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Alumni Spotlight: Tamica Daniel

April 29, 2022
Tamica Daniel
"I always had a deep-rooted passion to address inequality," says civil rights attorney Tamica Daniel.

Northwestern University alumna Tamica Daniel (BS03) is a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice who works on civil rights issues in housing, lending, public accommodations, and education. She majored in social policy and the School of Education and Social Policy and minored in African American Studies at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

You were born and raised in Houston. How did you find SESP?

Believe it or not, I was tagging along on my older brother’s tour of Northwestern. I saw a brochure in the admissions office and read a description of the social policy concentration. I knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do.

And you added a minor in African American studies?

There was something incredibly powerful about engaging with course material that reflects your lived experience or the lived experience of your collective community. Although my family is from Grenada in the Caribbean, the commonalities that run through the diaspora drew me in immediately. And my coursework studying African American history and culture complemented and enhanced my understanding of social policy.

Was law school always on the radar?

I knew I wanted to go to law school since I was a kid. I always had a desire to reason my way out of a problem. I also had a deep-rooted passion to address inequality. There are a variety of ways to tackle it, and no one method can work alone, but I always thought my strengths of logic, writing, and persuasion were a good fit for law.

Where did you do your practicum?

In Washington, D.C. at a non-profit organization called the Coalition for Community Schools, which is a model that makes schools the center of the community by providing access to a variety of resources. My practicum was instrumental in encouraging me to write my Senior Honors Thesis about community school approaches in Chicago.

Did you have personal experience that inspired you to work in civil rights?

I have enough personal and family stories about discrimination to write a book, which isn’t uncommon for Black people in America. My grandparents and parents struggled with housing and employment discrimination. There were establishments in the predominantly White neighborhood where my family lived that refused to let my dad even enter.

Were there also subtle forms of discrimination?                                  

My family constantly battled people’s misconceptions of us, which included not expecting me or my brother to go to “a college like Northwestern.” These regular brushes with discrimination and racial bias have negative effects on people and communities. They chip away at opportunities in tangible and intangible ways. Because of this and so much more, I decided to dedicate my career to addressing racial discrimination.

What is the one thing you wish someone had told you about being a civil rights attorney?

Wins can be the highest of peaks and losses can be the lowest of valleys. The hardest challenge is finding your way out of the valley to get to the next peak.

How do you define justice?

I don’t limit justice to a legal win. I view it as accomplishing an outcome that sheds light on an issue and makes a lasting impact on individuals and communities in a holistic way.

What is the most important civil rights issue today and why?

Because of our country’s history of forced migration and enslavement and the large role they have played in the development of the country and its institutions, race has always played a central role in our society. In addition, racial justice movements have served as templates for other civil rights movements. Thus, I believe addressing racial discrimination remains incredibly important.

Did you have a pivotal mentor?

Professor Pamela Harkins from the African American Studies Department saw every student’s unique experience and personality, and fostered thought and scholarship that was tailored to each student. If you ask what papers I wrote in college 20 or more years ago, other than my senior thesis and papers I wrote for Professor Harkins’ courses, I have very little recollection of what I wrote. But the paper I wrote on the politics of Black hair will stick with me forever.

Favorite way to destress?

I am in a non-professional Caribbean soca dance group in DC called Soka Tribe. Connecting with my culture through dance is my ultimate de-stressor. I also believe that balance and not always taking yourself too seriously are incredibly important. So I also distress by watching a fair amount of trash TV.

Such as?

I just watched Season 2 of "Love Is Blind." In stark contrast, I’m reading The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray. There’s that balance thing again.

If you could paint something on the Rock, what would it be?

“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth on them.” -- Ida B. Wells