Meet Brenda Marrero, the 2021 La Justicia winner at the Pennsylvania Hispanic Bar Association
Marrero was motivated to enter law after seeing the difficulty her mother went through to find justice.
Brenda Marrero’s journey to becoming a public interest attorney is one rooted in family trauma, but also one she feels an immense privilege to have achieved.
It started while she was studying political science in college.
During that time, her mother, a Nicaraguan immigrant, would come home from work distraught and anxious at the discrimination she faced as an HR administrator.
“She was made fun of for her accent,” said Marrero. “She would come home and was just so upset by it.”
It got to a point where Marrero eventually recounted her mom’s experience to one of her political science professors who was a lawyer. He told her about a legal path for her mom to fight back through national origin discrimination.
While it was a glimmer of hope, Marrero learned quickly as she went with her mom through the legal process how unfit the system was to serve someone like her.
“Personally, I saw and just felt that she was being mistreated,” she said. “She had to relive what happened to her.”
To this day, Marrero remembers the interviews her mom went through with her white, male lawyer to get her story on the record.
“She actually said to me, she’s like: ‘I think he thinks I’m exaggerating.’ Like this shouldn’t be a big deal, like people are just making fun of you,” said Marrero. “But it was a big deal.”
In the end, her mom left the HR job and struggled to maintain steady work for the rest of her career, said Marrero.
When she became a lawyer later in life, Marrero learned quickly about the bond that can develop with a client if you know their language.
“Had she had that, I wonder, would her experience had been better even if the outcome stayed the same?” she said of her mom.
After graduating from Mount Saint Mary’s with her political science degree, Marrero went on to Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.
There, she joined the Pennsylvania Hispanic Bar Association as a student and aspiring lawyer.
Now, more than 20 years later, she is being honored by the organization with its 2021 La Justicia Award for the career she’s built in public interest law, motivated to better the legal system for people like her mom.
The journey has taken her from being a part of organizations like the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania and Maximus, to leading Philadelphia’s Community Legal Services and now the Public Interest Law Center.
Despite her rise to leadership, Marrero has maintained her view of privilege she has of her job, especially as a Latina.
In the end, it’s a privilege to serve one’s community and as an extension, family.
“We are our lived experiences, and our lived experiences as Latinos starts with our families and communities that we grew up in,” said Marrero.
The 2021 La Justicia ceremony will be held virtually on March 25 at 5:30 p.m.