Editors’ Note: As part of our ongoing Faces of MoFo series and in celebration of Black History Month, Christina Golden Ademola, an associate in the firm’s Litigation Practice, discusses how her childhood affected her desire to practice law and how it served as the foundation for her career at MoFo.
Like so many others, my paternal grandparents fled the Jim Crow South, leaving East Texas behind in search of opportunities and a better life for themselves and their three young sons. They established themselves in Xenia, Ohio—not too far from Wilberforce, Ohio, home to not one but two prestigious historically Black colleges and universities, Wilberforce University and Central State University. Early in his career, W.E.B. Du Bois taught at the former. My great-grandfather served as dean at the latter. My dad’s father became the principal of the local junior high school and coached varsity football and track at the local high school. Meanwhile, my maternal grandparents also felt Xenia calling them and their seven children from further north in Ohio. My mom’s father became a professor at Central State University, while my mom’s mother finished her post-graduate studies at Ohio State University. Both sides of my family descended upon this little-known small town because of the nearby educational opportunities.
With so much emphasis on education, my grandparents consistently rewarded me for my strong academic performance, encouraging me to continue to push myself, handing me crisp $20 bills and $50 checks for each report card. My mom’s parents—the professor and the librarian—fed me endless books from varied genres from history to mystery to fantasy. I marveled at the tales of Black excellence from far-off places in West Africa to local African American heroes. In my early life, I was certain I would follow my mom’s father into academia, serving as a professor of African American studies. I quickly understood that education could be the great equalizer, opening up a world of opportunities that might otherwise be beyond my grasp in my small town.
Somewhere between learning to drive my first car and my high school choir trip to New York, my passion for the law deepened. In high school, I participated in mock trial under the leadership of Mr. Duff, a retired police detective, who encouraged my curiosity to understand how the most precise legal argument might overcome whatever evidence we faced. Working through opening and closing statements in my mock trial course, I marveled at the model jury box and relished the opportunity to sit at the counsel table.
When I left home to attend college in New York, my dad’s father called to give me an encouraging word, pushing me forward as he always did. In college, my dad’s mother—the undeniable leader of my personal hype squad—called me each Sunday afternoon to remind me to take care of myself, to eat well, and to get sufficient rest. We continue this tradition to this day. When I graduated from Columbia University with my bachelor’s degree, three of my grandparents were there cheering me on, radiating pure joy. And when I enrolled in Columbia University again for my law degree, my mom’s mother could hardly contain her enthusiasm, reminding me that my grandfather had wanted to be an attorney too but “couldn’t hack it.” Seeing her granddaughter achieve the goal that had somehow evaded my grandfather, gave her a great sense of pride. My grandparents have always been there to celebrate my career milestones, lifting me up, and reminding me of all that I have accomplished.
Each and every day that I practice in my profession, I know it is a gift and I remember the sacrifices from my grandparents that made it all possible. Much has been written of late about Black women attorneys and our stories about “proving” that we in fact belong in this profession. Many of us have faced strangers’ confused looks as they question our credentials, befuddled that we somehow “do not look like attorneys.” I confess that I, too, have my own tales that could easily fill this column. But those moments do not define who I am as an attorney and they do not rob me of the joy that I feel working in the profession that I love. And I take solace in knowing that I am quite literally the manifestation of the dreams my grandparents had all those decades ago, and for this, I am truly grateful.
Outside the office, you can find me doing my best impression of my dad’s mother in the kitchen recreating treasured family recipes and mastering new ones, and planning my next great adventure with my husband, Bayo.