Helping hand: Law student helps form Detroit Benevolent Society

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

In middle school, Chanel Taylor was voted “Most likely to have a talk show”; and in high school, was a staff reporter on the school paper “Newsprint” at Mercy High School in Farmington Hills.

She continued to develop that passion for communication by majoring in public relations at Wayne State University, with a minor in journalism and political science. During undergrad, she spent two years as an assistant to the president at Ignite Social Media.

 “It was a great job because it was flexible, my boss was great, and I got to learn about the business behind a social media firm,” she says.

After a semester as a communications intern at Truscott Rossman in Detroit, she proved to be such a valuable asset the firm extended her internship for a year.

Taylor currently is a publicist for The Bee Agency in Detroit.

“I’m able to work with a variety of clients that are bringing positive change and influencing social impact,” she says. “I love the creativity of public relations.”

Now a 1L student at Detroit Mercy Law, she finds her background helps in the legal course work by providing her with a fine attention to detail.

“It will help in a legal career because so much of law is writing and I’m learning to adapt to a new writing style,” she says. “It also helps with understanding the needs of a client and communicating those needs. Knowing how to assess a brand and showcase its key messages could also help with marketing a law firm.”

She was drawn to the legal field by a desire to help her community.

“I want to be able to understand how to fight for justice and create changes on multiple levels,” she says. “Black women make up a small percentage of lawyers—I want to help change that and be part of bringing more Black women into law.”

Taylor is enjoying her law school experience, even during the pandemic.

“I’ve been able to make great friends and we all genuinely want to see one another succeed,” she says. “That was really important to me in choosing what school to attend. I wanted to find an environment where students wanted to help one another.”

She is intent on a well-rounded law school experience to see where her eventual interests will lie.

“I always say that I remain open to whatever path finds me,” she says. “I’m passionate about social justice and service to others, but I know service to others can occur in a variety of focus areas.

“I want to work in a firm, a judge’s chamber and as in-house counsel to see which suits me best. My main career goal is to make a difference, so whatever organization or firm that allows me to do so. I do have my eye on the National Women’s Law Center though!”

She has an upcoming summer internship with in-house counsel at DTE Energy, finishing off the summer as a law clerk for Judge Arthur Tarnow at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit.

While working at home has had the benefits of saving on gas, travel and food, the pandemic has also proved to be challenging.

“It can become overwhelming with the amount of death and confusion we consume,” she says. “I often remind myself to take it one step, one day at a time and take mental breaks as needed. One of my favorite affirmations is: ‘Focus on the step in front of you, not the whole staircase.’”

Last year, Taylor and her best friend, Kayla Kennard, launched what started as a weeklong service project that rapidly grew. Because of food insecurity needs in the community, Taylor and Rev. Charles Williams formed the Detroit Benevolent Society. The organization has provided more than 700,000 meals to families and senior citizens in need, also adding supplies like sanitary items and diapers.

The DBS teamed with King Solomon Baptist Church in Detroit, headquarters for the Michigan Chapter of the National Action Network; and soon garnered funding and products from charities such as Forgotten Harvest and World Central Kitchen, meals prepared by area restaurants, and helping hands from work-experience programs organized by the City of Detroit.

“I’m so thankful for the many people who have helped out and volunteered—it’s nothing that our team could do on our own,” she says. “Food insecurity and barriers to seniors and families have always been there –the pandemic just exposed and exacerbated how bad they are.”

Born in Detroit, Taylor was raised in Southfield, where she currently lives. In her leisure time, she enjoys reading, relaxing, traveling, online shopping, and spending time with family and friends. She also is the co-host of Pretty Political Podcast, addressing current events, pop culture and politics; and is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Taylor is passionate about her family’s deep roots in the Motor City; and relished her grandfather’s incredible stories about Black Bottom, the predominantly Black neighborhood on Detroit's near east side, bounded by Gratiot Avenue, Brush Street, the Detroit River, and the Grand Trunk railroad tracks. Demolished for redevelopment in the late 1950s to early 1960s, it was replaced with the Lafayette Park residential district and a freeway. 

“I love that Detroit is one of the Blackest cities in the country and has such a rich history,” she says.



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