A Gentleman's Guide

DECEMBER | 2018

DECEMBER | 2018 | BLACK, GAY & GIFTED

THE LEGAL EAGLE

STEVEN ‘SK’ ALEXANDER

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The only thing better than not ending up in court, is to have a good attorney on deck in the event that we actually do end up in court. Regardless of whether we’re looking for a medical doctor, psychologist, or therapist, our hope is to find one who can get the job done while also being able to relate to us in as many ways as possible. The same thing can be said when looking for legal representation, which is why we are beside ourselves with excitement to introduce Steven “SK” Alexander- Harris as December’s Black, Gay and Gifted feature! We literally tore the internets up looking for a black, same gender loving lawyer, and, as fate would have it, we found one who not only fits the mold but completely shatters it.

Steven graduated from Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law where he served as a contributing journalist for The Solicitor and penned a position paper for the Earl Carl Institute titled “Subprime Mortgage Crisis”. Prior to that, the Great Lakes State native earned an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice from Piedmont College, an endeavor he undertook after receiving his Associate’s degree in Paralegal Studies from Athens Technical College in 2005.

Alexander, who is the second oldest of four children hails from a mother who he described as hard working and a father who began an unfortunate battle with addiction in 1987. He identifies himself as someone who purposefully allows experiences to shape him as “life has a funny way of making you come to peace with who you are and at the same time, putting you in constant conflict with the same things that make up your identity.”

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And while we’re on the subject of identity, Steven, known to many as “SK”, has multiple. We touched on the subject of identity back in our first All Black Everything issue in February and explored the question of which of our identities hold the most weight and the order of importance that each of these identities should be placed. “I am a man first.” says SK, who views his sexuality as somewhat of an auxiliary feature that serves to enhance his black and male identities.”Being both black and gay doesn’t define me as a person, per se.” SK moved to Houston to fulfill his dream of becoming an attorney in 2007 and was licensed in 2010. Some time after, he opened his own practice, the Harris Law Group and has been a criminal defense attorney ever since. Harris holds multiple roles as he diligently works to ensure that the firm bearing his namesake prospers. His work includes, but is not limited to representing parolees at hearings within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, drafting wills and whatever codicils are, reviewing contracts for employment, leases for residential properties and nonprofit organizations by adhering to the contractual obligations of both parties. Additionally, Alexander represents clients in family law matters such as child custody, divorce and in cases centered around child support.  

Alexander was inspired to take the legal road after he completed his Associate’s degree in Paralegal studies. “I noticed that they (paralegals) did all the leg work but made pennies compared to what lawyers made.” It was after he learned this that he decided that he may as well become a lawyer.  The road to opening Harris Law Group wasn’t necessarily paved with gold, as Steven recalls the challenges he faced in getting the firm off the ground. “The main obstacle was getting clients. When people don’t know you, they won’t hire you.” Alexander credits his colleague, attorney Anthony Muharib for providing him with some of his first clients. “He started throwing clients my way and once I started, I developed a reputation as a good lawyer with a heart [and] clients came in.” It took awhile for him to acclimate to the court system and the way it worked in the real world. “Law school is theory but this was real life.” He says, “People could lose everything if I failed--it is a very stressful occupation.

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Earlier we mentioned that Steven allows the experiences of his life to shape and mold him. This ideal isn’t one that many of us would find confusing, as everything we’ve gone through, experienced, and witnessed has lead us all to our current station in life, and Steven is no different. We figured that one of the most jarring experiences for him would be, as it has been for most of us, coming out to his family. “We all cried at first.” Steven says recalling a moment that has shaped so many of us. “My mother went to LGBT parenting classes at a local community center where they focused on [coaching parents on how to be] understanding and accepting of [their] homosexual children. She did that on her own. I knew it was hard for her but the fact that she went was so heartwarming. It was amazing.”  While his mother took the more progressive route, Steven admits that the subject caused a rift in his relationship with his father. “I had a strained relationship with my father,” he says, “and because of that I dated men older than me and for all the wrong reasons.”

