Editors’ Note: This month, in celebration of the pioneers who paved ─ and continue to pave ─ the way for civil rights and equality in America, we are featuring a Q&A miniseries with MoFo attorneys of color to discuss what Black History Month means to them.
Crystal N. Kaldjob is an associate in the Financial Services Group of Morrison & Foerster’s Washington, D.C. office.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is a time of celebration and reflection. As the daughter of parents who grew up in a segregated South, attended segregated schools, and lived through the Civil Rights Movement, I always take time to reflect upon the progress that has been made, and the progress that still needs to happen. I also believe it is a time not only to celebrate Black leaders of the past, but to also admire how the next generation are taking on leadership roles, such as Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old who gave a powerful speech at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.
If you could have dinner with someone who was a pioneer for civil rights, who would it be and why? What would you ask him/her?
I would love to have dinner with the youth who were active during the Civil Rights Movement, such as the student organizers and participants in the meetings and activities of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Freedom Riders. I am emboldened by their courage, resolve, and pure determination to evoke change. I would ask this diverse group of members to share their stories, their struggles, and how they learned and evolved from their early sit-ins. I would also glean advice on how to become active and stay active for civil rights causes.
What words of wisdom do you have for the next generation of aspiring Black lawyers?
Be persistent, be confident, take personal and professional risks, lean on mentors or sponsors for guidance, and look back to learn from your past successes and failures. Confidence and persistence, while important in any professional setting, are key attributes for advancing your legal career. Black attorneys are often high-performing, dedicated, and driven, but whether it’s within a Big Law firm, in-house, government, or anywhere else in the legal industry, believing in yourself and possessing determination will go a long way. Reflecting on your past experiences will inspire you to be a better lawyer, and it often impresses you to know how much you’ve grown both personally and professionally. If I could go back in time, I would also give this advice to my 18-year-old self.