July 01, 2017

Making a Difference: Empowering Leaders of Tomorrow

Artika R. Tyner

Every day, lawyers make a difference in the lives of people by serving as gatekeepers of justice. History demonstrates the important role that lawyers have played in promoting justice and advancing social change, whether by protecting the rights of children (Marian Wright Edelman), promoting equal access to a quality education for all children (Charles Hamilton Houston and Justice Thurgood Marshall), or advocating for the human rights of marginalized communities (Nelson Mandela). For decades, lawyers have been at the forefront of social change movements. Lawyers have played a key role in protecting the rights of the voiceless by serving as engineers of social change. This exercise of one’s technical training coupled with a courageous commitment to the cause of justice is demonstrative of leadership.

Leadership is an individual’s ability to exercise influence by organizing others around a shared vision. It focuses on making this vision become a lived reality in partnership with other collaborators and key stakeholders. Leadership is also about motivating and inspiring others to lead. During the process of social change, the leader focuses on empowering others to lead and sustaining the momentum of change movements. A leader recognizes that each person has a unique leadership role to play in influencing the process of justice. A leader also acknowledges that leadership is not hierarchical or positional but instead it is a shared responsibility to create stronger communities and collectively effect change. This is a new definition of leadership that focuses on what the collective can build together because we are stronger together than apart.

How can we lead together in the fight for justice?

One way to lead together in the fight for justice is to inspire the next generation to explore a career in law. This is why I decided to write a new children’s book about my journey to law school. In my book, “Making a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire,” I share stories about the many great heroes and sheroes who have come before me and modeled excellence in leadership. The main character of the book, Justice, loves reading and learning about history. Justice finds in her Grandma’s library of books motivation for her future. She learns about trailblazers for justice who created new inroads to freedom and liberty. With each chapter on her learning journey, she begins to discover the leader within. Justice decides to make a difference in the world by becoming a lawyer.

Justice’s love for superheroes shaped her vision for the future. Her dream was to become Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire—a superhero with a law degree and an afro. She was determined to use her education in the struggle for justice. As young readers follow Justice on her journey, they will begin to discover the leader within.

Over the next year, I will share words of inspiration and hand deliver 1,000 copies of Making a Difference to schoolchildren around the world. Starting in my hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota, and traveling to several cities, I will wrap up my book tour in Ghana. My goal is to motivate and inspire young people to become superheroes for justice who make a difference in the world. This is of critical importance because young people are the future. For generations, students have been at the forefront of social change movements, whether the Freedom Riders of the past (who fought against racial segregation) or the Dream Defenders of our present (who fight against “stand your ground” laws). Making a Difference: The Story of Miss Freedom Fighter, Esquire, can aid in equipping students for this important leadership role.

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Artika R. Tyner

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Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a passionate educator, award-winning author, civil rights attorney, sought after speaker, and advocate for justice who is committed to helping children discover their leadership potential and serve as change agents in the global community. She is the Founder/CEO of Planting People Growing Justice Leadership Institute. Her recently released leadership book, The Leader’s Journey: A Guide to Discover the Leader Within (ABA, 2015), provides indispensable tools for leadership development. At the University of St. Thomas, Dr. Tyner serves as the Associate Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion. She trains students to serve as social engineers who create new inroads to justice and freedom.