Section: News

On The Record: Jasmine Rand

On The Record: Jasmine Rand

photo by Emily Stegner

by Maya Kaufman

Jasmine Rand Esq., was the lawyer for Trayvon Martin’s family during the high profile 2012 case. She also represented Tamir Rice’s family. She is a professor at Florida A&M University and has been named one of the “Top 40 Under 40 Attorneys in the United States” by the National Bar. Rand spoke in Rosse Hall on Wednesday evening to a sizeable crowd.

What inspired you to specialize in cases involving civil rights and, more specifically, police brutality?

I think that I’ve wanted to be a civil or human rights attorney from the time I was about 10 years old, and the emphasis on police brutality is … I think the most fundamental constitutional right that we all have is the right to life, and so the systemic deprivation of black male life in particular is something that concerns me in our nation.

How did working on Trayvon Martin’s case affect you personally, if at all?

It affected me at a very deep, personal level. I think we have a duty and a responsibility to the next generation and our children to fight to preserve their lives and to give them equal opportunity within our nation. So the fact that Trayvon was killed and the killer, George Zimmerman, was not going to be arrested had a very deep impact on me, because it was sending a message to our children that their lives can be systemically taken from them and no one will be held accountable.

The killing of unarmed, young African-American men is nothing new. What was it about Trayvon Martin’s case that captured media attention and interest where little or no interest had existed before? How did social media play a role?

There are a lot of Trayvon Martins and there continue to be Trayvon Martins on a daily basis, but I think what was unique about his case was not the facts; I think it was the timing and I think that people were ready to stand up and make a difference. And, you know, there’s these moments in history where the people have just had enough and I think that was one of those moments, and social media has had a tremendous impact, not just on the Trayvon Martin case, but on this modern civil rights movement that we see emerging, because what has happened is that it led to unprecedented levels of collective action and cooperation among ordinary citizens who are able to now stand up and fight against these human rights abuses — not just in the United States, but across transnational boundaries.

What case or representation in your career has taught you the most?

I think I would definitely have to say the Trayvon Martin case, because I was very young when I started working on the case. I had only been out of law school for about two years. And it created a foundation for me, not just because of the magnitude of the case or the media attention, but because it showed me as a very young attorney my ability as an individual to create real, systemic change, and it showed me the value of working collectively with citizens all throughout the nation and citizens throughout the world to combat and confront human rights issues.

What advice do you have for college students interested in becoming lawyers?

I think for college students who are interested in becoming lawyers, you have to follow your passion and whatever passions you have within the law, because there are so many different types of attorneys and different areas of the law, and so follow your passions in the legal system and don’t commit from a very young age thinking that you have to be one type of attorney or thinking that the only way to become an attorney is to do well in political science or studies on governance. Study what you love and excel in undergrad and that will help you get admitted to law school, and then once you become an attorney, find what your niche is. Find what it is that you love about the law and pursue that, because in life you’ll excel when you’re doing what you love.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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