Dare to dream: Law student has long experience in law enforcement

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Detroit Mercy Law 1L student Zahara Madahah was honored with a Woman in Blue Officer of the Year Award in 2021.

Photo by ‘Stan J’

By  Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Many of Zahara Madahah’s adult choices have been rooted in her childhood and experiences growing into womanhood. Always wanting to serve the community, her first step was to become an officer with the Detroit Police Department.

“I was able to see first-hand how the justice system impacts communities that are often times forgotten about, communities that deserved officers, attorneys and other community workers that wanted to work towards a common goal—change,” she says. 

As a police officer, Madahah worked closely with citizens she was sworn to protect and serve—and also was involved in extra activities within the department that would assist in developing relationships with Detroit residents. This included joining the Brotherhood and Sisterhood program, mentoring at-risk youth. 

“Gaining the trust of those young, brilliant, yet challenging youths was not an easy feat,” she says. 

A sitting board member of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement executives (N.O.B.L.E.) Metro Detroit Chapter, Madahah also was a part of the new pilot program Detroit Wayne Integrated Health-DWIH subsection Crisis Intervention Team with the Detroit police department. 

“Our team was instrumental in working with clinicians on police calls for citizens who were in a mental crisis—a program geared toward rehabilitation and understanding the crisis of the individual rather than a crime,” she says.

Honored with the Woman in Blue Officer of the Year and Spirit of Detroit Award in 2021, Madahah was further inspired to do more. Becoming a Homicide Investigator, still with the rank of Police Officer, she developed an even deeper passion for justice. 

“Unfortunately, this was also the time I was targeted within the department with a baseless internal investigation,” she says. “Rather than let what happened to me deter me from my goal, I studied more and without further doubt knew that studying law was my next step. To work for a common goal that many are seeking—that is, to continue towards correcting injustices, protecting the innocent against retaliation and ensuring everyone gets a fair chance. And in addition, to change the mindset that our justice system is not for people who look like me and my brothers. 

“I refused to bash the justice system. If I wanted to write a different chapter, I needed to be an author. Thus, law school was in my vision. I made sure I followed a path that would allow me to be a citizen that can and will create change in our judicial system, and to promote a justice system that is for all.”

Now a 1L student at Detroit Mercy Law, Madahah looks forward to the legal discourse community. 

“Seeing the camaraderie with the staff and how welcoming they were to us new 1L students meant more than I can even began to explain. The way my 1L class came together and still is coming together to make sure not one woman or man is left behind says something about the culture here,” she says. 

“Mostly, I’m looking forward to getting past this 1L year and working in clinics where I know I will be effective in assisting our citizens with professionalism and elevated legal assistance from a school such as Detroit Mercy Law. I do believe we are one of a kind.” 

With an eventual career goal is to one day be a Supreme Court justice, Madahah is interested in criminal law, and also in corporate law.

“From seeing the issues surrounding, gentrification in our city in certain zones to the abandoned businesses, homes, corruption and large violence, I’d like to use my passion and experience to continue moving forward with effective strategies that benefit the citizens in the city of Detroit,” she says. 

Madahah holds an undergrad degree in English language and literature from the University of Michigan-Dearborn.

“As a young girl I was always fascinated with books—more specifically poetry,” she says. “As an adolescent I didn't realize the complexities with the tone of voice used in the various poems and prose. That curiosity led me to study the underlying meanings with words and tones. To really dig deep and have a critical eye for the ‘unsaid.’ with the help of my professors, I was able nurture this curiosity and developed an appreciation for the English language.”

She enjoys visiting wineries and collecting art; and makeup has been an interest since childhood, when her aunt would put makeup on her, much to her father’s dismay. As a result, Madahah runs her own small cosmetics company that was featured in The Detroit Entrepreneur, and was named in Detroit’s “40 Under 40” listing. 

 As a victim of domestic violence from a previous marriage, Madahah’s goal is—and always will be— to dare to dream. 

“Even if the top of staircase seems far. Pushing yourself past your limits might seem unfathomable, but that is where you do your best work,” she says. “And remember the sky is not the limit no matter the phrase—there is an entire universe out there.”


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