The Future is Bright for CoAS Alum Shahmar Beasley ’19, JD ’22
By Gina Myers
March 31, 2021
In a short time, College of Arts and Sciences alumnus Shahmar Beasley ’19 has accomplished a lot. From being named a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholar to campaigning for various politicians and attending Drexel’s Kline School of Law, Beasley keeps a full calendar.
He credits his commitment and passion for education to his mother, who raised him and his siblings while getting a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctorate. Living in West Philadelphia since he was six years old, Beasley saw Drexel as the standard when it came time to consider his own academic path.
“Drexel is a beacon of the Philadelphia area. It is a hard school to get into and hard to excel in once you’re there,” he explains. “There’s a prestigious aura about it.”
Beasley received a Liberty Scholarship, which grants full tuition for four to five years of undergraduate education at Drexel. The scholarship allowed Beasley to take full advantage of his time in CoAS without the financial stress that can accompany going to college.
And take full advantage he did: He founded two student organizations, the Drexel Black Action Committee and the Rotoract Club of Drexel University; served as president of the Drexel Democrats; and interned with politicians, a judge and a district attorney, all while majoring in political science.
It’s no surprise that his civic-minded leadership has led him to the Kline School of Law.
A Passion That’s Personal
In his application to Kline, Beasley shared the very personal reason he wanted to pursue law school. “My older cousin, by virtue of just living in Philadelphia, found himself to be the victim of a drive-by shooting,” explains Beasley. “He was very bright and an honor roll student who was going to graduate from high school early. A stray bullet hit him, and he lost his life.”
In the process of seeking justice, Beasley’s family was met with indifference. “It looked like they weren’t giving the case any attention,” he says. “I understand that they were inundated with a lot of cases, but there seemed to be a lack of care and a lack of engagement which caused further pain for my family.”
It was going through this experience that makes Beasley want to do better. “I want to be the difference in people’s lives, to show that I care and give attention to their case, so that they don’t feel the added pain that my family felt.”
The enthusiasm and drive that Beasley demonstrated during his undergraduate studies is continuing in law school. He’s inspired by the cutting-edge teachers who are leaders in their areas while still remaining approachable, and he’s learning a lot through working as a legal assistant at the Kline & Specter firm, being a member of the Kline School’s trial team, and serving as a teaching assistant for criminal law. He’s also had the opportunity to bring his own experiences and connections to the program, bringing former White House Director of Communications Anthony Scaramucci, whom Beasley met at the Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholars event, to speak virtually to the class.
A Time For Change
With a summer of protests following the death of George Floyd and the coronavirus pandemic disproportionately affecting Black and brown communities, the future may seem uncertain for many. However, Beasley, who witnessed the protests in Philadelphia from his apartment window, sees a lot to be hopeful about.
“The protests over the summer showed just how much anger there is and how much people of all backgrounds are tired of the issue of racism that continues to persist,” he says. “A lot of people are noticing that poverty and racial inequities play a big part in how people are treated.”
He is buoyed not just by people putting up Black Lives Matter signs, but also by those who are putting opportunities and money behind the cause. As a Presidential Fellow for the Biden campaign, he was encouraged by President Biden’s acknowledgement that racism and racial inequities can no longer be swept under the rug.
“We have to address the problems of racism straightforward,” Beasley says. “I feel like these conversations have been impactful, and I hope they carry forward. More positions of equity must open up and more funding and opportunities need to be made available to Black and lower socioeconomic communities.”
A More Caring Approach
Beasley also sees positive changes happening with criminal justice reform here in Philadelphia. While working for the District Attorney’s Office, Beasley saw a more caring and humane approach as people were given opportunities to receive drug rehabilitation and job training instead of serving jail time. Job training programs included coding and learning how to use drones, among other things, so the participants could find gainful employment in today’s world.
Beasley says, “It’s something that is going to take a while for you to see the positive impact of, but the things that are worth it always take time. I think the kids in these communities who are engaged in violence may not see alternatives to it, they may not know proper conflict resolution, and they may not have opportunities given to them to get them away from the cycle of violence and poverty that they are currently in.”
It’s about caring about people and trying to make a difference in people’s lives. The approach, Beasley says, “resonates with me personally, especially since I come from a poor socioeconomic community. I think this approach will not only be impactful, but it will make a big difference in the long run.”
What Lies Ahead
The future is wide open for Beasley. After law school, he wants to work in civil litigation or criminal law. “Both of these are very hard to get into at either the municipal or federal level. They are very competitive jobs, so people from all over the country go for them,” he explains. While the path ahead will not be easy, he is well prepared for whatever comes his way, and he looks to continue to be an example for others. Just as his mother was an inspiration for him, Beasley is now serving as inspiration for his younger siblings.
“My two younger siblings look up to me,” he says. “I love them dearly and would love to see them follow in my footsteps. I try to inspire them to reach for the stars and go for it.”
It isn’t just Beasley’s family who is taking notice of all he is accomplishing. The friends he grew up with and other members of his West Philadelphia community are noticing, too. He hopes others are noticing through stories like his that people from historically underserved populations have a lot to offer. They just have to be given the opportunity.
“I’m not an anomaly,” Beasley insists. “I’m not a rarity. If you give people the proper opportunities like I received, stories like mine will persist. You just have to give people the opportunities.”