Alexis Hawkins attended at Ballou High School in Southeast Washington, D.C. until she was 15-years-old. Hawkins was involved in a brawl with 20 girls from feuding neighborhoods. Hawkins was subsequently expelled. She was a good student academically and spent years in the foster care system because she was living in an unstable home.
Edwin Bucker a Washington, D.C. police officer assigned to Ballou at time arrested Hawkins.
“Congress Park girls were known to fight – and Alexis was a fighter. She was also an A student and never bothered anyone. But she would not back down from a fight if it involved her neighborhood,” Buckner told The Washington Post.
“We band together for protection. We fight out of loyalty and friendship, right or wrong. The result is just more trauma that goes unaddressed…It saddens me because…some of my friends have been the victims of homicide. A lot of us are living in poverty and come from homes that are not always supportive,” Hawkins said.
After being expelled, Hawkins was out of school for six months before finishing her education. Then she enrolled in the Woodland Job Corps Center in Laurel, Maryland, eventually earning her GED. Hawkins would go on to attend Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, majoring in criminal justice. Then she finished her undergraduate degree, Hawkins went on to attend Howard Law School. Now, 13 years after getting expelled, Hawkins has graduated with her law degree.
“I just had to keep believing in myself, stay focused and not give up on my goals,” Hawkins said.
The 28-year-old credits her transformation to a trip she took during the summer of 2008 with the Peaceaholics, an anti-violence group based in D.C. co-founded by Ronald Moten and Jahar Abraham. The trip was a week-long civil rights tour held in the south, attended by girls. The girls were taken to historical sties on their trip.
“That touched me because I’m a fighter. I have a warrior spirit, too. Annie Cooper made me realize that I was fighting the wrong people. I was fighting people who looked like me, Black girls who came from the same community, who had gone through the same hardships. She made me understand that I should be using my mind, my energy to fight racism and dismantle systems of oppression that create underserved neighborhoods and school-to-prison pipelines,” Hawkins said. Hawkins is now preparing for her bar exam, hoping to work her way up to become a public defender and ultimately a judge.
“Although my accomplishments are rare for where I came from, I will work to make sure that is not the case for long. I want girls like me to have even more opportunities than I had, even more support, and I will always be reaching back, giving back, and pulling them forward,” Hawkins said.
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