August 28, 2017
Kemar Brown

By Jeanne Leong

Kemar Brown’s interest in law was sparked in high school, but he decided to pursue other interests after college, and now, after earning two master’s degrees and working in several other fields, he’s attending law school.

A Social Justice Scholar, Brown hopes to work in civil rights. The program recognizes students for their social justice work. In addition to a partial scholarship, he and the other 12 new Social Justice Scholars each have a faculty mentor to help prepare them for public-service work.

“I’ve always wanted to fight for people who aren’t able to fight for themselves,” says Brown, a first-year Rutgers Law School student from Hyattsville, Md.

While he was an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, College Park, Brown had aspirations of becoming a lawyer, but decided to major in economics. After graduating in 2010, he says he didn’t feel confident in his ability to succeed in law school, so he took a different path.

He earned an MBA and a master’s degree in marketing from the University of Maryland. For several years, he was a project analyst, and then he was a manager at a Target store in Annapolis while also holding a job as a flight attendant for American Airlines.

However, Brown kept thinking about a career in law. He says he was driven to apply to law school after the 2016 presidential election.

“I’m a proponent of not limiting people’s freedom, whether or not you agree with their choices,” says Brown. “Once I saw how things were shaping up, it gave me that motivation to shake off my insecurities and my doubts, and be motivated to attend law school because I could be of help.”

As an undergraduate at the University of Maryland, he founded an HIV awareness program to support a classmate who was shunned by other classmates because they found out that she was HIV-positive. Brown coordinated with HIV awareness groups to bring speakers, including someone who was born with HIV, to the university to provide information and to answer students’ questions.

“The following week in class, I noticed that when she sat down, people who would normally run from her sat around her and engaged her in conversation,” Brown says.

Brown’s family emigrated from Jamaica to the United States when he was 14 years old. His mother worked long hours at the Hecht’s department store to raise him and his two brothers, but she also found time to go to school at night to get her GED.

He credits his mother and his high school track coach for helping him stay focused on doing well in school, rather than what his friends were doing. He vividly remembers one evening when he was in high school when his mother came home from work after a rough day, and he heard her crying as she was praying.

“She was asking the Lord to please help her and show her a path,” says Brown. “She chose to make the sacrifice to come to the U.S. so that we could have a better life than she had. Hearing that drove me to stay away from certain bad situations because I’ve always wanted to make her proud and to make her sacrifices worthwhile.”

His coach would drive him home after practice so he could work on school projects and be well rested for track meets instead of hanging out at the mall with friends. As a member of the track team, he was also required attend study halls on the weekend and to stay out of trouble to remain on the team.

An honor student in high school, he is the only person in his family and his group of friends to attend college.

In his senior year of high school, he and a group of friends were walking down a street, when several police officers inexplicably stopped them and forced them to lie on the ground as the officers searched them. “Whatever profile they were looking for, we did nothing wrong,” says Brown. Nothing came up in the officers’ search of the young men, and they were not charged with any crime, but the injustice of the incident always stayed with him. “We had no one to turn to, to say, ‘This happened to me. It’s not right,’” says Brown. “I never wanted to feel that way again and I want to make sure no one feels that way.”

“I grew up in an impoverished neighborhood and I saw how not knowing the law can affect low-income immigrants who don’t speak English that well or don’t understand the culture,” Brown says. “There’s no one who is going to be a champion for them.”

Brown says that he wants to work to protect civil liberties.

“I feel I am needed and I could be of help,” Brown says.

Rutgers Law Media Contacts:
Mike Sepanic (Camden); Elizabeth Moore (Newark)

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