From my first job as a summer-school tutor when I was 15 years old, to my current job as Oakland’s Chief Assistant City Attorney, I’ve always felt the most fulfilled when I’m helping others.

I take pride in hard work and I find joy in public service. These are just a few of the values I inherited from my parents and step-parents, three public school teachers and a public school principal.

If I was molded as a person by my family, then I was forged at Howard University, one of our country’s most renowned Historically Black College-Universities (HBCUs). Attending with the help of scholarships, I worked as an editor for the school newspaper and a technician for the U.S. Forest Service. Howard instilled in me  a passion for  racial justice and promoting Black excellence. I witnessed how young people of color can and will thrive in a community that’s serious about tearing down barriers to opportunity and protecting them from institutional racism.

At the same time, I was coming of age in the nation’s capital in the mid-1990s, and I saw the deadly impacts of unchecked racism and inequality. Like many of my peers, I understood I had been tremendously blessed, and I knew I had a responsibility to give back. For me, it started with volunteering weekly as a mentor at a group home for boys in Maryland.

After graduating with honors from USC Gould School of Law, I landed a job working at an international law firm. The training and experience I received there were invaluable, but representing big corporations in deals and lawsuits simply wasn’t for me.

Not long after, I quit my corporate job and began a journey of public service — first opening my own law firm dedicated to helping people start small businesses to eventually finding my calling fighting workplace harassment and discrimination. This work was fulfilling but it didn’t always pay the bills. At one point, I came within weeks of losing my home in foreclosure. Experiencing the pain that financial hardship brought me and my family serves as a daily reminder of who and what I fight for.

Having made it through a challenging time, I thought I was living my best life. But it got even better when I met a kindred soul. My now wife, Zea, was a San Francisco native living in LA and finishing her training as a pediatrician. Long story short, I fell in love with her, her two wonderful moms, her family, and the Bay Area. Not long after we got married, we decided we wanted to raise our family surrounded by the Bay Area’s progressive politics and unparalleled diversity.

I was called to public service, and I knew in my heart that Oakland was where I belonged. Diversity brings me a sense of safety, and Oakland’s diversity was beyond anything I’d ever seen.

I was so determined to work for the City of Oakland that I applied for several jobs before I was able to get my foot in the door as an analyst in the City’s equal employment office. I began investigating employee complaints of discrimination and harassment and proudly joined IFPTE Local 21. I had never been happier or more fulfilled at work. I was eventually encouraged to apply for a supervisory position in the City Attorney’s office. After I met City Attorney Barbara Parker and her team, I decided I could take my contributions to another level.