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Episode 16 Transcript

Arivee Vargas: Hi I'm Arivee Vargas. I believe we're all so powerful beyond our wildest imaginations. We have the ability to overcome the fears, self-doubt, negative beliefs and all the other roadblocks that hold us back from having the life and career we really want and deserve. That's why I created the Humble Rising podcast.

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I want to help you get clear on what a joyful and fulfilling life and career looks like for you. And help you go after it with all you have. Each week, we'll talk to badass inspirational women sharing their journeys. We’ll dig into their successes, their failures, challenges, the different shifts, in their careers and personal lives and so much more. Be inspired, get motivated, and get ready to rise. This is the Humble Rising Podcast.

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Bianca: We have to be unafraid to take risk, listen to that voice, 'cause it's there, if you don't feel it or you don't hear it, you are actively suppressing it because you are not in this world without a lane. I promise you you were made for something, and you have to believe that the first step is believing that and being intentional about figuring out what that is.

Arivee: This week I had the pleasure of talking to attorney author fearless advocate and Justice Warrior Bianca M Ford. Now before we get started, let me give you an inside look into Bianca experience within the criminal justice system. After spending nearly one decade representing global entities and high stakes litigation and government led investigations domestically and abroad. Bianca joined the ranks of federal prosecution motivated by a desire to do justice. As an assistant, US attorney in the nation’s capital, Bianca investigated, indicted and tried a wide variety of cases at the local and federal levels. Including violent crime, public corruption and civil rights offenses. Through her work, she learned first-hand that there's nothing simple about the multitude of factors that lead one to become entangled in their criminal justice system. Bianca also observed that prosecutors are best positioned to speak out against the policies and practices that disproportionately impact the poor, black and brown. As a result, Bianca became an outspoken advocate from the inside. Pushing boundaries and at times in the words of the late Honorable John Lewis, getting into some good trouble. Bianca has left the public sector but continues to believe that justice minded prosecutors can transform criminal justice should they remain conscious of the values that must guide them. Values that Bianca thoughtfully and authentically describes in her book “Prosecuted Prosecutor” Bianca received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Duke University and her JD from Boston College Law School. That's actually where I met Bianca. We are friends from law school, and you have to know that she was as fierce then as she is now, and in this episode Bianca and I discuss how she arrived at where she is today. We talked about how her experience as a prosecutor has shaped her view of the criminal justice system. And how it has motivated her to change the system internally. And of course, we talk about her book throughout our conversation and the importance of discovering your life, path and purpose. And with that, here's my conversation with Bianca.

Give us your story. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you've come to do the work that you do now.

Bianca: Sure, I grew up in New York to Caribbean parents and my mom came over to the states in the 70s. My dad, possibly a little before, and they met in New York. I was born in in Queens and raised in Long Island and early on, I decided that I was gonna be a lawyer and that was because I was, if you can imagine a mouthy child. I was constantly being, like, reprimanded for speaking out of turn or whatever the case was, things that I think we’re just me being an assertive child, that I was told I was rude, and it was fat chat and Caribbean parlance. But that being said, my grandmother told me I had an early age like you should. You should be a lawyer, but don't get in trouble with the magistrate, right? Like that kind of thing and really just kind of put that concept in my head about being a lawyer. And when I think about it at my age now, like in retrospect, what a what, a privilege, right. What a what a fantastic opportunity to have someone you love and trust put just a concept in your head that automatically gives you exposure to know that there's something something bigger to do right? Like that automatically requires you to go to school and to, you know, invest in education and to value those principles. So, from an early age like that, that's what I wanted to do. And I remember there was a point in high school where I thought, but wait, there all these other cool things that I could do, and I saw the movie “Boomerang” with Eddie Murphy. And I was like, I could be a marketing and advertising like this is cool, but I all at some point I just found my way back to law and the interest just continued to grow. So, I went to law school, practiced in New York for quite a bit, and then I left big law or private practice to go into the government. So, I was a federal prosecutor for about 5 1/2 years, and now I leave the global investigations function for a global corporation.

Arivee: I also want to highlight that you also contribute on major news networks. You want to talk about that little bit.

Bianca: Yeah, I've had some some really good opportunities come up since publishing the book, just in terms of it's happened really organically, it's something that probably five to seven years ago I thought hey, I kinda. I kinda wanna do this at some point. My path is just sort of led me there very organically, without me having to be extremely strategic about it by basically just following the path that that I was passionate about and interested in these opportunities just sort of came up. There's one opportunity. Someone reached out to me on Facebook and I said, yeah, well, I'm interested in talking about this. So, it's been. It's been great.

Arivee: So, let's talk a little bit about why you decided to write the book.

