There is never a typical day for Alfreda Tillman Bester.
She is the people’s lawyer.
But let her tell you, while it helps others, she believes that her legal work also brings her closer to God. “Whatever I’m able to do to help someone who doesn’t have a voice or doesn’t know how to navigate the system is my blessing,” she said. “It is a commitment that I have to the community that I can only say is a gift that God gave me,” she continued. “I love what I do because I get to help people resolve conflicts. It’s a blessing for me and it’s a ministry to me.” And it’s something she said she’s always known she’s wanted to do, except for the intermission of a brief childhood dream to become a physician.
Incidentally, she credits Sunday school for teaching her everything she knows about life and human interaction, preparing her for a career in law. And also instilling the notion that there is a remedy for lack of knowledge and so she went forth, earning an undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, MBA from McNeese State University, and juris doctorate from Southern University Law Center. All of the education coupled with her communal-caring has led her to tackle some of Baton Rouge’s biggest issues.
The most notable of her recent work is the fight to preserve representative government at the East Baton Rouge Parish school board. That task included a lawsuit to maintain the districts as they were and continual opposition of the reduction in the number of school board districts.
As an attorney, Bester said she agrees with the popular American idiom “freedom is not free,” and in regards to her community, warns that it is an easily forgettable phrase when one doesn’t understand rights. “You have to learn what your rights are and you have to know how to assert them,” she said. “If you don’t have someone to be that voice for you, then you need to find an organization.” Bester, who works with the NAACP, said the group, popular for its civil rights era work, is the organization to help.
“We work for people who have no voice,” she said. “Everyone associates the NAACP with representing the rights of only Black people and that is just not the case.” Bester also encourages the community to lay its own groundwork, assuring that there is a task for everyone who is willing to improve their surroundings, be it letter-writing or making phone calls. “It’s about us becoming the village again,” she said. “Understanding that we are our brother’s keeper and until everyone – everyone in the community is free – until everyone has the rights that every other person has, none of us will be free.”
And in restoring that village, Bester said it’s important not to wait to consult an attorney, but to call as soon as conflict arises.
By Leslie D. Rose
The Drum Newspaper