Bar Exam, Incarcerated

Formerly Incarcerated Mom Goes Viral For Passing Bar Exam On 1st Try

Owes decided to pursue her law degree after finishing her sentence on Rikers Island and subsequent probation.

A single mom in New York has gone viral for passing the bar exam on her first try. Despite her former incarceration, Afrika Owes accomplished her goals in a heartwarming moment for viewers.

On April 25, Owes posted a video to Tiktok of her finding out she passed the bar exam. Owes, wearing her Fordham School of Law sweatshirt, had her brother behind her as she realized she achieved her dreams.

“POV: You’re a formerly incarcerated single mom who passed the bar early on the first try,” Owes titled the video. The law student has four-year-old son named Kairos, who also appears in her other videos.

@afrika.owes Thank you to my angels, my momma, my grandma. Thank you for my son, my brother, my family and my tribe. I’m beyond happy to join the ranks of the 2% of Black women Attorneys in the U.S. #singlemom #attorney #blackattorney #lawyer ♬ golden hour – piano version – main character melodies

She began screaming, “I passed!” as tears began to flow. She then referred to her deceased mother and grandmother, who inspired her to pursue a law degree.

“Thank you to my angels, my momma, my grandma,” she wrote in the caption. “Thank you for my son, my brother, my family, and my tribe. I’m beyond happy to join the ranks of the 2% of Black women Attorneys in the U.S.”

Good Morning America later spoke to Owes about her untraditional journey to law school. The Harlem native served six months on Rikers Island in 2011 for gang-related conspiracy and weapons possession, followed by a year-long probation. She was 17 years old at the time of her incarceration.

“From that, I only served six months on Rikers Island and then I had a few years of probation,” she shared with the show. “And then after, successfully completing two years of college, which was a condition of my release, I was taken off of probation. I was adjudicated as a youthful offender.”

Her family taught her the “importance of knowing the law” as her mother, Karen Owes, often advocated on behalf of the residents in Harlem. After serving time, Owes envisioned a greater purpose for her life through the field of law.

Owes is now among the only 59% of test-takers who pass on the first try, a statistic confirmed by the National Conference of Bar Examiners. The American Bar Association reported that only 57% of Black participants passed the bar exam, making her feat even more remarkable.

“I strayed from my path, but they made sure that I got right back on track. They didn’t judge me, and they never let me go,” stated Owes. “I want my story to be a testament to that, for communities as well, that everybody makes mistakes.”

Owes expects to graduate from Fordham this May. With her passing the bar exam, she will pursue a career in tax law with other aspirations of a judicial clerkship. The school’s Dean, Matthew Diller, also shared how Owes’ journey is a triumph.

“I have gotten to know Afrika during her time as a student, and she has been a tremendously positive force at our school — bringing students together as both a leader of the Black Law Students Association and our Student Bar Association,” he shared. “Her story is inspiring, and I am excited to see the contributions that she will make to our profession and our society in the years to come.”

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