Bianca: Yes, for those who haven't read it, I started writing the book a couple hours, I guess maybe 10 or so hours after my release from jail. And it wasn't a book. It was supposed to be a journal entry. It was me, just sort of recording my thoughts. I I obviously was charged in a criminal matter and needed to make sure that I remembered everything perfectly so that I could talk to my lawyer and be a part of my own representation. And all of those things. So, it really did start as a journal entry and then somewhere along the way. I couldn't talk about my own experience without observing the experiences of the people who were also around me in custody, but also drawing on my experiences as a federal prosecutor and my my knowledge of criminal law in constitutional law. So, at some point it just became something bigger. And I continue to work on it you know, while still practicing it. It was this thing I would wake up and I'm. Let me tell you, I'm not a morning person. OK? When I, when I wake up early, it's out. It's out of necessity not out of desire, but I was waking up at like, 4:00 AM and just knowing that. What I needed to do was not go back to sleep. It was to go down to my my dining table, pull out my laptop and just write or research or or read cases that I wanted to make sure that I fully digested so I could like add them to the story and to the book and to the message. So that's how it came about. And you know, there were moments. There were periods within that within that time frame where days might go by, and I wouldn't write. I feel a little guilty about it. But then when George Floyd was killed, it was just this automatic trigger that I just felt like there was an urgency that happens with respect to my writing after George Floyd was killed and I in the book just started to move along from there. The the resources that I needed to, you know, get the, the artwork, the cover, all of those things in place, the formatting just you know, I started to really invest time into finding those things, it wasn't just about the writing. It was also about the final product. So that's kind of how it came about and how I was able to release it in January.

Arivee: You know, I I want people to read the book, so I don't necessarily want us to revisit all the trauma of what happened that night. And, you know, I I want people to really read it because you paint a picture that has us with you in the cell. You paint a picture of what it's like to be as you call, quote UN quote, processed and how inhumane it is. And I want people to read it in your own words in this book. But, you know, in the beginning of the book, you talk about what happened to you. And then you talk about how you understand there's this bigger reason. There's this bigger purpose to what you need to do for your work, and you also are trying to understand, OK, what's the meaning of this? How is this going to direct a different part of my life? And you say, And I'm and I'm quoting from the book for those who who have it or who are gonna read it on 68, it says “you will lose yourself, but only for a moment. One day something will happen, and you realize that this is not the end. It's the beginning. You will see how the bias of a bigot gifted you with a platform. Your misery will become your ministry, your test, your testimony. You will embrace your obligation to share your perspective and your experience in hopes of leaving the criminal justice system better than you found it. You will offer insight into how prosecutors, the most powerful actors in the criminal justice system can and must use their power for good. It is true your life will never be the same. It will be a life more rewarding than you could have ever imagined”. And then you have this quote on the next page. And Folks this is where I threw the book, I threw the book and I was like, Oh my gosh. Amen. “In the most trying of times, remember you had a purpose before anyone had an opinion.” And so, I would love for you to talk more about this moment for you.

Bianca: Arivee I told you I wasn't gonna cry today. So, there's so much to unpack there. For one, the trauma, the reality of the situation is what happens to me when I described in the book happens to black people in America every day. Some of us survive it. Some of us do not, unfortunately. So, when you think about, you know. When everything was going on since since George Floyd was murdered and all that and before, but particularly since then, and all the things that have happened like, you know, during the course of the Derek Chauvin trial, we have a young man who's killed miles away from the courthouse while the trial is proceeding Dante Wright. And when you think about the collective trauma that is induced on a population, it's, it's undeniable. And my my point is that trauma that I experienced that people are experiencing every single day at the hands of police, it's collective, it's compounding. And it's real. So so that dark place that you just described and is crazy because I still pick up the book sometimes and have to put it down like it's still it's so raw. It's so raw. And I'm so I'm really proud of myself for having the courage to release it. But I still sort of shocked myself sometimes at the facts, that I release that into the world, you know, I think that we really need to come to grips with the trauma that we're imposing on an entire population in multiple generations of people and how that impacts our ability to be citizens and feel like citizens and welcome citizens in the Community that we occupy in the country that we supposedly call our own. I started to realize that I could not just sit. I talked about urgency a little while ago. I couldn't just sit and not share my experience because I felt as though. I I had no choice. It was part. It had to be a part of my journey, regardless of the pain, the humiliation, that anger that I'm not gonna lie still there. Someone told me recently you're you're giving will look different when you get rid of your anger. And I hope that's true. But I'm not. I can't. I can't sit here and say that. It's not completely gone, but I think that what I learned from that experience is that we all have a lane. We all have a way to make this world a better place. And one of the things that I think we can do for our children, the greatest thing I think we can do for our children is to help them find their purpose. I think our world, our communities, the underserved communities. That we that that we live in will look completely different if every child in the country in the world had an opportunity to be connected to their purpose, who had, you know, the exposure that would allow people to find out exactly why they were placed in this world. And I felt as though that this was a platform that I just couldn't overlook and and skirt under the rug even though you know it was It was a difficult thing to do to write this other Lisa publicly.

