, who just last year shared a debate stage with Democratic Party candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, struck an ominous tone at the outset about the current state of the country. He warned of the dangers of the President’s ideology, which he called “Trumpism,” before rejecting Pope Francis’ recent suggestion that we should “wait and see” what President Trump does before judging him. “Our political institutions are in a state of crisis,” he said. “Now we must ask what each of us will do.”
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.
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:
I’m happy to be able to host a guest blog today from first-year student Christina Sonageri.
Technology has changed the way we do a lot of things—including the way we stream content. With the advent of platforms like Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime and Hulu, society has access to movies and shows at the click of a button. The change in how we are able to watch has helped to facilitate a more efficient way for producers and writers to share their stories.
One genre that I think has really flourished as a result is the crime documentary. Now, even when I hear the word “documentary,” my mind begins to swirl with mug shots of Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s Making a Murderer series, and images of the countless other subjects whose faces define the genre. Every time a new crime story is released, it seems it’s the only thing that anyone can talk about.
However, growing up the daughter of two lawyers initially made me skeptical of anyone who was trying to fit a whole case into just a few hours of television or film. So I decided to sit down and explore whether these types of documentaries are helpful or detrimental to the people involved in the crime—and what their impact on society’s faith in the justice system might be.