Becca’s Interview with Pamela Samuels

Pamela Samuels is a 62-year-old African American woman who is a retired lawyer and a current mystery writer. The first career that she had was a television news writer, which then led to her becoming a lawyer. Samuels was raised by her two parents in Compton, California and grew up with two brothers. 

Historical Events 

“Um the civil rights movement and um various like the the various um like the box riots. The um and other lets see box riots. Um Martin Luther King’s death.”

Pamela Samuels 

One of the first questions that I asked Samuels was if she has lived through any historical events that shaped the way she views society today. After a short time of thinking, the first event that she brought up was Trump’s election. She continued with other historical events such as the civil rights movement, the box riots, and the death of Martin Luther King. I instantly thought of how the only event she mentioned that I was alive for was Trump’s election, and I can’t even imagine what it would have been like being around for the other historical events that she mentioned. When Samuels brought up Trump’s election, it reminded me of this years election and how much I didn’t want to relive Trump’s election again for the second time. In class when I read the article, “What the Post Office Needs to Survive a Pandemic Election,” I learned about the extremes that the Trump administration went through to try to win this years election, such as blocking the postal service. The article states that, “This fall’s elections are the latest chapter in the slow-motion collapse of the U.S. Postal Service, one of America’s most venerated institutions” (Huseman, Jameel, McCarthy, 2020). This made me concerned about all the people who decided to vote by absentee ballot, including me. I was worried that not all the absentee votes would be counted in the election. 

Family Life 

Samuels grew up with her mom, dad, and two brothers. Her mother was a mail carrier and her father was a full maker. Her parents didn’t have an impact on her career options; her mother graduated high school and her father has a third-grade education. Even though her parents didn’t have an impact on her career, they were aware of the importance of education. 

“So, I mean they didn’t have an impact on career options um but they all knew that education was an important step in success in life.”

Pamela Samuels 

Education

Pamela Samuels grew up attending public schools in Compton, California and admits that her education was affected by her gender and race. She remembers being afraid to speak up in class because of both her gender and race. Samuels states, “I think boys are generally encouraged in subtle ways to be more assertive than women and women are encouraged not to be.” 

After high school, Pamela went onto higher education. She received her bachelor’s in journalism from USC, master’s in journalism from Northwestern, and J.D. from UC Berkeley’s School of Law. Samuels faced discouragement in her education at USC when her counselor discouraged her about taking a high level test. She believes that her counselor didn’t think that she would be able to pass the test due to her being a Black kid from Compton. She was convinced by her counselor to take a lower level test when she would have been able to pass the higher level test with no problem. This is a lesson that she still hold onto today. 

When I questioned Samuels about diversity in her education, she explained that she didn’t witness much diversity in law school. Samuels told me that women are well represented in law school, with 50% of the students being female, but African Americans are not as represented as women. This instantly reminded me of the feminist author, Bell Hooks. Bell Hooks described feminism as, “as long as women are using class or race power to dominate other women, feminist sisterhood cannot be fully realized” (Hooks 16). 

I related this quote by Bell Hooks to Black women not being well represented in law school, while White women are. Bell Hooks explained that feminism cannot work until all women unite to achieve goals that work for all women, regardless of race. It’s surprising that Black women are not as represented as White women in law school and I hope that changes in the future. 

Career

Pamela has experience working in both law and television, and admits that she faced disadvantages in both of those careers. Although women are well represented in law school, Samuels explained that women generally aren’t well represented in careers in law and African American women are less represented than other women. She felt that she was at a disadvantage by being a Black woman when it came to opportunities and mentoring. 

After her career in law, Pamela went on to become a mystery writer. An encouragement that she had for becoming a writer was the lack of African American and women lawyers in books. 

“I just got tired of reading legal drillers and never seeing lawyers in the books who were African American or women. So my goal was to um close a job my umpteenth generation book and I just said to myself where are the Black people, where are the women lawyers, and it was probably another year before I decided to sink it down and take a case I had worked on and turn it into a novel and at that point, getting up a four o’clock in the morning to try to write, I without question discovered my passion and that’s where I am today.” 

Pamela Samuels 

When Samuels was telling me about the lack of African American and women lawyers in books, I was reminded of the Kiley Reid’s book, “Such a Fun Age.” Even though the main character, Emira, wasn’t a lawyer, she was African American and played an influential role the entire book. She was wrongly accused of kidnapping the little girl that she babysits when they were at a grocery store. It was obvious that the main reason she was accused of kidnapping was because she was African American and the little girl wasn’t. This was one of the first books that I read that heavily focussed on racial inequalities, making it extremely influential for me and teaching me new information about the inequalities that exist in today’s society. It’s important that books have main characters that are minorities and it’s influential that Samuels thinks it’s crucial to write books about these underrepresented people. 

Faith

“I think faith in God has been real key in helping me with roadblocks and hurtles and difficulties.”

Pamela Samuels 

When I asked Samuels if there was any particular person that most shaped the way that she views society today, her answer was God. Growing up in the church, faith has always played an important role in Samuels life. She admits that her faith in God guides her in her everyday life and is the overriding factor that molds her view of the world. 

Advice 

The main advice that Samuels had for young people seeking a career was to find a mentor early. She believes that having a mentor can lead to success in careers. She knows African American women who have had very successful careers in law and they had mentors.