Arivee: Yeah, and the and the book is real and honest and and vulnerable. And then you get into action, you get into. Here's what you can do. If you're a prosecutor, this is what you can you can rethink right and and you you give you do really give a blueprint for for line prosecutors. And I thought that was really helpful because here is a lot of people get overwhelmed with. There's so much to change. What do I do? And it's like, you look, look in the mirror. It's right there. You can do. You can do things every day that really make a difference. And I and I think this is the first time at least I've heard of or read a federal prosecutor who was well regarded and has arrested and was charged. Right. Because there was a question of like, they're not gonna try. I mean, they're not gonna actually charge. And then you, then you get, as you say, on the other side of the beat. And so the perspective is very unique because either prosecutors will write a book, but they have never experienced it on the other side. And being process you say. And then there are people who have never been a prosecutor who have opinions, right? So, this is you saying we're on. Prosecutors are on the front lines. Yeah. So, I would. I would love for you. Just to maybe give us, you know, one or two key takeaways for for those who are thinking about reading the book or thinking about criminal justice reform like what are the couple lucky takeaways from the book that you want them to to have?

Bianca: Yeah, I'll before I jump into that. I will just say I get one book comes to mind. If someone who was a former prosecutor who was processed and booked and actually went to trial and wrote a book, the difference between my book and that book is I actually believe that there was a way to make the system better, and I don't think that the the key is to deter future justice minded lawyers from prosecution. So, when we talk about messaging the key message is. You hear people say a lot of the times, you know, all prosecutors do is put black people in jail, like you don't wanna do that. That's not contributing to the cause. Yes, our system has so many problems, and yes, they are systemic. But the way to cure them is not to tell everyone to be a defense attorney. That's not it. Right. Because you have to acknowledge you can't simultaneously it. Acknowledge that prosecutors have so much power, and then tell people not to not to utilize that power. And yes, a lot of the power lies with the chief prosecutor. But the reality is one of the best ways to become a chief prosecutor is to be aligned prosecutor. So, we need to have people who are who are getting exposed to how the process works. How to do things like what the system looks like internally so that they can develop the even the desire to to rise up within those ranks. But even when you're not losing those ranks, one of the things I want people to come away with and why I wrote the book, in particular part three, was to do exactly what you you said Arivee is to rethink the process. You know, we're not trained to think about the things that I write about. I write about the Gray and all of the elements that should inform how criminal justice or criminal the criminal legal system operates. And you know something someone said to me is, justice supposed to be blind. You talk about the grey. Let's be real. Justice isn't blind for the rich and the powerful. But why don't we consider all of those negative things that impacts the folks who get entangled in the criminal justice system who aren't getting entangled on the rich, powerful side. But on the other side because of all the systemic issues that exist. So, my primary purpose in writing the book was to to supplement current prosecutorial training courses, because this information is not there and it ought to be, and also to just help the community understand how powerful prosecutors are. We should be encouraging our children to get into those roles and and teaching them the power that they can have, and we should be thinking about the type of people that we elect locally to serve in those positions.

Arivee: When I and you and you may may know this, but and you talk about this in the book you talk about how there are people who are law firms. And if you're at a law firm right now, I'm talking to you. There a law firms and they are told they are told by partners, senior people there told go go go be an ADA go be an AUSA. AUSA is also federal prosecutor, for US attorney for those who don't know the acronym go be a photo prosecutor, get get some experience, gets you need some child experience through four years and then you come back as a partner and no problem. No guarantees. But basically, you need to go get experience. And at that time, when I was at that stage of my career years ago, I didn't think much of that. I was like, OK, I'll get experience, OK. But when I was clerking in the federal court, I had a different perspective, right when I was in court every day. And there are many federal courts where most of the defendants are black and brown. And that and that bothered me. That really bothered me, especially when. They were Spanish speaking Dominican defendants and I so empathized, and so the role of prosecutor to may change 'cause of what I saw, right? (Bianca: Yeah.) And I remember it was one of the reasons why I didn't want to be. Not all the reasons. But one of them was I felt like. I can't do this. I can't contribute to put it. I could even though yes, there are people who do things that you know. Then maybe they shouldn't be roaming the streets, but you talk about this, but it's not black and white. If there's this gray area, can you talk more about and you have a whole chapter on this, like Gray be the guide can you talk about the Gray? Because I I think most people do think of it as black and white. Well, didn't they have a gun? So, they should be on the street. And I'm like, OK, there's a whole story that you don't know. And you you do such a great job in this book of of storytelling. (Bianca: Thank you) Every single every single theme and every point you make, you have stories. It's anecdotal evidence, and you also have research in there. You have case law in there. But I want you to talk more about the Gray.

