Howard University senior Kenae Damon watched her father, her teenage cousin and her uncle all go to prison for various crimes during her lifetime.
Now, the one-time journalism major has decided she no longer wants to tell news stories. Instead she wants to fight for those charged with crimes.
“The older I got the more family members I had that went to jail,” Damon, 21, said sitting in her journalism class.
It was one of the main reasons why she knows that becoming a lawyer, “will help [her] community in the courtroom.”
Although Damon is completely confident in her decision to pursue a career in law, at her Philadelphia high school Damon was convinced that she wanted to be a TV news anchor, which led to her major in broadcast journalism. She said “it looked like anchors had a lot of fun.”
Everything changed however when she took Bahiyyah Muhammad’s juvenile delinquency course as a junior. She then decided that, “she wanted to do law more than media.”
As part of the course, Damon visited juveniles in the prison system in Washington at least six times throughout the semester. It reminded her of her father, teenage cousin and uncle, who were all imprisoned at the time on drug related charges. While her father had been in and out of jail all her life, her cousin was incarcerated only once, and her uncle twice.
Although, “journalism could help me with my writing,” she said, the realization that she could do more good as an attorney convinced her to change her career plans. She had found her passion.
“I wasn’t afraid or scared,” Damon said about visiting the detention center. “The only fear I had was not knowing what to expect, but there was no fear about what the juveniles might do or say.”
They were normal kids who over the semester started to tell her about their lives and how they got there. After all of their interactions and visits, she felt good about the work accomplished. “My heart was full,” she said.
“I found that I wanted to be a part of the rehabilitation process, instead of simply writing about issues,” Damon said. She wants to actively participate in making things right.
As a lawyer Damon said she knows that she can do the most good. She can be like her role models: her maternal grandmother Geraldine Ivory and former First Lady Michelle Obama. They both have taught her to “help her community,” while, “being real and down-to-earth. Retiring as a social worker, Ivory showed Damon how to be, “warm and trusting,” It served her well as a professional and as the matriarch of the family by, “always being there,” she said.
When you first meet Damon, she often displays an exuberant personality, frequently punctuated with smiles and nods during conversation. She will most likely give a lulling, breathy pronunciation of her name before she shares just how she will get, “more out of helping [her] community and family by defending people.”
“I want to defend my own-kind and keep black men out of jail,” Damon said.