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Monday, May 6, 2024

Black Woman From NYC, Previously Incarcerated, Passes Bar Exam on First Try

Afrika Owes

Nationwide — Afrika Owes, an African American woman from New York City who was previously incarcerated, has turned her life around and even recently passed the New York Bar Exam on her first try. Her emotional reaction to her success was captured in a now-viral TikTok video that has garnered nearly 3 million views.

In the video, Owes, surrounded by her brother and best friend, anxiously checks her exam results online. When she reads the news, Owes can’t contain her excitement, shouting, “I passed! I passed!” before breaking down in tears of joy.

Owes, now 30 years old, shared her story proudly, highlighting her journey as a formerly incarcerated single mother achieving this milestone. Owes expressed gratitude to her family, saying, “Thank you to my angels, my momma, my grandma. Thank you for my son, my brother, my family and my tribe.”

Her journey to becoming a lawyer was deeply rooted in childhood aspirations, inspired by her late mother Karen Owes’ community advocacy in Harlem.

However, her path wasn’t straightforward. At the age of 17, she got involved in a gang and was arrested and charged with conspiracy and weapons possession. Despite that, she remained determined to pursue her dreams.

After serving a short time and completing college under probation, Owes strived to turn her life around with the unwavering support of her loved ones in Harlem. Her success is particularly notable given the low pass rates among Black bar exam takers compared to their white counterparts.

“I strayed from my path, but they made sure that I got right back on track. They didn’t judge me, and they never let me go,” Owes said, according to ABC News. “I want my story to be a testament to that, for communities as well, that everybody makes mistakes.”

Owes, currently a third-year student at Fordham University School of Law, plans to graduate soon and hopes to specialize in tax law. Owes hopes her journey inspires others to pursue their dreams, showing that obstacles can be overcome.

“It can feel very isolating on this journey and I wanted people to know they are not alone and that I’m here,” Owes said. “And if I’m that one catalyst that shows you that you do belong, then I hope that that continues to push you on your journey.”