SK recalls not having anyone to guide him during his youth. “...I didn’t have anyone to guide me. I didn’t have any adult gays that I could ask questions or get advice [from]”. We’re not sure how things work now, but anyone over the age of 29 knows this feeling. “I had to face my past and accept my baggage.” He credits this in helping him to become stronger, more inclusive, and in being more understanding of others. As unsurprising as it may be, SK has had his share of experiences in dealing with his sexuality as it pertains to his religion as well. Growing up as a black, gay Jehovah's Witness ain’t no crystal stair, and once he was able to leave the restorationist Christian denomination, he did. “I left [...] because of the pure constriction that religion places on us. The rules and practices seemed to clash with my understanding of what Jehovah wanted us to be doing.” he says. “Meaning accepting all and showing love without judgment, to [...] include everyone while trying to get them to come into the ‘truth’”.

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Not only is Alexander an accomplished lawyer, he’s a published author as well. His first book, “Road That Leads to No Answers” is a book of poems based on true life experiences. “With this piece of work I wanted to put it all out there and take the reader through my emotional journey. I wanted people to see, hear, taste [and] smell what I did and show it from a gay black man’s perspective. “Road…” will be followed up with his next project “Cocaine and I”  and will illustrate how Alexander came to terms his father’s addiction to crack cocaine and the way that it not only impacted his life but his family’s life as well. “‘Road That Leads to No Answers’ dealt with me as a black boy growing up, thinking about men, how to reconcile my life as a gay youth with religion...dating, etc. ‘Cocaine and I’ is about how those trials and tribulations made me into the man I am. A man capable of love, deserving a peace, and apologizing to the people I hurt as well as dealing with my father and finally putting my anger and disappointments to bed”.

There’s a phrase that suggests that we can’t have it all, which would probably be something Steven would disagree with. Outside of his academic prowess and his professional success, Steven somehow managed to save a little room for love. He and his long time partner Charles were recently married. “We met on match.com, surprisingly. The now newlywed asserts that it took two months for he and his now husband to see each other and that, for him, was a first. “I knew it was going to flourish.

When giving some consideration to his profession, its safe to assume that SK has become somewhat of a first hand witness to the double standard the law has when it comes to prosecuting men of color. “It is difficult.” he says, and with ninety percent of his clients being young men of color and another ninety-five percent of them having limited access to funds it’s not always easy for him to keep a cool head. “One time I lost all decorum in court because of a ridiculous offer my young nineteen year old client was given by an assistant district attorney. But I’m proud to say that client’s case was DISMISSED!” However, the emotional burden is real as he states that he’s always sad when he into a courtroom to see that the majority of the defendants are young, or men of color. “It is very hard.”

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We wouldn’t be shit if we didn’t ask for a bit of legal advice. After all, how often do any of us have a lawyer on deck? When asked about the advice he firmly asserts the importance of knowing one’s rights. “Please go to your local law schools and attend knowing your rights seminars. Pay attention to the laws being passed in your state and vote, vote, VOTE in every election. Local elections are essential because it is where the decisions that impact your day to day are made.” With respect to locating legal representation, especially legal representation of the SGL persuasion, Steven suggests contacting your state’s Bar. “They have sections for LGBT, and SGL lawyers of color. Most of us have our pictures up so you can make sure they are SGL lawyers of color”.

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Life can come at us fast, and if we’re not careful, it will wear us out. Steven is yet another example of what beating the odds looks like. While being both African American and same gender loving make him THE minority in the field of law, he managed to persist. He, through education, tenacity and an ever enduring spirit, managed to overcome the same pitfalls that many fall victim to. To call him a beacon of the community would be an understatement, and we’re glad to have had the opportunity to have him as this month’s Black, Gay and Gifted feature. Where the intersection of race and class create a barrier that limits upward mobility while, at the same time, accelerating downward mobility in economic and educational status across generations, Steven persisted. He survived the polarization of resources in academia that lead to increased rates of college dropout numbers, he survived religion, he survived, and is surviving the strain on his relationship with his father and is flourishing at a law firm that bears his name. We didn’t deserve this interview, but Steven provided and we couldn’t be more thankful.


Jeremy Carter