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Homecoming 2020 Emerging Leader Award Kristen Adrina Johnson, Esq. ‘05

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Kristen Adrina Johnson, Esq. serves as Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the country’s premier legal organization for fighting for racial justice. Through litigation and advocacy, Kristen defends the civil rights of individuals and works to expand democracy and eliminate racial disparities to uphold the promise of equality for all Americans. Kristen litigates cases in state and federal courts throughout the country on matters of economic justice, voting rights, education, and criminal justice, including cases that have gone to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York with strong Caribbean roots, Kristen is a pastor’s kid and pastor’s grandchild who can trace her Nazarene connection back three generations on her father’s side and four generations on her mother’s side. Growing up in the Church of the Nazarene, Kristen found her way to ENC to study biology. She credits ENC for a Christian education that helped actualize her commitment to fighting for justice for marginalized communities.  Her coursework and interactions demonstrated that the pursuit of social justice and equality were not in conflict with faith, but that both convictions are inextricably intertwined—a foundation on which she has built her career.

Upon graduating from ENC and passionate about healthcare reform, Kristen attended the Harvard School of Public Health. In this highly competitive program, Kristen developed the skills necessary to address a wide variety of public health challenges, earning her M.S. in Health Policy and Management. Working for a brief period as an Administrative Fellow at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, Kristen quickly realized the need to put these newfound skills into action and effect change on a broader scale.

The first in her family to pursue law, Kristen attended UCLA School of Law, graduating in 2013. At UCLA, Kristen’s focus was on Critical Race Studies and Public Interest Law and Policy. It didn’t take long for Kristen to be recognized as a leader. Kristen was the first Black law student elected to serve as Editor-in-Chief of the UCLA Law Review. Kristen is now a member of both the New York and California State Bars. Before the NAACP LDF and immediately after law school, Kristen worked on complex commercial litigation at Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP, and before that she served as a law clerk to Judge Harry Pregerson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Kristen’s service to her church, to ENC, and her commitment to her family are also of paramount importance. She is the active Director of Community Access Programs as well as a member of her worship team at her home church, Wyandanch Community Nazarene Church. She also serves as a Trustee on ENC’s Board of Trustees representing the Metro NY District. Yet, perhaps what keeps Kristen most busy and fulfilled is her family—her husband Jelani and their soon-to-be three children: Solomon (5), Osayimwesi (3), and daughter (expected January 2021).

Photo credit: NAACP LDF

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