Meet Olayemi Olurin: The Woman Who Took on Mayor Eric Adams and Won

Olayemi Olurin has been described as one of Mayor Adams' "most ardent critics"

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Meet Olayemi Olurin: The Woman Who Took on Mayor Eric Adams and Won
Photo: Instagram @msolurin

Olayemi Olurin is a movement lawyer, political commentator, and writer in New York City. She was born and raised in Nassau, The Bahamas, where she lived until she moved to the United States in 2008. 

Born to a Nigerian father and Bahamian mother, Olayemi Olurin persuaded her parents to allow her to attend high school in the U.S., hoping it would facilitate her path to becoming a lawyer. In her senior class, Olurin was the only Black girl, which brought its own challenges. She recalls one classmate making racist remarks about Black people not being able to swim and having specific food preferences.

Olayemi earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio University, where she studied Political Science Pre-Law, with a minor in African American Studies and a Certificate in Law, Justice, and Culture. She later obtained her Juris Doctor from St. John’s University School of Law. 

Olayemi Activism 

After graduating in 2018, Olayemi Olurin began working at the Legal Aid Society, where she passionately argued against incarcerating her clients for minor offenses such as fare evasion. In 2021, she gained attention after posting a video on Twitter showing an NYPD officer apparently kneeling on her client’s neck. Successfully getting the charges dismissed, this incident made her realize her potential to effect change within the criminal justice system as an advocate. Feeling disillusioned with the stressful and underpaid nature of her work at Legal Aid, Olurin left her job at the end of 2022 to pursue advocacy full-time.

While supporting herself with a job assisting criminal justice reform advocates in shaping their media messaging, Olurin launched a YouTube channel last year. On this platform, she hosts lively podcasts where she and guests engage in debates on topics like the increasing support of blacks for the Republican Party. She also conducts political deep dives, including a lengthy critique branding Mayor Eric Adams as “the Worst Mayor in America” due to his endorsement of racially biased policing policies such as stop and frisk.

She is an outspoken advocate for criminal justice reform, decarceration, and closing Rikers Island, a notorious pre-trial detention center in New York City where people have died awaiting trial. 

“Extreme events of injustice or cruelty, usually perpetrated against the most ‘sympathetic’ people targeted by mass criminalization (those charged with low-level women, youth, and the elderly), generate public outrage and awareness. Then the stories fade from the news, everyone forgets, and the status quo prevails. Meanwhile, ‘everyday,’ but no less harmful, injustices persist on a mass scale and are never covered. So unless you’re in court every day, like me, or living in an overpoliced and criminalized community, or caged on Rikers itself, it’s as if this crisis isn’t happening.” – Olayemi Olurin

She has also used her social media platforms to speak for those who are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system due to systemic racism. She has called for the Queens District Attorney’s office to charge a police officer and dismiss charges against her client, where bystanders said the officer kneeled on the client’s neck.

Olayemi has appeared on various media platforms, including The Hill, MSNBC, CBS, NBC, iHeartRadio, NPR, Yahoo News, VOA News, Brut Media, BNC, The Law & Crime Network, and more, to discuss issues of systemic racism, abolition, and the problems with the prison industrial complex.

Olayemi’s advocacy extends beyond the courtroom. She is a prolific writer and commentator, with her work published in outlets like Teen Vogue, Essence Magazine, and The Grio. In her writings, she confronts the portrayal of law enforcement in media and highlights the pervasive influence of systemic racism. She authored an opinion piece in Teen Vogue titled “Law & Order Taught Americans to Root for the Police”, arguing that police dramas help convince Americans that more policing is always the answer.

In a recent clash with Mayor Eric Adams, Olurin’s confrontational style was on full display. In a viral radio interview on “The Breakfast Club,” she challenged Adams on issues of police brutality and systemic racism, refusing to shy away from difficult conversations. Despite facing opposition, Olurin remains undeterred in her pursuit of justice, earning recognition as one of Mayor Adams’ “most ardent critics”.

Olurin aspires to emulate Issa Rae’s career trajectory in advocacy, aiming to establish her own production company and platform with enough reach to attract substantial attention.

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