Meek family, with Kendrick Meek, Jr. in the middle, next to grandmother Carrie Meek
If advocacy to correct for human rights wrongs and civil rights were genetic, law student Kendrick Meek, Jr. has a full complement of social justice DNA. And in a world of nature v. nurture, Meek carries on a legacy of commitment to making society just and equal.
The Miami Scholars Public Interest Program Scholar is the grandson of the legendary Carrie Meek and the son of the equally impressive Kendrick Meek Sr., two former lawmakers at the forefront who carved out impressive legislative records while in office.
"Whether in Washington or Miami, I walk on trails blazed by Carrie Meek and Kendrick Meek," said the second-year law student. "That's an enormous privilege that I don't take for granted."
Carrie Meek, the grandchild of a slave and a sharecropper's daughter who became one of the Black Floridians elected to Congress since Reconstruction in 1877, first served in the Florida House, as its second Black woman, and ascended to the Florida Senate then U.S. House of Representatives with two other Black legislators. She served the state of Florida for 21 years and, at age 95, the Florida democrat was the oldest living female former U.S. representative when she died in November 2021.
"Carrie taught me that a smile goes a long way in persuading others, and also that a smile should never be mistaken for a sign of weakness," wrote Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who represented South Florida in Congress for three decades, in Politico. "She taught me about the value of bipartisanship — a style of governing that is rarely practiced these days in a Congress that I hardly recognize now. She was a progressive way before any of us were talking about Sen. Bernie Sanders or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Yet she was willing to hear out Republicans like me and ponder someone else's point of view."
Kendrick Meek, Sr., the law student's father, served 17 years in the Florida House, Florida Senate, and the U.S. House of Representatives.
Dedicated to service
A firebrand in his own right and having chalked up a remarkable resume for someone so young, the 24-year-old Miami native graduated in 2018 from the University of Florida – cum laude in three years – with a B.A. in political science.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Meek received a research assistantship with the UF department of political science to study absentee ballot rejections and their disproportionate impact on communities of color and aging populations. In 2016, Meek worked as an Americans with Disabilities Act intern at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. He also served as an intern to the Committee on House Administration in Washington, D.C., supporting the committee's oversight of federal elections, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution. After graduating college, Meek joined the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., advocating for equal rights for LGBTQ Americans as a legal assistant.
"Despite having lived in D.C. for many years, my heart has always been in South Florida," Meek said. "Our people, our culture, and our collective identity are what make South Florida great. Miami Law is no exception. So, when I was offered a scholarship from the Miami Scholars Public Interest Program at UM Law, I accepted without hesitation."
Trailblazing through internships and community engagement
Meek served as an intern with the U.S. House of Representative's Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee for Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security during his 1L summer and recently participated in a pro bono sealing and expungement workshop with the Miami-Dade Public Defender's Office. Kendrick's father participated in the first such offering of that expungement workshop.
Since moving to Miami, Meek has wasted no time getting involved with local civic organizations. Kendrick serves on the Legislative Committee for the Wilkie D. Ferguson Bar Association and as Fundraising Director for the Miami-Dade Young Democrats. Kendrick also recently became a member of SAVE LGBTQ, an organization committed to advancing LGBTQ equality in South Florida.
"I get no greater sense of pride as a Miami Law student than when I'm interacting with my classmates. Both in and out of the classroom, my classmates are stars and I feel like I learn as much from them as I do from my coursework," Meek said.
"Of course, there are some things that you simply can't learn in a classroom, which is why I take advantage of internship opportunities whenever I can. I've been fortunate enough to intern on Capitol Hill, in academic settings, and at several non-profits. Through those experiences, I've built meaningful relationships with policymakers and emerging leaders that I hope to leverage in my career," he said.
"Living in South Florida, I am constantly reminded of the unique challenges we face: The cost of living is higher than many of us can afford, public infrastructure isn't keeping pace with our outsized growth, and rising sea levels continue to pose a threat to our way of life," said Meek. "These calls to action, I hope to answer both in furtherance and in memory of my grandmother and her groundbreaking legacy."