Bianca: Yeah. I mean, I think the way that you just put it as perfect. It's the big picture. Bryan Stevenson has said we are not the worst thing that we've ever done and we need to remember that when we're in the criminal justice process, everywhere in life, that, especially in the criminal justice process and one of the things I talk about and and one of the things I think is most reflective of the Gray is the sentencing process before someone is actually sentenced the prosecutor that defends the court, they get this thing called the Presentence report and the report is elaborate. In addition to having the persons prior experiences with the criminal justice system, it has their background, it has their parentage, it has their education, it has they’re their financial history, it has their. Their history of drug abuse or or other physical types of abuse, so many of the things that most prosecutors will read and think, wow, I can't even believe this person survived this and I, and I think it's interesting that we get that document at the tail end of the process. Only to assess what sort of criminal exposure, incarceration, or what have you, the person should have at the end of the process. I think it's something that we should have at the beginning because I really do think it has the potential to transform how the entire process happens immediately after arrest and that is one of those radical ideas people would perceive as radical because of the type of resources it would take to sort of develop that report early on in the process, and we'd need buy in for it. Those things should inform our process because there are too many systemic issues to ignore because I. You know, one of the things that I think is really important is we function in this environment where there's a presumption of arrest, right? We have motion restrictions, have some form of citation, and whoever arrest procedure or desk appearance ticket or something that allows a person to be cited and released with a court date. Most of the statutes on this put the discretion in the hands of the officer to decide, even for citation eligible offenses, unless remember George Floyd was going to be arrested for a citation eligible offense, they literally could have written him a ticket. With the court date. But instead they decided to effectuate a custodial arrest and one of the things that we need to to recognize is, you know, that is a way to to transform. That is a way to recognize the Gray because there's so such a substantial impact on a person's life just from a custodial arrest and we need to stop underestimating the impact that just one night in jail has on a person has on their family has on their income, has on their housing, has on their ability to collect benefits. There are collateral effects that we don't think about. That's part of the Gray. You know, I think about how we were taught to handle probation and this actually just. It really makes me sick to my stomach when I think about it and I think that most, a lot of jurisdictions are are transitioning into vertical prosecution when it comes to this, even for the probation side and what that means is that the person who handled the case from the beginning also handles any sort of probation hearing. And at least it happens in the more serious cases, and obviously there's a limitation to that when people are no longer in the office. But we would receive a probation report sometimes minutes before the probation hearing and we were basically reading this document minutes before a hearing, particularly on a misdemeanor side and imposing, making a recommendation for what ought to happen to this human being based on five minutes of reading a report that is unconscionable. That's a problem, right? But that is not something that we have the time to sort of teach and expose young prosecutors to because our training, what are what are the trainings? Right? They, they're they they're not. They're basically created to to teach people how to try cases. To teach you about the do's and don'ts, like what you absolutely can't do, what you absolutely must do. What is Brady evidence? What is what is really exculpatory? What do you have to do to not get in trouble? That's what the trainings are designed for. They're not designed to teach us how to treat the people who are entangled in the system as human beings.

Arivee: Yeah. And you talk about this, too, about the difference between good choices and good options because you mentioned, like sometimes prosecutors will read their pretty sentence report and they're like, how did this person even survive until this point? And so, I wanted to read, do you mind if I read part of it? “Those who become entangled in their criminal justice system often have the least to lose. Our system responds by taking what little they have away, essentially giving them little choice but to recidivate. While it is easy to write off the accused as a product of their own free will and independent choice the reality is that many of us did not make good choices. We had good options. There is a difference. The multitude of bad options presented to those who live in the communities we tend to target and over police on a daily basis or unquantifiable and so. When, as prosecutors, we have resources at our disposal to improve someones life condition, whether they are a victim or witness or the accused, our mandate is to do so.” Let can we talk about the the OK, can we please talk about this? Because even even. When you talked about your grandmother telling you that you should be a lawyer, can we please talk about what exposure means? What, what? What it's like to live in a community where you have a grandma that says, you know, you could be a lawyer and then you're like, oh, I could. And then people around you saying you could versus a community where what you see around you. It's not that.

