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Female Success Factor » Hampton University grad Melanie E. Bates talks being wrongfully jailed

Hampton University grad Melanie E. Bates talks being wrongfully jailed

(Photo provided: C Media USA)

Tell us about your education and training.
I graduated from Hampton University with a Bachelor of Science in marketing. I earned my Juris Doctor from North Carolina Central University School of Law. I am licensed to practice law in the District of Columbia.

Over the years, I have participated in various training and workshops. I am a graduate of the D.C. Bar Leadership Academy, a highly competitive program through which 25 applicants are selected to receive comprehensive training that arms them with the tools necessary to become successful leaders of the bar. I am also a graduate of the New Leaders Council Institute (NLC), Washington, D.C. Chapter. NLC is another highly competitive program that provides emerging leaders with the ability to develop thoughtful, strategic plans for achieving success in their respective fields. I was honored to be selected as the student speaker for our graduation ceremony. Most recently, I attended SPIN Academy. The SPIN Academy facilitates extensive workshops for nonprofit leaders on practical communications, while providing a space for peer learning and networking. Additionally, I have participated in East of the River Communications Series, Netroots Nation, American Bar Association Bar Leadership Institute, Collaborative Bar Leadership Academy and D.C. Bar Basic Training and Beyond, among others.

What is your title and job description?
I currently serve as director of communications for the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF). In this role, I am responsible for all FPF communications requirements including website updates, media relations, internal member communications, and social media presence. I assist with the development of FPF’s strategic communications plan and support the availability of written or in-person representation of FPF’s position on important public policy questions on consumer privacy issues.

What is your passion?
I have a strong passion for criminal justice reform. I believe it is incumbent upon our society to ensure that every person, regardless of socioeconomic status, has access to quality legal representation. Poverty, lack of education, and other social issues should not feed the pipeline to prison. Through consistent advocacy, I desire to alleviate the factors that force many people to become a part of the criminal justice system.

Have you found a way to work in your area of passion?
Yes. I currently serve on the Advisory Board of Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. The organization uses books, creative writing, and peer support to awaken D.C. youth incarcerated as adults to develop their own potential. Through creative expression, job readiness training, and violence prevention outreach, these young poets achieve their education and career goals and become powerful voices for change in the community.


How do you process racism?
It is undisputed that African Americans are racially profiled and discriminated against consistently by law enforcement, due to implicit bias stemming from the horrendous history of this nation. African Americans are pulled over by police, searched, and arrested at tremendously higher rates than whites. For example, the inmate population at the D.C. jail is 89.1 percent African American, but African Americans only make up 48.3 percent of the city’s population! These figures are shocking and demonstrate how African Americans must always be prepared to demand equal treatment under the law. As Thurgood Marshall stated, “Mere access to the courthouse doors does not by itself assure a proper functioning of the adversary process.”

What has been the most important lesson life has taught you?
The most important lesson life has taught me is patience is a virtue. I have learned to remain strong during adversity. Navigating difficult situations makes you a better person and equips you with the tools to reach your goals.

What advice would you give young African American girls?
I would advise young African American girls to love themselves. I would caution them from allowing others to dictate their lives and to not change for anyone. I would tell them that they are strong, beautiful, and capable of achieving whatever they may dream of.