Portrait Project

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Anna

Being a Dominican immigrant, a queer woman, and a law student sometimes seems at odds with each other. But getting to know other women of color, immigrants and queer students lets me know that we do belong here. We weren't given a free ride. And we worked hard to get here. No one can take that away from us.

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Dru

In public interest law, I am much more likely to look like my clients than my colleagues. This is particularly true in the world of international human rights, where women and girls of color are being deeply impacted by issues ranging from human trafficking and poverty, to displacement and migration due to war or environmental degradation.

There is a deep and natural empathy that I feel towards these women because I can easily see my brown face in theirs and see myself in their shoes if circumstances had turned out differently for me. It also works that the women can see themselves or their family members in me. This helps in building good relationships and also helps me to be a better advocate for their interests.

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Anya

It means that my parents came here for a stable future, but I am choosing an unstable path. It means my mom balancing her pride with how worried she is about my future. It means my grandma balancing my passion for my work with my uncertain security for my future family. It means my dad balancing his idea of rich lawyers with the BART passes he gives me to get to work. It means “Thank you for the offer on the immigration team. Yes, I know my Spanish skills would be an asset, but I would really love to work in the Dependency section.” It means despite all of this, my degree is a privilege.

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Genesis

I am a woman, a second-generation immigrant, an Afro-Latina, a daughter, a law student, and more. For me, law school opens doors that I never imagined possible. It provides my family with a small portion of the success that mi mami immigrated and worked hard for. It also provides me with a platform to serve my community. The struggles I face are intersectional as they lie at the crux of race, gender, and socioeconomic lines. I hope to use my story to empower women of color and provide my community with a fragment of the peace of mind we deserve.

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Deborah

Our very presence is resistance in this space. Learning the law that excludes our collective experiences, while unlearning the status quo in which we were inculcated. Feeling alienated by my own presence here in this place of privilege as a Korean American womxn and a daughter and granddaughter of immigrants, while finding community with the womxn of color here. Being in advocacy spaces in this school where there are only womxn of color, while joining a larger community of womxn of color who are changing the spaces and structures beyond these walls. I am empowered and inspired by the womxn of color around me, like my mother, whose radical love dares to dream of something new for this world. I too take part in this community to fight for a new sense of justice centered in humanity and grounded in love.


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Henna

I am a woman, a second-generation immigrant, an Afro-Latina, a daughter, a law student, and more. For me, law school opens doors that I never imagined possible. It provides my family with a small portion of the success that mi mami immigrated and worked hard for. It also provides me with a platform to serve my community. The struggles I face are intersectional as they lie at the crux of race, gender, and socioeconomic lines. I hope to use my story to empower women of color and provide my community with a fragment of the peace of mind we deserve.

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Monica

“Be the person you needed when you were younger.” -Ayesha Siddiqi

The person my younger self needed was someone with whom she could safely share her fears, struggles, questions, and confusions. Someone who affirmed her brown girl voice as powerful, for both its fury andits softness. The person my younger self needed was someone who refused the world’s refusals, resisting against the structural violence and silence written onto her body and the bodies of so many others. Who not only loudly demanded her (communities’) right to exist with freedom, dignity, and power, but joined others in weaving together maps toward liberation. Who disarticulated structures of domination with radical softness, vulnerability, and community. To me, being a womxn of color in the law means taking a small step in the long journey toward becoming this person.

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Farrah

Being a woman of color in the law is one of the greatest privileges of my life. I embody many “firsts.” First in my family to go to college. First to go to law school. First to be permitted to pursue self-realization rather than survival. I have stood on many shoulders to be here.

The privilege carries with it a heavy burden to make sure “firsts” are no longer the defining features of womxn of color entering this profession. Ironically, that requires understanding how law has subjugated, rather than liberated, people who look like me.

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Ivey

I am white-passing. I am multiracial. I am a woman. I am a human. I am worthy. I come from a line of strong, giving, and intelligent women of color. By earning a law degree, I am doing justice to the women who came before me who proved that, in a world which told them they were nothing, they were something. In a world which told them they were weak, they were strong, In a world which told them they would fail, they could succeed. That success begins through taking up space in law school as a multiracial woman and by showing other women just like me that they belong here too.

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Karin

Increasing representation and forging a space for people of my community within this profession.

Having the authority to fearlessly stand up to injustice and be a warrior protecting my community from the discriminatory scrutiny that has plagued us for almost 20 years.

To relentlessly work to create a feminist and inclusive space where as women we build bridges together to empower one another to follow our passions and achieve our dreams.

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Liv

Being a womxn of color in law school is so many things. It’s anchoring myself to this community and knowing that there is always someone to learn from, look up to, support and be supported by, laugh with, cry with, sit in silence with, plot the revolution with. It’s cherishing that this is friendship in its deepest and truest form. It’s sometimes fearing that there is no room for error but also feeling like we’re entitled to complexity and mistakes too. It’s remembering that there is so much to be angry about but never forgetting that our joy moves the world.