Bianca: It's not that you know, and it makes all the difference in the world because you could take someone who grew up in the latter type of community where there's not support, where there's a lot of devastation, where for generations their parents, their grandparents, their greatparents have lost faith. In a system and in a country, because of the the experiences that they have had for generations, and you have to think about how those impacts someone's mind. But if you take that person and you give them a mentor, right, that mentor could change their lives. That is, that is a privilege I talk about in the book, you know, there are so many things that we don't consider privileges that are privileges of two parent households is a privilege, you know, and and that's something that we take for granted. But it's something that can be so important to a child development, that ability to be exposed may. It's the same conversation you hear people having in terms of seeing Kamala Harris and you know, as vice president right now, the girls are young brown girls who are watching her and thinking, Oh my goodness, I could do this. But it's so much more impactful when there's someone closer to you who you can actually talk to, who you can call and get advice from. And that's why. I've always hated the bootstraps argument because it it it doesn't credit those little things that we take for granted that have given someone the ability to rise above. It itt makes me think of Michelle Obama's book, actually, where she talks about, and I love the way that she described her upbringing. And she talked about, you know, her parents or her grandparents, her aunts, her uncles. They basically had heard her brother Craig know, it's not that you're smarter than anyone, but you might have this advantage that they don't have. So don't go about thinking that you're better than people but recognize that there. There are these little things that you might take for granted that have allowed you to elevate in a way that others might not have been able to, and those those things are very small. They can be very small, and we overlook them. And when I think about some of the individuals who I I came in contact with, who were on the other side of duty. When I was a prosecutor, the devastation was rampant and the opportunities, the positive opportunities were few and far between, if not non-existent, and that's something that we cannot discount because so many things about there's so many systemic things that contribute to that, that lifetime of devastation that so many generations have experienced.

Arivee: Yeah. And even when I was reading that part of the book and just listen to you talk reminds me of you. Remember the wire, of course. OK. Remember. Michael Michael on the wire. Michael, the little boy who then who is who is he is smart? He is very studious, but he's growing up in this very volatile household and his community, obviously around him. There's obviously that it's the drug dealing and there's a lot of violence around him. And he gets caught up in that not because he's a bad person, (Bianca: right.) But because what's around him that's what there is. And he's like, well, I don't see anything else. Right. And what I loved about the wire is that it it it tried to humanize everybody. (Bianca: Yes that’s the important word.) And you talk about, you talk about that in the book. I mean, the humanity giving people their humanity. Um treating them as human beings. And so I really appreciated that. So, Bianca, let's talk about and just this is to the extent that you can share. The reason for leaving the DOJ, the reason for deciding you know what I think I think being a prosecutor, my time has come.

Bianca: So, I have to say that by the time I I left, I was prosecuting public corruption and and civil rights cases, which was the dream, you know, like the the people who abused the public purse and the officers and other people who violated the constitutional and civil rights of our community. That was what I wanted to do, and I was doing that so I didn't leave because I had to and I didn't leave because I was unhappy. I left because I felt as though I could make a greater impact by releasing the book to the community, to the world, and I wanted to do it my own way on my timing without being filtered in any way, and that's not to say that I, because I absolutely did not release anything that was confidential or private or subject to grand jury material or otherwise not disposable or something that I should not have released that I absolutely did not do that. But I did not wanna be filtered. Either and the way that circumstances worked out, the timing just felt right.

Arivee: Yeah. Talk to us a little bit more about the moment where, you know, even even when you decided to be a prosecutor, right, all those different shifts you had in your career. Right from OK. I'm at a firm. I I wanna be a prosecutor. How do I go about? You know, how did you decide that in that moment? Right. And then switching from your prosecutor and all of this stuff happens. You wanna write the book? What happens to you like, what's the moment where you're like, I must act now? Like what because a lot of times it's a process, right? But I I do find their tends to be a moment. Where does something clicks and you're like, I have no alternative option. I have to go for this.

Bianca: That's a really, really great question. Now, we could probably sit here for awhile while I think through it and talk soon, but I'm gonna try. I'm gonna try to be efficient. And you were in a large law firm, you know all the perks that come with that. The lifestyle that you're able to live in, in that space, and I don't remember how much time you did it for, but I did it for almost seven years. Throughout that time period, I'd always prosecution was my introduction to what lawyers do right, like I was watching law and order. At an early age and I write a little bit about that in the beginning about how intrigued I was by Jack McCoy and with that old meant, I felt as though while I was gaining a lot of valuable experience in a large law firm in New York City, experience that I wouldn't trade for anything. I also felt that I had a different advocacy that I wasn't able to. Really, utilize as much as I wanted to. You know how bad environment is when your associate, you're doing a lot of the you're writing a lot of the words that the partners actually say, you know, I was sitting in trials and sitting to opening statements that I wrote and thought I could do this so much better. Like, that's my voice.

