Between the late nights spent studying law at Florida A&M University, Micah Green sells T-shirts displaying the words “Black Lawyers Matter.”
His T-shirt venture and its message, a parallel concept to the more popular social movement called “Black Lives Matter,” began in January as a fundraiser for the Black Law Student Association at FAMU. It rapidly garnered an unexpected amount of social media attention soon after with the help of UCF alumna and FAMU graduate Jocelyn Rodriguez.
Rodriguez said from the moment she heard of the idea and saw the shirts, she thought it was ingenious. It was the mass circulation of her photo wearing the shirt that really brought attention to the tees.
“I just happened to take a picture in it one day accompanied with a quote, and it went viral,” Rodriguez said. “It had over 7,000 shares in a matter of a week, so it’s been getting a lot of publicity ever since and really positive feedback.”
In the wake of the shirt’s viral popularity, Green decided to register for a godaddy.com domain and created an online store to sell the trademarked tees in an effort to “change the media narrative surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement” and encourage black youth to enter the legal field.
“There was a lot of reluctance from our school about selling the shirts and the kind of attention that it was going to get, but I was actually one of the first people to say I really want one,” Rodriguez said. “I really enjoy the message, especially with all the things that are going on today in the community.”
Green got involved with recent social issues plaguing the African-American community before he started law school. He participated in the Trayvon Martin protests outside of the Seminole courthouse every day, sharing that he personally believes the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case, unfortunately, “paved the way for justifiable homicide.”
His conviction regarding the controversial case, along with his time at UCF, propelled him to study law after getting a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management. As a UCF student, Green dealt with the school’s student conduct board on several occasions. In one particularly troublesome instance, he defended himself in a student conduct trial by citing case law and citizen rights and proudly says he won the trial within an estimated 20 minutes.
The profits from the popular shirts are now donated to student scholarships, mission trips and the cost of the bar exam for students. Green is optimistic the message on the tees will also encourage people to do what he did at UCF to defend themselves and others in the black community.
“I hope it’ll inspire people to look more into the legal claims or legal issues as opposed to just the mainstream media’s story where they just blame everything on these police officers,” Green said. “I hope when they read the shirt it will take the blame off the police officers and people will actually start looking at judges and jury instructions, for instance.”
Christian Lexima, a UCF alumnus and current FAMU law student, hopes the shirts give people the opportunity to talk about the issue, encourage students to go to law school and “represent the African-American society because they’re underrepresented.”
The percentage of black people in the United States is 13 percent, according to the 2010 U.S. Census; however, black attorneys in the legal profession have lingered around 4 to 5 percent for the past few years. Lexima, Green and Rodriguez all agree that such disproportionate numbers have the potential to negatively affect the black community.
“I think it does matter because at the end of the day, even as an attorney, I think some of your personal biases might go into your work,” Lexima said. “So by having more black lawyers out there representing the black population, in general, is something that needs to be talked about and encouraged. Even if they don’t become an attorney, at least they will have a knowledge of the law because a lot of our community is affected by [the law].”
Gabby Baquero is the News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @Gabby_Baquero or email her at MariaB@centralfloridafuture.com