My dad was one of the early African Americans to attend the University of Illinois law school. His first job as a lawyer was at the Department of Treasury chasing down gangsters for tax evasion. He eventually opened his own practice as the only Black lawyer in Will County, Illinois, a solid Republican district. It was there that he got involved in civil rights, headed the local NAACP chapter and marched with my mom as a local foot soldier for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement.
I decided to follow in the footsteps of my father when I was 8 years old. My first glimpse of his great skill as a lawyer was when I traveled with him to a sleepy southern Illinois town located just below the Mason-Dixon line. He went there to defend a Black man accused of murdering a white woman. The defendant, my dad and I were the only people of color in the courtroom. It was the first time I realized the true racial dichotomy and that I was considered a “minority.” I asked myself, “A minority to what or whom?”
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