Executive Assistant and NextGen Coordinator, Strategic Alliances, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
February 16, 2023
Q: Which historical Black figures inspire you and your work the most? Why?
A: The first history book I read was about Madame C.J. Walker— a Black entrepreneur and the first female self-made millionaire in the U.S. I was in awe of her courage to innovate and advocate for her business in one of the most racially divided periods of American history. Her story showed me to remain steadfast in my goals even in the face of opposition and sowed a seed of entrepreneurism that later flourished into my own small business, Glamour Girlz.
Attending President Barack Obama’s first inauguration was a pivotal moment in my childhood. Seeing a Black man in the highest position of power showed me that there were no limits to my dreams. One of those dreams was to become an attorney where I have found much inspiration from Justice Thurgood Marshall. In law school, learning the law’s historical inadequacy in addressing racial injustice has been challenging. Thurgood Marshall’s courage to face a legal system rooted in inequality and fight for the country he wanted to see has been a guiding light for me.
Q: What does it mean to you to be the first Harvard Law student in your family? How does this experience shape your vision and perspective for the work you will contribute as a leader?
A: Attending Harvard Law School is far from a solo achievement of mine. I am here because of my village comprised of mentors, friends, and most notably my family. At every step, my family dreamt with me and supported me in realizing those dreams even when I doubted myself. In that way, me attending Harvard Law is a communal achievement.
Being a first-generation law school student is not an easy journey. Navigating law school admissions and the legal industry is a difficult feat. I believe the financial and access barriers to entry in the legal field contribute to the field’s lack of diversity. As a law student, I work to increase the number of Black attorneys by mentoring aspiring Black law students as part of the New Membership Committee for the Harvard Black Law Students Association. This is work I plan to continue as an attorney.
Q: As a former NextGen Scholar, how can the U.S. Chamber be helpful to you in inspiring your goals?
A: The U.S. Chamber was my first internship. It was the first organization to invest in me and my professional development. This investment reaped unforeseeable benefits for my career – giving me a D.C. work community, numerous mentors, and hands-on work experience. Being a Next-Gen Scholar not only gave me confidence as a young Black professional but opened doors for me to other professional opportunities in finance, public relations, and politics. The U.S. Chamber continues to inspire me through the Next-Gen program where I get the opportunity to connect with and support other scholars.
Meet Kelsey Johnson:
Kelsey Johnson is a first-year J.D. candidate at Harvard Law School. She is a member of the Black Law Students Association, Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Program, and Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review. In these organizations, she works to highlight legal issues around racial injustice and support aspiring law students and locally incarcerated individuals.
Kelsey has interned across a broad range of industries including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, SKDK, Goldman Sachs, and the Office of U.S. Senator Mark Kelly. This May, Kelsey will join Covington & Burling as their Los Angeles 1L LCLD Scholar where she will work in corporate law and litigation.
Kelsey graduated from Howard University with a B.A. in Strategic, Legal, and Management Communication in 2022. An Arizona native, Kelsey enjoys baking, painting, and trying out new coffee shops.