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Black Studies

Alum Heads to the Netherlands

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March 03, 2015

“Be like Nike and ‘Just Do It.’ Being a Black Studies minor comes with many advantages – both personal and professional.”

These are the wise words of 2010 graduate Joyell Johnson. Johnson majored in Humanities and minored in Black Studies. Since leaving WC, she has worked for the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives and at Volunteer Maryland. In the fall of 2012 she enrolled in law school, and will be graduating in May. Johnson is currently spending her final semester interning with the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the Netherlands in the Hague. She said, “ I am working with legal advisors and attorneys on the Ayyash et al case. ​Most of my assignments are confidential, given the sensitive subject, but I can tell you that the case is against five individuals who allegedly planned and executed the assassination of former Lebanon President, Rafik Hariri. Essentially, it is a case prosecuting terrorism.”

Johnson believes the Black Studies minor to be one of the most flexible minors students at Washington College, because “students gain knowledge that can be used in a variety of career paths.” She found that the minor has helped her understand the many types of people she will meet during her career as an attorney, both in the States and abroad. Johnson says, “I can empathize and sympathize people of color and women because the Black Studies minor widened my perspective on the role society has played in placing them in vulnerable positions. I cannot be a successful attorney, or activist, without first meeting my clients where they are and validating their experiences.”

There is no doubt in Johnson’s mind that the minor has helped bring her the amazing success that she has had so far in her career. Her favorite aspect of the minor was writing seminar papers on topics of her choice, as well as a field trip to Harlem. She encourages students to explore the minor, since “Not every minor overlaps with law, culture, and our ‘justice’ system.”  

While Johnson was a student at WC her favorite professor was Dr. Alisha Knight and her favorite course was Francophone with Professor Pears. Her favorite experience from her time at WC was her study abroad experience to Egypt, where she had the time of her life. “I believe that being in Egypt, and subsequently traveling to Palestine and Israel, was one of my inspirations for becoming more involved in international human rights law. Some of the injustices I saw in Egypt and Palestine were almost identical to the ones I saw in the United States. That was eye opening!” she says.

—Zoë Schneider ’15


Last modified on Mar. 19th, 2015 at 11:21am by CRM Lindsay Bergman.