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Trailblazing for Justice: Attorney Weeya Beysah Young on the Rise

Photo Credit:
Chicago News Weekly

Weeya Baysah Young is a rising star in the legal field in Chicago. As a former prosecutor in the Cook County State's Attorney’s Office, she now litigates on behalf of the Illinois Department of Health and Family Services (HFS) in child support cases. It was complications Young experienced during her pregnancy that fueled her drive to work for HFS. Recognizing the disparities in healthcare for Black mothers both prior to and after giving birth, she wished to be part of the system of change by supporting the most vulnerable families as their advocate.

"Having a health scare during my pregnancy was traumatic,” Young shared. “I thought about what if I was that Black mom that didn’t have access to decent healthcare. That scare catapulted my decision to work at HFS.”

She’s come full circle in her career as she has transitioned from the courtroom to working as the assistant general counsel for HFS. But she carries with her the impression her presence makes in the courtroom.

"When the judge would ask for the 'State' to approach, you could see the relief on the faces of Black and brown people,” Young said. “In some way, it was comforting because they see I'm here to be fair and to get justice. We [Black lawyers] need to have a seat at the table every chance we get.”

Only 5 percent of lawyers in the nation are African American -- Young is one of the few Black women lawyers. "We have over 1.3 million lawyers in America; 38 percent are women and less than 5 percent are Black women," said Young.

Underrepresentation in the criminal legal system is what can make it more challenging for Black individuals to feel as though that system is fair and unbiased.

Young and other lawyers like her are role models for aspiring Black law students. Too often Black faces are defendants and being sentenced. She expressed how important it is to her that she shows the other side of the judicial system, especially to youth.

"I want to show what Black excellence looks like in the legal profession,” she said. “Youth need to know that even if they find themselves in the judicial system, you can make a comeback, people do it all the time."

Young was recently honored with a Cook County Board Association's Next Generation Award (CCBA). The association is committed to reducing discriminatory practices in Chicago and Cook County and advocates for fair and equal treatment under the law, improved access to justice, and increased diversity in the legal field.

"I’m honored to be recognized. CCBA is the nation's oldest association of African American lawyers and judges,” Young expressed. “When I think about being a trailblazer, it isn’t about knowing exactly where you’re going but being able to figure it out.”
She partly credits her success to the network of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Greater Chicago, whose mission since 1987 has been to address issues unique to African American women in the legal profession as well as advancing civil and human rights. Young currently serves as the organization’s vice president.

"These women have mentored me, prayed with me, and molded me,” she said. “It is an honor to be recognized and to serve and uplift the community. I want to continue to mentor law students and upcoming youth. I truly believe I am here to serve.”

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