Arivee: Wait, can I just please? OK, can I just say this to those if you if you are listening and you think of partners as, Oh my goodness, their oral argument must be perfect and they must be the best oral advocates. Please don't think. They're not in the quorum enough to practice that enough,

Bianca: And that's why they encourage the associates to go be prosecutors because they want them to actually get that practical experience 'cause a lot of partners don't, and it makes you a lot more competitive. And we didn't really touch on this before. But as I mentioned in the book, it is the antithesis of service of going into prosecution with the lines of service. But there was a point while I was in the firm. And I had a couple of these moments where I I just stopped being fulfilled, you know. And I knew that there was more that I wanted to do. I wasn't really able to do it there. I wanted to to have more autonomy. I wanted to be a part of something that meant more. I wanted to have impact. And I knew I'd be able to get my perspective on what that impact would look like was different at that time. I just thought, I mean, I wanna contribute to keeping the community safe and I wanna do so by while having autonomy on my cases and and utilizing this thing and this gift that I have advocacy, which I I think I loved, and honestly, I was at the point where I thought to myself, look, if I don't love being a prosecutor and if I don't love trial work, then clearly law is not for me and there's something else that I need to be doing. That was where I was, and I ignored all the all the background noise the are you really about to take this pay cut? Really about to move to DC, you know all the background noise, all the discouraging voices, and I just thought. There has to be more and I wanna. I wanna love my work and I wanna feel as though my my passion and my work are not completely separate and apart anymore. (Arivee: Yeah.) So, I took the I took the step of joining US attorney’s office and in the District of Columbia. And I have to say that yes, there there as I described in the book, there was a whole evolution. But one thing that remained pretty consistent was my love for advocacy. I mean, I I really do feel that I discovered the power of my own voice by advocating for other people. And it started with advocating on behalf of victims of domestic violence. For whom there will always be a special place in my heart, but it started there, and it, even in the work that I do now, that that needs to be an advocate exists. Whether it has to do with criminal justice transformation in my book or or what I do for my day job. I think the thing to keep in mind is there so many external forces that can impact what it is that you do with your life and we just have to be courageous enough to tune them out. They just have to be. Otherwise, you will be 80 years old and looking back and thinking I wish I had. What if I had? And that's something that even, you know, at least on a weekly basis, I think about that, I think about what is driving me. So that by when this life is almost over, I can feel as though I did everything I was supposed to do and that was part of the reason I released the book because I felt as though this book this was not just all me. This was divinely orchestrated to a large degree, and it hasn't. There's no way that I put all this together without it being a part of my purpose. There was no way and we just have to be, you know, in tune with what our purpose is.

Arivee: What if someone says, well, Bianca, that's easy for you to say. I mean, you knew, you knew you had this gift of advocacy. You knew that you wanted to do that. You knew you wanted to make an impact. You knew, that was your, like, greater purpose. And. And when I read your book and knowing you, I know that's theme throughout your life like that's clear. I'm pretty sure didn't you win best orator in law school? Yes. OK. So. So yeah. OK, so. It wasn't just your gift. You were. You were really good at it, right? There's like, the you had the strength that you had. You had. You probably honed it over time, and it even got better. But you had it. You had, like, an knack for it, right? And it was a gift that you had. I love how you how you describe this, you said. You also just knew you had this feeling that you were meant for more, that you were like, there's something. There's something else. I know I'm meant to do. Like, I am just meant for more than what I'm doing. And so I wonder if you would have any advice for those who feel like. But is that really my gift? Is that is there really more out there for me like what would you say to people like that who I feel like that just means they're they're probably listening more to the the background noise and themselves, But what would you say to them?

