Baltimore: ChangeMakers will introduce you to some of the individuals who are engaging youth, seeking to improve their neighborhoods block by block, and demanding that their voices be heard in corridors of power. Each one is different but determined in their own unique way to change the paradigm in the city, pushing to help rebuild it one day, one person at a time.
When Baltimore erupted on the day that Freddie Gray was laid to rest last April, some politicians and pundits vilified those involved in the rioting—particularly black youth.
But trial attorney J. Wyndal Gordon viewed the situation through a lens of compassion, not judgment.
“Many of these young people felt marginalized and disenfranchised,” says Gordon, 46. “And some were caught up in the moment. I wanted to be of assistance and provide guidance.”
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A solo practitioner whose moniker is “The Warrior Lawyer!” Gordon rendered pro bono legal services to several black males in their teens and twenties who faced various criminal charges stemming from the uprising and protest marches.
“I believe in second chances. The young men I represented demonstrated to me that they have accepted full responsibility for their conduct." — J. Wyndal Gordon
“For a lot of white kids, they dismiss the charges. But racism, privilege—it’s so sophisticated,” notes Gordon, who has mentored clients beyond the courtroom. “I believe in second chances. The young men I represented demonstrated to me that they have accepted full responsibility for their conduct. They’re turning around their lives.”
A native of Washington, D.C., who settled in Baltimore after graduating from Morgan State University and the University of Baltimore School of Law, he’s also tackled other high-profile cases.
In 2006, Gordon assembled a legal team who served as stand-by counsel for John Allen Muhammad, the alleged "D.C. Sniper." The lawyer was present during Muhammad’s execution and is penning a book about the trial.
Earlier this year, he joined attorney Carlos Moore of Mississippi who has filed a federal lawsuit which contends that the state flag—designed with a Confederate battle emblem—is “discriminatory and racist.”
"I am an integral part of the legal team," says Gordon. "I'm legal strategist and counselor to Mr. Moore, who is [both] the lawyer and plaintiff."
While maintaining a brisk caseload, Gordon has long been active in professional and community endeavors. The National Bar Association tapped him to be part of its rapid response legal team, and he is a past president of the Monumental Bar Association in Baltimore, co-founded by Thurgood Marshall. Gordon has served on the board of a school for African-American boys in Baltimore. And he's appeared on national and regional news outlets as a legal commentator.
Still enthusiastic after some two decades in the profession, the new father is considering launching a legal camp for youth. “What better way to galvanize young people than to introduce and teach them about the law?”
Our Baltimore: Change Makers series will introduce you to some of the stand-out individuals who are part of a burgeoning movement. Each is determined to help the city rebuild, block by block, person by person, one day at a time. As you read their profiles we hope that you will be inspired to join the conversation and let us know, who are your neighborhood #ChangeMakers? #BaltimoreChangeMakers