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Nerissa

It’s a never-ending struggle of convincing myself that I belong in an institution that was not made for those who come from my community. It’s shamelessly taking up space, unlearning the fear of voicing my opinions and sharing my experiences in rooms full of people who may not understand them. As someone who is also a first generation professional, creating a network of strong womxn of color has not only been a source of empowerment, but also a space to go for advice on how to navigate this profession. Though persevering through obstacles associated with my identity can be tiring, I push through knowing that my presence increases the much-needed representation for womxn of color in the legal field.

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Shreya

Being a law student and being a woman of color are two fundamental aspects of my identity. At times it feels like the two are in conflict with each other. I want to be my most authentic self, but as a law student and future lawyer I am expected to act in a certain way. I think solidarity among POC in the legal system is critical for encouraging future generations of lawyers. Working together will help create a community where people can be their true authentic selves and not have that clash with their career as a lawyer. My goal is to make change within the system so future generations of lawyers of color can be their authentic selves and not have to worry about fitting into a predetermined mold.

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Janani

I am white-passing. I am multiracial. I am a woman. I am a human. I am worthy. I come from a line of strong, giving, and intelligent women of color. By earning a law degree, I am doing justice to the women who came before me who proved that, in a world which told them they were nothing, they were something. In a world which told them they were weak, they were strong, In a world which told them they would fail, they could succeed. That success begins through taking up space in law school as a multiracial woman and by showing other women just like me that they belong here too.

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Karla

Being a woman of color in the law means speaking up and challenging the status quo with your presence and ideas. It means not only being able to communicate in my clients’ language, but having a mutual understanding of what women, immigrants, and POC have to deal with in this country on a daily basis. It means supporting the WOC around me and lifting as I climb, just like the women before me did. It means feeling the struggles of your community and the world in your bones and attempting to ease that pain as much as possible. It means inserting yourself into spaces that are not used to your fire.

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Maya

It's like an exercise in modulated breathing. Like trying to find space to breathe in a place that doesn't have enough air. I always have to weigh when to spare or expend my breaths to speak out in a space that was designed to silence me. I always have to determine which parts of myself I should bring into the classroom or, later, into the courtroom. I always have to figure out which parts of myself are worth sacrificing to a discipline, a profession, and a practice that always tells me that I don't belong. It's about trying to decide when to shout and when to save my breaths.

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Pearle

It’s a never-ending struggle of convincing myself that I belong in an institution that was not made for those who come from my community. It’s shamelessly taking up space, unlearning the fear of voicing my opinions and sharing my experiences in rooms full of people who may not understand them. As someone who is also a first generation professional, creating a network of strong womxn of color has not only been a source of empowerment, but also a space to go for advice on how to navigate this profession. Though persevering through obstacles associated with my identity can be tiring, I push through knowing that my presence increases the much-needed representation for womxn of color in the legal field.

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Zainab

Being in law school as a woman of color affords me constant reminders that my experience of living in the margins gives me a powerful justice-seeking and compassionate perspective towards those who fall within the crosshairs of the law. I feel better able to recognize the hierarchies of power that legal doctrine serves, maintains, and usually perpetuates. Being a Muslim woman of color of Palestinian and Kashmiri heritage, two places that have experienced so much oppression, has made me deeply interested in issues of access to justice - for whom does the law exist, and for what purpose? I think it is only by asking these questions that we might center dignity and humanity in our work as lawyers.

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Jessica

Being in law school as a woman of color means being surprised one day when you realize how alone you have felt since you got there. It means trying to feel normal while feeling inadequate but having to be exceptional. It sometimes means you step up--not because you are ready, but because it is time. It is joy when your team wins. It is a constant give and take. Being a woman of color in law school means believing that you have taken your rightful seat at the table and maybe even someday on the bench. It means taking up space without asking for forgiveness and making space for those to come.

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Kiki

Being a womxn of color in law school means I can speak from experience about multiple systems of oppression and how they work together. My identities as a womxn and as a person of color help me understand and advocate for those with intersectional identities beyond my own. I am the bridge between theory and practice. My existence is a challenge to law school's norms and its established paths of social change. I am here because of so many womxn of color before me from history, this law school, and within my own family. I can envision and work towards an alternate future rooted in my own reality that would liberate the most marginalized members of our society.

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Michelle

It is a desire to break down racial barriers in the legal profession, while concurrently overcoming the day-to-day microaggressions that leave me questioning whether I belong here at all. I find myself code-switching between my Korean family, my American friends, and predominantly white lawyers, unsure of who I am at the end of the day. I am cognizant of the hypocrisy that I am learning from an institution founded in memory of a white man, who did not want anyone who looked like me to set foot in this country.

But we are here. The womxn of color in my life are a reminder that I don’t have to be alone. Our presence is progress, and our successes will last for generations.

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Sana

I’m constantly trying to ensure that I use my degree to stop injustice against my community. As I move through an elite institution like Berkeley Law, I feel added pressure to speak louder to be a voice that is often left ignored. I often feel like I am doing a disservice when I stumble, often feel like I don’t have the luxury to be timid. I often fight the insecurity of being alone and “first”, while simultaneously feeling like I am never doing enough.