FROM JERSEY CITY TO JURIS DOCTORATE: THE JOURNEY OF INNER CITY YOUTH THROUGH LAW SCHOOL

By: Khalil Eaddy

"I might not be his favorite, but I'm still God's child"-Khalil Eaddy (2012). Since age five I have always dreamed of becoming a baseball player. Well let’s just say that being an athlete, rapper, or actor was every young man’s dream in Jersey City and it was not by choice since every other male figure in your life are gangsters like Nicky Barnes, Nino Brown, Frank Lucas, Rich Porter, or "Alpo" Martinez. A lawyer, doctor, mayor, astronaut, or businessman was dreams that only children of affluence dreamed about. However one day while sitting in Jersey City Medical Center I learned that I suffered an injury to my left knee that wouldn't allow me to be a pro athlete.

My role model and grandmother, Mary Eaddy, told me "grandson, this isn't the end of the world. You have to dream big, dream bigger than being a baseball star, dream bigger than whatever it is that you dream about. And when you find that dream go chase it, and I will be with you every step of the way." From that day on, I wanted to show her that my passion for law and being a role model for others was unstoppable. 

Raised with three of my eight siblings, it was instilled in me early to be a leader and a role model for my siblings and friends.  My mother made the ultimate sacrifice working everyday as a mail carrier in order to provide for me and two of my siblings with 3 meals a day, clothing, and most importantly a place to lay down our heads. 

In contrast, all of the male figures in my life, my father and my uncles, are all convicted felons. They served a great deal of time throughout my childhood. My friends were my guardian angels. Whenever I discussed the possibility of going off to college to pursue my dream of being a lawyer they would reply "Khalil you have to do it, none of us can be lawyers. Hell, high school is all the school I can endure, but we all are going to make sure you get off this block and never come back. When you make it, that will mean we made it."

In my culture, I have come to realize that many people live their dreams vicariously through loved ones, especially when their own opportunities are stifled by the hardships of life. I have never attended any other graduation besides my own. I have been to more funerals than graduations and weddings combined. I have experienced all the hardships of inner city living such as drug use and gang shootouts. I have personally done things that my mother wouldn't be proud of. At the age of 26 I am the only person in my immediate family that has earned a college degree. I chased my dreams because many of the family members and close friends were not able to achieve theirs. I believe now I have created a blueprint for those that will follow me.

What does this degree really mean to me? This Juris Doctor degree is more than adding J.D to the end of my name. It is more than making a decent living for my current and future family. This degree is the template on how to be more than a lawyer. This degree is proof that you do not only have to be an athlete, entertainer or drug dealer in order to be successful.

You do not have to settle with being a product of your environment. You don’t need to have rich parents to be successful. All you need is determination and these 5 principles that I have trusted throughout my law school journey: (1) you have to trust God, (2) you have to be willing to take a chance and step out of your comfort zone, (3) be determined not to accept anything less than success, (4) believe in yourself. Believe that you are great, and (5) never lose focus of your goal.

If these principles can be incorporated into our daily routines then there should be no reason that we wait 40 years to see the next Black President, or 40 years to see the first female Black president, or 30 years to see another Martin Luther King Jr., or Malcolm X, or 20 years for the next Dr. Ben Carson. No excuses!!! No reason to hear " I can't because I'm from: the south side of Chicago; or 9th Ward of New Orleans; or Compton, California; or Jersey City, New Jersey;” or any other impoverished neighborhood.

I will be more than just an attorney. I aspire to be a role model to the ones who are constantly told "You Can't." I may never live to be the Supreme Court Justice of the United States, however, my journey will spark my brothers and sisters to be the next Thurgood Marshall or Ella Baker.

Although, the journey to success will be tough, hold fast to your dreams and God will guide you along the way. May Blessing Be Upon Everyone!

I thank the staff, professors, and students at North Central University School of Law for believing in me, supporting me, and pushing me.