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The latest Tales From TikTok spotlights Harlem native and Fordham University School of Law student Afrika Owes, who passed the New York Bar Exam after her first attempt. Owes’ remarkable feat serves as the ultimate redemption story as she was previously incarcerated at Rikers Island for six months.

On April 24, Owes, 30, took to TikTok with a video that captured her breaking down into tears upon learning she had successfully passed the New York Bar Exam. While holding onto a picture of her son, Kairos, her grandmother and her late mother, the Fordham University School of Law student eagerly scrolled through the exam website to check for her results.

Owes, a third-year law student, jumped out of her seat when she found out she had passed the exam.

“I passed! I passed!” she shouted, as tears began to stream down her face. Owes’s brother, Kwanzaa, could be seen standing behind her, congratulating her on passing the tough test.

After her tears of joy settled, Owes expressed gratitude to her mother, grandmother, and son, Kairos, displaying individual pictures of each of them. In the caption, the FUSL star, slated to graduate this month according to People, reflected on how her significant accomplishment placed her in the “ranks of the 2% Black women attorneys in the U.S and the less than 1% of formerly incarcerated Black attorneys in the U.S.”

How hard is it to pass the New York Bar Exam?

The New York Bar Exam, also known as the New York Uniform Bar Exam (UBE), is a standardized examination administered by the New York State Board of Law Examiners. It’s a requirement for individuals seeking admission to practice law in the state of New York. The exam typically consists of two main parts: the Multi-state Bar Examination (MBE), which tests candidates on general legal principles, and the New York State-specific portion, which covers local laws and procedures.

Passing the New York Bar Exam can be challenging due to its comprehensive nature and the high standards set by the Board of Law Examiners. The exam requires thorough preparation, including studying various legal subjects, practicing writing essays, and completing practice questions to familiarize oneself with the format and content.

To successfully pass the New York Bar Exam, candidates must attain a passing score of at least 266 out of 400 points. 

Passing the Bar Exam on the first attempt for Black examinees can be difficult. According to recent data disclosed by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, in 2023, Black test takers reportedly achieved the lowest pass rate among first-time test-takers, with a pass rate of 58%, up 1% higher than 2022.

Owes evidently refused to let statistics undermine her confidence. Furthermore, even a six-month prison sentence failed to deter her aspirations of becoming a lawyer.

From Rikers Island to esteemed lawyer.

In a recent interview with People, Owes revealed that her desire to become a lawyer was ignited during her time at Rikers Island, where she was incarcerated due to charges connected to gang-related conspiracy stemming from a case in 2011. She was sentenced under the New York Youthful Offender program and served six months on Rikers Island, followed by five years of probation upon her release.

Remarkably, she noted that she ultimately spent only two years on probation.

The Hobart & William Smith Colleges graduate studied for her SAT and GED during her prison sentence and upon her release, successfully completed both high school and college. She graduated from Hobart & William Smith with a degree in Sociology and minors in Africana Studies and Public Policy.

Reflecting on her journey, Owes, who grew up in a low income household, said she learned her strength and resilience from her late mother, who passed away in 2019, according to her blog.

“Despite our circumstances, she always was an advocate for herself, [and] other people in the community and that was always a skill and a value that was embedded in me,” Owes told People. “So, I knew I always wanted to go to law school for that reason.”

She added, “I encourage people like me to get into law or any space because personal experience is such a valuable asset.”

Owes will be “working in tax law at a big law firm” after she graduates and is aiming to obtain her judicial clerkship soon, People noted.

We love to see it!

Afrika Owes made a guest appearance on The Tamron Hall Show May 9 to delve deeper into her remarkable journey. Discover more about the inspiring law student below.


Congrats to Afrika! This Tales From TikTok was amazing.

RELATED CONTENT: FAMU Law Graduate Goes Viral For Passing New York Bar Exam With High Score

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