Roll Mod­els Se­ries

FROM LOWRID­ERS TO LAW SCHOOL, HOW ONE MAN’S RE­LENT­LESS PUR­SUIT FOR EX­CEL­LENCE HELPED HIM ACHIEVE THE AMER­I­CAN DREAM

Low Rider - - CON­TENTS - STORY & PHO­TOS BY JOE RAY

To have a higher call­ing is when some­thing reaches out and ab­sorbs you. It cre­ates a spark of light that can’t be ex­tin­guished, and it be­comes an ob­ses­sion you can’t shake.

For Ryan John­son, a for­mer Detroit na­tive, the first thing that grabbed his at­ten­tion as a child was the Cadil­lac mar­que—of which he has owned over a dozen. His sec­ond call­ing came when he saw the in­jus­tices of the le­gal sys­tem.

As a mem­ber of the Ma­jes­tics

Car Club, one could view his life as pic­turesque and per­fect, but the dream came with a price and it’s safe to say he’s paid his dues. Now set aside his per­fectly ex­e­cuted '60 Im­pala and his cur­rent Cadil­lac sedan that is go­ing through a full frame-off restora­tion and his story be­gins with an in­fat­u­a­tion with cars.

For Ryan, lowrid­ers mimic the jour­ney of life. It’s about work­ing with what you have to pa­tiently build what you en­vi­sion but once it’s com­plete, it’s all about stay­ing low and cruis­ing slow. “Own­ing a lowrider is about fam­ily,” Ryan says. “You have to work hard to com­plete a car and the mem­o­ries cre­ated with my broth­ers over the past 20 to 30 years is very re­ward­ing,” he adds.

Born and raised on the west side of Detroit, his par­ents moved he and his two sis­ters to the sub­urbs of Detroit. They wanted a bet­ter life for their chil­dren and wanted them to be im­mersed in a safe and cre­ative en­vi­ron­ment in which they could flour­ish and suc­ceed. Though he had formerly been caught up with the wrong crowd, and he may not have grad­u­ated at the time, his mother’s re­lent­less pur­suit to help him ul­ti­mately landed him a high school diploma.

Shortly there­after, he had twin boys, and whereas most would have opted to work and leave be­hind the hopes and dreams of achiev­ing more, Ryan was de­ter­mined to power through and use what­ever spare time he had to con­tinue his ed­u­ca­tion. After land­ing an as­so­ciate’s de­gree, it was then he no­ticed that a good at­tor­ney could get some­one out on their own re­cog­ni­zance while oth­ers for the same crime would get six months. It was an epiphany that struck the then 30-yearold to make a bold and de­ci­sive change, so he set out to be­come a lawyer.

Through ded­i­ca­tion, dis­ci­pline, and de­ter­mi­na­tion, he put his head down and hit the books as hard as he used to hit the cor­ner block and his mother served as in­spi­ra­tion for his ac­tions. You see, his mom was 40 years old when she went back to school so he used her story as the in­spi­ra­tion to get go­ing and to­day

Ryan John­son has in­te­grated his com­bined ex­pe­ri­ence in IT and law to be­come not only a pow­er­ful mi­nor­ity but the quin­tes­sen­tial ex­am­ple of the Amer­i­can Dream.

To­day, he’s a prac­tic­ing at­tor­ney, pro­fes­sor, and lowrider ad­vo­cate who is proud to be among the 5 per­cent of black lawyers in Amer­ica. His mes­sage as a Roll Model is one that res­onates the prin­ci­ples of ded­i­ca­tion and drive, and he’s a firm be­liever and prime ex­am­ple that it’s never too late to be­come who you were des­tined to be. So please tune in to Roll Mod­els to catch the full episode be­cause Ryan’s story is proof that you are never too old to dream and live out your pas­sions.

All you have to do is make your mind up, set it on tar­get, and put in the nec­es­sary work to make it hap­pen!

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