Leadership Challenge: Discover your inner superhero

As a child, superheroes were larger than life. Superheroes defeated villains, overcame impossible feats, and used their powers to advance the cause of justice. An untold story about the history of comic book superheroes is that they represented the very essence of gladiators for justice. They took a courageous stand to address issues like poverty and oppression while yet promoting liberty and justice for all. For example, Superman represented the ultimate the level of strength and power beyond the restraints of one’s imagination. While, Batman used his intellect and skills to overcome evil and promote the common good. Or better yet, Flash defied the limitations of time and space in his quest for justice. Like your favorite superhero, you too can take a courageous stand for justice. You can leverage your technical training and leadership skills as tools to leave the world a better place than how you found it.

My favorite superheroes served as the inspiration for my vision of becoming Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire. Basically, Wonderwoman with a law degree and an afro. Can you see me now? I was determined to use my education in the struggle for justice. This fierce determination motivated me to become a lawyer and educator. Here are a couple simple steps for discovering your superhero within:

Find your passion

What would you use your super powers to achieve? I desired to use my super powers to achieve equal justice under the law. For me, I had no choice but to take a stand for justice and join in the struggle. Injustice was my reality. I saw firsthand the impact of the tangled web of mass incarceration with far too many entry points but far fewer exit points. The United States is the only industrialized nation in the history of the modern world which incarcerates the highest number of its’ citizens, with over 2 million people. America represents 5% of the world population but has 25% of the world’s prisoners.

As we delve deeper, we sooner ascertain the fact the majority of those imprisoned are people of color with more black men under the control of the criminal justice system in America today than who were enslaved in the 1850s. How can we live up to our ideal as a force of moral good with this challenge in our own front yard? This is a beckon call for the superheroes of our time to critically examine the emergence of the prison industrial complex and trends in mass incarceration.

Use your superpowers

My super powers are my legal training, passion for teaching and leadership skills. My legal training was one of my most powerful tools since the law is a language of power. I needed to learn this language in order to ensure that my community had access to their rights and a voice to shape their destiny. So Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire stepped on the scene. I soon discovered that:

  • I could use my ability to analyze issues to think of better solutions.

  • I could use my pen and paper to be an advocate. I could write for justice.

  • I could use my voice to raise the issues impacting my community.

Every good superhero needs a team and my team was a group of law students. A few years ago my students referred to themselves as the Justice League. This name was very fitting as they leveraged their legal skills to advance social justice. They inspired me to become a superhero for justice.

I used my superpowers to transform the classroom unto a learning laboratory where graduate students experiment by applying their technical training to address the social justice challenges of our time. Together, my students and I have created new inroads to justice and freedom. We fought the high rate of prison phone calls which prevented over 2.7 million children from communicating with their incarcerated parents. At a rate of $20 for a fifteen minute phone call families were between a rock and a hard place- accept a collect phone call from their loved one in prison or miss paying rent or even buying food. Our efforts reduced the rate phone calls at the Federal level but there is still work to do in states across the Nation to protect the right of families to remain connected.

This is just one example of our collective engagement in the pursuit of justice. It demonstrates the transformative power in each of our hands to make a difference in the world. My challenge for you today is to take a look at your hands and ask yourself: “what is in my hands to make a difference in the world?” When you look closely, you will find your superpower. Unleash your inner superhero!