Happiest of Friday's Readers! This week we want to close out Black History Month with our final Black History Month Spotlights. We are so grateful to everyone who participated this year and want to thank Candace Washington and Dawn Baxton for starting this month off.
Anika Bailey is a 2017 graduate of Elon University School of Law and started working with juvenile clients at the same time joined the Guilford County Public Defender Office in 2019. She was only meant to fill in for the role but grew to love doing juvenile work and is still working with juveniles today. When asked why is Black History Month important to you & how does that impacts your juvenile work, Anika says, "4% of lawyers are Black and even less than that are Black women. Being a Black woman in a predominately White male workspace can be challenging. A challenge to be taken seriously, to be respected, and to be acknowledged. But that is the everyday life experience for many Black women in our country. It’s important for me to show my juvenile clients that they can grow beyond the struggles of their youth. I know that having a Black woman zealously advocating for them goes a long way, because representation matters. Seeing that I was able to make it to this position will hopefully inspire them to always aim high."
Woodrena Baker graduated from North Carolina Central Unversity School of Law in 1994 and in 1996 joined the Durham County Public Defender Office as an Assistant Public Defender. As a new assistant, she was assigned to represent youth charged with various crimes in juvenile court and found the work very rewarding and would try to offer her clients advice to navigate their complicated world. She continues to request youth charged with higher-level felonies in Chatham County juvenile court. When asked why is Black History Month important to you & how does that impact your juvenile work, Woodrena says, "It represents an opportunity to showcase African Americans who have contributed to our society. In school, we are taught a limited history of African-American history and culture. The education is centered around commonly known contributors. Instead of relying on the limited information taught in school, I have always enjoyed researching to find little known African-American contributors to learn and share their stories. This month is the perfect month to share the information learned."
Ronald Foxworth is the Chief Public Defender for the Robeson County Public Defender Office and graduated from North Carolina Central School of Law in 1991. As a dual licensed attorney in both North and South Carolina, he started his career in criminal defense work in South Carolina and the first cases he was ever involved in were juvenile cases.
When he came to NC as an Assistant Public Defender, the juvenile case load was low but if ‘Raise The Age’ had been in effect [where the age of juvenile was increased to 16 and 17 years old] then I have always represented juveniles. When asked why is Black History Month important to you & how does that impact your juvenile work, Ronald says, "Black History month is important because I came up during a time when the contributions of Black people was not taught in school to reflect the enormous contribution Black people have made to the great country of the United States of America. Black History month should not be necessary because it should be such a part of our culture and history that it doesn’t have to be singled out. Our history of discrimination and exclusion, subjugation and non-recognition and acceptance has made it necessary.
In the words of a famous Civil Rights Icon [Jessie Jackson], “I am somebody” and my life does “matter.” I must carry that belief with me in my work and somehow impart that to the Black youth that I encounter and strive to help navigate the criminal justice system. I somehow must show and help them find a better way or course in life, than juvenile detention or prison. If I am able to impact even one soul in a positive way and hopefully change the trajectory of a life, then my work and effort is not in vain and I matter even more. Hopefully it is more than one, and optimistically, too numerous to count."