For our student feature, we’re highlighting Anthony Lee Murdock II, a second-year J.D. student at the IU McKinney School of Law. Murdock is also the co-founder of Butler’s Bust The B.U.B.B.L.E., the owner of Murdock LLC, co-creator of #PowerMovesOnly, an inaugural coordinator of the Diversity Education & Advocacy Committee during college for Butler University's Student Government Association, as well as a graduate assistant for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at IUPUI.
How is your experience at IU McKinney?
Law school is nothing like I expected. I only applied to one law school, and I’m glad I went to McKinney. Raised in Indianapolis, it’s my home. I appreciated when I was an undergrad how deeply engaged McKinney was and how much they were a part of the city. It was the only place I wanted to go to after I graduated from Butler. Law school is stressful regardless, but the support system I have in our Black Law Student Association has been incredible and also the support with faculty and staff, administrators, and the dean. I’m thankful I’m here.
How did your undergrad experience influence you going to law school?
I have wanted to be an attorney since the 7th grade. Being a part of Butler’s pre-law program (shout-out to Professor McKnight!), and being deeply engaged with diversity and inclusion work was really important when I was in college and doing community work and believing in stewardship. I was raised on this idea of stewardship, and my church is huge on this. There were a number of things that catalyzed my decision for law school. Being a Black man at a predominantly White institution and seeking how to create more opportunities for me to be more vocal and more unapologetic about my identity. Also, creating opportunities to help other people feel supported and advocated for because of their identities.
Can you speak more about the community work and activism with which you were involved?
When I was at Butler, we started a student movement called BUST the Bubble. Bubble is an acronym for Believe and Understand the Butler Bubble limits everyone. Our mission was to promote the perspective of students of color at predominantly White institutions through diversity education and cultural awareness and action-oriented activism. We started that my first year and there are universities across the country that use the toolkits we developed to help students of color, specifically Black students at predominantly White institutions, help navigate that experience and leverage that advantage on their campuses.
I was also involved with student government. I was the inaugural coordinator of our diversity education and advocacy committee. Our committee at that time sat on two different boards on our student government. I was involved with that and most notably started the discussion series called, “Discussions in the DC.” We got together administrators and faculty, staff, and students, into our diversity center, to first increase utilization of that space to show that it was needed, but also to have critical conversations about diversity and inclusion, with the entire campus. There wasn’t a lot of preaching to the choir. It was more about engaging new voices and new perspectives, and, basically, White people who usually have the privilege of removing themselves from that conversation. That program continues to this day.
I’m also a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. We’re the first Black intercollegiate fraternity in the world. A number of prominent civil rights figures, Dr. King, the first black Olympic athlete, Jesse Owens, were members. We did a lot of work there with national programs about voting and education.
What have been some of your more entrepreneurial pursuits?
I started a nonprofit in my junior year called Power Moves Only. We’re a non-profit that turns entrepreneurs into power-preneurs, one power move at a time. We have programs that teach people the principles of power-preneurship. We’ll be hosting our inaugural banquet next year, which started in January 2018. We highlight women of color making power moves in their community and now we’re turning it into a fundraising initiative with a banquet where we honor a mover, this woman of color making a power move. We used the money raised with ticket sales at the banquet for scholarships to graduates of our power-preneur mover program.
I also have a company called Murdock LLC, which empowers communities to leverage their influence to fuel systemic change through people-centric partnerships and community-driven collaborations. We partner with Black-owned businesses all the time. We hosted a speaker series at Cleo’s Bodega & Cafe, right around the corner from IUPUI, for three months. We’ve also had a partnership with the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS). We had a speaker series with myself and speakers I’ve identified across the network to speak with every graduating senior at IPS for the semester. We’ll continue that, too, along with hosting regular webinars.
How do you think your involvement across your college career influenced your law school path? What did you think you would be like when you were a freshman looking now?
When I came here as a freshman, a lot of about college was not what I expected it to be. I had to deal with that and navigate that and it caused me to think about things in ways that were unconventional or untraditional for me. For one, I went to a residential campus but wasn’t living on campus. I was Black at a predominantly White school, and it forced me to think outside the box on how I was going to survive. And survive less in the physiological sense but more in the political sense. How do you produce the social change that you need in that environment to leave it better than how you found it? All of what happened that was nontraditional for me, was part of how I was able to start my brand that we’re now turning into a non-profit. I never thought I’d be doing something like that!
A lot of what I’m looking at now isn’t what I thought it would be like, back when I thought I knew what I was talking about. Part of life is that not only do you learn new things every day, but also the opportunity to learn every day shows how much room you have to grow. I think living and genuinely experiencing life and growth is walking into places where you have a lot to learn.
What was something surprising when you started community work?
The most notable thing is how pervasive racism is and how White supremacy is in all of our everyday lives. I continue to be baffled by that. The greatest obstacle wasn’t working with the people, it was trying to understand, even as it’s irrational, these systems of oppression. In the pervasiveness of racism, as I continue to engage in this work, it is always at the forefront. We have to understand how pervasive it is personally and also understand its power if we want to thrive and move forward. If we confront these realities with collaboration and intersectionality and innovation, then we can thrive.
How do you find your passions and awareness interact with your studies? Do you see solutions or do you find that they conflict?
One thing is that the law was literally not made to protect most of us. Our law is based on precedent, and you can only technically do something new if something preceded it. And when you’re trying to articulate a perspective that’s not the norm, at one level you’re learning how to articulate your voice, but I’ve been doing that since I was in middle school. I didn’t come to law school to learn that.
The other piece is that it makes it all the more difficult to process what it is that I’m learning. When your bar of excellence is not just judged on whether you understand but also whether you can say it in that same language, it’s difficult because it’s in the language made to tell me to shut up.
It’s aggravating, but I’m here, and I don’t think it comes by accident. If I can learn how to articulate, even just with myself, then I think of how much clearer I’ll be able to communicate and how many more people I’ll be able to help captivate their voice. It’s trying to come to terms with the idea of how to make this experience that may conflict me, how do I make that make sense.
What has been your experience working with Pathways to Social Change?
I’m an evening student at McKinney. I work at the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. In this particular program, we’re trying to expose students from underrepresented backgrounds to law and philanthropy. On another level, it’s also creating a pipeline and, if they want to, empowering these students to know how to get there. I’m interested in how we do this in this intersection of law and philanthropy, the intersection being social change. The question is how do you take money for particular interests and then also bring the law which has the government’s interests, to benefit, in theory, the people.
As a graduate assistant, we work with interns. Usually, I like structure and goals, but it’s more about learning who the people are in this program—tasked to help students at IUPUI figure things out for themselves through the lens of different partnerships and things like housing. It’s about putting students in different spaces and places to raise their expertise and have different experiences. I’m thankful to be a part of it and helping people navigate it for themselves. My role is, ultimately, helping someone else.