Black History Month Interview with Jazmine Smalley
By WLALA law student member Karin Lang
Jazmine Smalley is currently the Pro Bono Coordinator and a Registered Legal Services for the Inner City Law Center (ICLC). ICLC fights for housing and justice for low-income tenants, working-poor families, immigrants, people who are disabled or living with HIV/AIDS, and homeless veterans. As the Pro Bono Coordinator, Jazmine serves as the ambassador to ICLC’s numerous pro bono partners. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Jazmine grew up in an environment that was divided among ethnicities and races. When her family moved to Beaverton, Oregon, a predominantly white area, Jazmine gained insight into the disparities in resources available in white and black communities. Growing up, Jazmine’s parents taught her about Thurgood Marshall, Johnnie Cochran, and other prominent African American lawyers. It was the combination of learning about these influential legal figures and being exposed to social inequalities that inspired her to enter the legal field. Jazmine became a first generation college student when she attended Spelman College, a renowned historically black college for African American women. While there, Jazmine’s mentor was Stacey Abrams, the first African American female to be a major party’s nominee for governor.
After graduating from Spelman, Jazmine received her law degree from Berkeley Law and began her legal career at Gibson Dunn, where she discovered her passion for pro bono work. Upon relocating to Pasadena, CA and witnessing its gentrification and the resulting displacement of African American residents, Jazmine developed an interest in housing work.
Inspired by the story of an elderly woman getting evicted from her home of more than 40 years, Jazmine knew she wanted to help people fight for their homes. This desire is what ultimately led her to her current position at ICLC. In addition to fighting homelessness, Jazmine is a major advocate of female and minority entrepreneurship. Both her and her husband use their corporate legal experience to help black entrepreneurs create business plans, form companies and understand the complexities owning a business. Jazmine strongly believes that attorneys should make themselves accessible and help those around them, including other lawyers, because, as she says, “you can accomplish your goals by helping those around you.”