love Ward 8. My entire life here in the Ward has been dedicated to acting as an advocate on behalf of our residents. As a neighbor, I created a professional development program for young women who found themselves in the abuse and neglect system. The program, Ladies First, launched in 2008 at the Fihankra House, formerly located in Anacostia. I served on the Board of Directors of Youth Now!-a non-profit arm of the Greater Fellowship Full Gospel Baptist Church located in the Congress Heights neighborhood. I also led a young women’s ministry for girls ages 12-18 which focused on literacy through book clubs, self-dependence through fundraising, and service through giving. All of these young women hailed from Ward 8 and helped me serve homeless men and women for several years through a self-funded enterprise called the Winter Warm Drive. Each year, with the help of personal friends, I purchased winter items and the girls would help me distribute them. It was a life-changing experience each time we served together. Today, several of those girls still work with me in various capacities.
As a lawyer, I most of my work has focused on Ward 8 and its residents. From 2007-2011 I worked for the Legal Aid Society of DC. I was one of the first attorneys to staff its satellite offices in Anacostia and THEARC. I also served as one of the first members of the East of the River Casehandlers, which was a small consortium of lawyers dedicated to addressing systemic issues that faced our clients in Wards 7 and 8. While at Legal Aid I served hundreds of clients who needed legal representation to deal with the multitude of issues facing someone who relied on social services for any type of assistance. I drafted legislation for residents who participated in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program that passed unanimously in 2010. It was difficult work but I saw the most resilient among us rise each day to face insurmountable challenges with a glimmer of hope because they had a lawyer on their side.
In 2011, I was asked to serve as Legislative Counsel for the DC Council’s Committee on Human Services, then chaired by former Councilmember for Ward 1, Jim Graham. While working at the Council, I continued to get calls from my clients at Legal Aid. I missed providing direct services to clients so I decided to return to the courtroom and become a trial lawyer.
As a trial lawyer and litigator with my own practice, I have represented hundreds of individuals with cases against the police, the federal government and private actors who have violated their civil rights. One of my most prominent cases involved a 20-year old Ballou Stay student who was boarding the bus with her two young children when a Metro Transit Police Officer accused her of fare evasion and disfigured her face as a result. Her name is Diamond Rust. Three weeks after I resolved Diamond’s case, transit police struck again when they tased my client Tapiwa Musonza repeatedly inside of a metro station. He committed no crime and the drummed up charges were ultimately dropped.
Unfortunately, neither Diamond nor Tapiwa will ever get justice against WMATA because, as an entity, WMATA cannot be sued when its officers violate a passenger’s civil rights. Tapiwa and Diamond’s cases have served as the catalyst of my plight to amend the law so that WMATA can be held accountable by a court of law. Click here to sign my petition to DC law makers to use their power to help change the law so that victims of transit police violence can get justice. But there is more.
In my plight to right systemic wrongs, I have had the privilege of representing teachers who were wrongfully terminated and parents whose kids were abused by school staff. But I can only help one person at a time, as a lawyer. If I am elected to serve you, I can help improve the lives of tens of thousands of people by developing and implementing policy that will effectuate change for our residents and hold those in power accountable. I have the background and legislative drafting experience from my days as an advocate with the Fair Budget Coalition and as legislative counsel for the Committee on Human Services. I understand how the Council works and what it prioritizes. Unfortunately, the needs of Ward 8 residents are often overlooked in the absence of an advocate who is keen on understanding policy and how it affects people in the midst of a rapidly changing economy.
I consider it an honor to run for the seat once held by one of the greatest statesmen of all time, Marion S. Barry, Jr. I look forward to serving as your Councilmember. Please entrust me with your vote on June 2, 2020.