Kristyn Henry, a trial attorney with the Roxbury Defenders Unit, was honored by the North Shore Black Women’s Association for being a community leader who exemplifies Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “ideals, passion and commitment to service.”
Henry received the award during the NSBWA’s 27th Annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Luncheon on Saturday afternoon in Malden.
“My clients are poor, marginalized, unfairly targeted, and live in areas that are significantly over policed,” Henry said during her acceptance speech. “But my clients are also strong men and women, hard workers, immigrants, influencers, mothers, fathers, and so much more than the statistics and categories where they are regularly placed.”
Since becoming a public defender, Henry has dedicated her practice to representing people of color, immigrants, and young people who otherwise cannot afford counsel.
“As an attorney, I know that there are much higher paying and more prestigious jobs that I could have,” she said. “But I chose to be a public defender and I love what I do. I chose to exclusively represent the indigent population in the neighborhoods of Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan.”
Outside of court, Henry has been a mentor to young people within her community; including high school students, college students, paralegals, and law students; through various internships, mentorship programs, and work-study programs. Additionally, she is an adjunct professor at Northshore Community College where she teaches various courses in its Paralegal Studies program.
“As a professor I have been blessed to have the opportunity to meet so many young people who are interested in some aspect of the legal field,” she said. “I challenge them to do better than me, do better than the attorneys before me. Because I truly believe that we all have the capacity to change the world: One small step at a time.”
Henry said she is proud of her Guyanese heritage and culture, and understands how being a young woman of color from a family of immigrants puts her in a unique position to connect with many of her clients on a meaningful level.
“Years ago, there is no way that I would be standing here before you today as a young black woman attorney and professor,” she said. “But the progress we have made is not enough. There is still so much racism, prejudice, inequality, and injustice in our communities and I believe that it is our duty, my duty, to continue to put forth my greatest effort to make change, no matter how small.”
Henry is an active member of the Massachusetts Black Lawyer’s Association, the Boston Bar Association, the Massachusetts Bar Association and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association. She holds a Juris Doctor from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville, FL where she received a Governor’s scholarship.