Bianca: I would say you have a lane. OK, there was a lane that was created just for you. And you need to figure out what that is. I didn't. I didn't know that it was gonna be prosecution. I didn't always know that I knew there was a part of me that, as I said, I knew I wanted to be an advocate, but I didn't necessarily know what that looked like. I spent significant times with the latter part of my law firm, career being intentional. About what excited me. There's this book “Highlands Ability Battery.” It's actually it's a test. The test is called Highlands Ability Battery, but it's it's written by it's created by a guy named Bob McDonald. And I forget the actual name of the book, but I'm someone introduced me to that book in the latter years of my law firm career. And I started to read it. And it really taught me how to be intentional about finding what my passions were, and that process in part led me to to say, look, forget the background noise I'm gonna apply for this job. I'm gonna apply to US attorney’s offices in cities that I'm interested in working in and what was interesting about it was I applied to Eastern District of New York and I was just so shocked when I went through the whole process for DC. And hadn't heard anything from EDNY. Why not even a rejection letter? I was like, well, goodness gracious. I mean, can you can you get back to me? And then after I accepted DC, I got a return mail like my postage was insufficient. It never even got to EDNY. And why they never reviewed my application. And in that moment, I could have sat there and thought, man, like I couldn't kept this. I could have stayed in New York and and done this if I had more postage. But what I thought to myself was it must have been a part of my journey to be in the District of Columbia. And I haven't regretted it since. I mean, I I'm still here. Even though I'm no longer a prosecutor and I love the city, but we have to trust the process, we have to be unafraid to take risk, you know, and risk isn't, it's not necessarily always something that you think you there is this thing if you just take a moment to just feel it. That leads you along these different paths. You know, there was so much background noise that could have stopped me from bringing attention to this really painful part of my life that is still hard to talk about, but it, and it was a risk. But it was a risk that I took and I really just encouraged people to just listen to that voice cause it's there if you don't feel it or you don't hear it. You are actively suppressing it because you are not in this world without a lane. Without this voice that is that really just wants to come to the surface and tell you everything. It is that you were made to do. I promise you you were made for something and and you have to believe that the first step is believing that. And being intentional about figuring out what that is, no.

Arivee: OOOO that gave me chills. And that's good. And that's really important people to understand, you know, you said I I knew I had this gift. I didn't know what the end was gonna look like, but I knew what excited me. I I learned how to. How do I really know it's this? OK, this is my gift. OK. I wanna make more impact. And then it was kind of step by step by step. You learn, you grow, you adjust, you learn, you grow, you adjust and then here you are with a book and you and I. I love the part of your book where you said thank God for putting these words on my heart. And that was in the beginning of the book, you said. They were like this. There was a reason why I had to write this book, but you wouldn't have had this experience had you not gone through what you've been through. And so, I just found that really, really powerful. Alright, Bianca? Ready for rapid fire questions.

Bianca: Let's do it.

Arivee: OK, a mantra or saying that helps you get through tough times.

Bianca: The purpose before opinion one is, is it is important because there are still times when some of the feedback that I get, I've done something unconventional here. It hasn't been openly embraced. By everyone, and I still tell myself that from time to time you had a purpose before anyone had an opinion. So that still gets me through tough days.

Arivee: Yeah, person who inspires you the most?

Bianca: My Mama. Yeah, you know, like. And it's crazy because my mother likes to tell me that I get my adventurous risk-taking spirit from my dad. But the reality is she grew up in the Caribbean. At one day, she decided. She was gonna tell her dad she was coming to the states. She knew nobody. She knew. No one here. They didn't have a lot of money. She just thought that they would be more opportunity. And her dad basically said, I guess after some prodding, like, you can go, but take your your brother. So, the two of them came to the states on their own. Found jobs, went to school, eventually brought the rest of the family over. It's really informed my view of my family, my view of myself and the older I got, the more profound my respect gets for my mom, for my mom, because what a big deal like she was a young woman in her 20s who decided to leave everything she knew. To come to this place because she thought there were, there was a possibility of a better life and and that is that is the the next time she tells me that my courageous risk-taking spirit comes from my dad, I'm gonna remind her her own choice back in the 70s.

Arivee: Yes. Yes. That's a beautiful story though. Have did you and I didn't ask this and I know it's a rapid fire, but I have to ask. We're talking about your mom and all the sacrifices she made. Did you ever feel like being the daughter of your immigrant mother it was something more that you had to do with your life. Like, did you feel, you know, not that your mom put pressure on you directly, but that you felt oK, well, she came here for a better life, and I I gotta make good on this. Did you feel that way or.

Bianca: So, I'll tell you. I'll tell you what I did feel. I felt like the world was my oyster because I grew up in a home that wasn't saddled by the history of the United States of America on black people. So, a lot of the, a lot of what I write about and what I've learned has not been a result of what I learned in my house, because the thing we talked about that breaks people down, breaks their spirits. Generations of devastation. That was not something that I was exposed to. So, I never felt limited. That ability to see opportunity, the fact that that doesn't exist for some people I think is is one of the most heartbreaking realities of our country and and to be honest of our worlds. And so that was what I felt. I felt empowered because there was no generational response that was like breaking my spirit as I grew up.

Arivee: Yeah, you weren't surrounded by, like limitation. It was possibility.

Bianca: Yeah. And I mean, you know, because my mom came over here for opportunity. That mindset, that there was opportunity. It was such a big part of how I viewed my life, so I I find that to be that's probably one of the best, if not the best gifts that my mother could have ever given me that mindset and dictation, you know, even in the hardest moments that I felt, that dark place you you mentioned when I was writing, I still knew like I could overcome this because of my upbringing and mindset that was instilled in me.

