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Embody Black Lives Matter in Every Facet of Your Legal Career

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By Walter Jean-Jacques, a recent graduate of the University of Notre Dame Law School and a member of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors. Walter will join the NAACP Legal Defense Fund as a Notre Dame Public Interest Law Fellow in September 2020.

Photo of Walter Jean-Jacques in front of the National Museum of African American History and Culture

As a young Black man entering the law field, these past few weeks have been filled with a variety of emotions. I have grown up in a police state all my life.

When I was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1992, my hometown was deemed the auto-theft capital of the world. Young Black men and women from Newark already carried a stigma just by the color of their skin and the generalization given to the nature of our city. Unfortunately, this stigma has followed me since my parents carried me out of the hospital. For example, when I tell people that I am from Newark, they tend to look at me with disgust, as if my existence equates to a nature of inferiority. When I watched the video of George Floyd’s murder, I was struck with heavy emotion. It reminded me that Mr. Floyd was seen as being inferior simply because he was Black. It reminded me of the inferiority Breonna Taylor experienced as she was murdered in her own home.

I have felt a sense of hopelessness, but also a sense of empowerment. I am excited to be a Black attorney working for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and focusing on racial justice litigation. Now, more than ever, people are educating themselves on the economic, political, educational, and criminal inequities that many African Americans continue to face in our society. We must continue to march, protest, and speak up against racial injustice, and be inspired as lawyers to take up a career focused on fighting for civil rights and combating inequities of all kinds.

Additionally, as a Black man on the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors, I promise to continue to advocate on behalf of law students and lawyers who are passionate about serving their communities and committed to addressing critical Issues affecting equal access to justice. We are all crucial members in the movement for racial justice, and we need to understand how vital our roles are as leaders of change. I encourage you to not only say “Black Lives Matter,” but embody this mentality with every facet of your legal career.  We are the leaders of this generation and we must continue fighting for Black Lives, so that Black children from cities like Newark, have advocates who will be relentless in ensuring that their lives are not inferior.

Click here to learn more about Walter and other members of the Equal Justice Works Board of Directors.

Learn more about becoming an Equal Justice Works Fellow