Arivee: Yeah, there. Oh my God, that's another question I had to when I was reading that part of your book. And when I think about the community in general, I think about, you know, we're strong, we're resilient. But it's like, why do we always have to do it? (Bianca: Like can we have a minute? Can we breathe?) Yeah. How you and then how you and you toggle your experience. How when you're in that jail cell and you're you're just like I will not show weakness. But just the fact that we can never we can never let up and that we have to be that way. Like physiologically changes your body, your brain like it's just in your head. Yeah. You're kinda. It's like always like fight or flight. So that really hit me in your book too. OK. I could talk to you forever. Last question is what does humble rising mean to you?

Bianca: I love that question and I love the title of this podcast because for me it means moving into the spaces created for you with humility, vulnerability, openness, because you are serving something that is greater than yourself. Right. When you when you recognize that there's something greater from where you get your power, but also for which you were created, your rise your elevation for one it's organic because it's not just about ambition and strategy like one of the things that I find most devastating about our political space, our political. Climate in the U S, but also other places is that people are getting ousted for speaking truth, right? People are getting ousted for putting values over ambition. And that to me is just such a disgrace. It is so disgraceful, and it really makes me angry about what politics have become, probably what they always happen with. Reality is we're seeing it so much more now, so humble rising to me is the antitheism of that. It is. It is rising with a sense of purpose and just with an intention of service cause there are so many ways to be of service. You don't have to be a public servant, so to speak, to me in service you and I are both, you know, working in the global compliance space to some degree right now, for one, I think corporations are to be in service to the global world, that they occupy. Being good global citizens is such a big part of what corporations ought to be. And when there are people who say that that is way too much, that is not what corporations are built for. You know, we if we want able to bring their whole self to work. As cliche as it may sound, if we are all focused on our lane and doing the best, we can in that lane to make this world a better, better place, it automatically will become become that. So, I think keeping all of that in mind is what humble rising is about.

Arivee: Yes, yes to that. OK. Yeah. Biance where can we find your book? How can we get it?

Bianca: Yes. So if you go to my website, it'll take you automatically to Amazon to accept Barnes and Noble.

Arivee: And the last question where can we find you? Are you on IG?

Bianca: So yes, I'm one IG. You can find me @prosecutedprosecutor on IG on Instagram and also, I'm new to the Twitter, the Twitter game, but I'm also on Twitter prosecuted prosecutor.

Arivee: Awesome. Alright. Thanks Bianca. Thank you for joining me. It was such a pleasure to have you.

Bianca: Thanks. It was a pleasure being here. And this is so much fun. It's so great.

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Thank you for listening to this conversation with Bianca. I'm hoping it invited you to rethink some of your views of our criminal justice system, those entangled in it and the role that prosecutors play and can play in reforming it. I also hope that it helps you understand what it looks like to navigate the pursuit of your purpose, which isn't linear at all, what it looks like to align your actions with your values and your purpose, and to be unapologetic about it, to me, Bianca represents that and a lot more. So, let's reflect on some of the key takeaways from the conversation. Number one, prosecutors must use their power for good. You will embrace your obligation to share your perspective and your experience in hopes of leaving the criminal justice system better than you found it. Number two more people need to be exposed to the criminal justice system internally, in order to rethink the process as a whole. Three let the grey be the guide. Let the grey be the guide. It's important to recognize the grey and understand the systemic factors that impacts and individuals actions. Four, there is a difference between good choices and good options. Know the difference. Five. One of the biggest takeaways is Bianca's mantra. Remember that you had a purpose before anyone had an opinion. Six. Everyone has a lane and has a way to make the world a better place, help others in their journey to find their lane. And lastly, be courageous enough to follow your drive and fulfill your purpose in life. You might not know where your life will take you as you pursue your purpose, but it's important to learn it's important to grow and to adjust.

If you wanna connect with Bianca, check out her website. I'll throw the website address and the show notes. You can follow her @prosecutedprosecutor on Instagram and Twitter to hear more about how she's living out her purpose. You can also head to her website, Amazon or Barnes and nobles and buy a copy of her book “Prosecuted Prosecutor.” Also, don't forget to subscribe, rate and review this podcast.

I'd love for you to share it with others as well if you want my doses of inspiration and motivation delivered to your inbox. Click the link in the show knows to subscribe. You can connect with me on Instagram @Ariveevargas or on LinkedIn. I'd love to know what you would like to learn and hear more about on the podcast. Finally, if you've been asking yourself how to figure out that next step in your career. I've got a career clarity quick guide just for you. Check out the show notes for the link until next time. Take one more action to step into how incredibly powerful you are. You got this.

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