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Meet Jason Onyediri, the first Black editor in chief of the Texas Law Review

Jason Onyediri was selected to lead the Texas Law Review last month.
Jason Onyediri
Jason Onyediri was selected to lead the Texas Law Review last month.

The Texas Law Review has been edited and published by students at the University of Texas School of Law since 1922.

This year, the independent journal did something for the first time in its 100-year history: It chose a Black editor in chief.

Jason Onyediri, a second-year law student, was selected to lead the Law Review in January. He graduated from UT Austin in 2020 with undergraduate degrees in biochemistry and philosophy, and has also served as the head editor of the Texas Undergraduate Law Review.

This conversation with Onyediri has been edited lightly for clarity:

KUT: You're the first Black person in a century to be selected as editor in chief of the Texas Law Review. How does that make you feel when you hear that?

Well, first of all, I'm incredibly humbled and honored to have been selected and entrusted with this position. Texas Law Review is a phenomenal institution that I have great love and adoration for, so to be elevated to this position is fantastic and it is really and truly a dream come true.

At the same time, it's a bit of a long overdue milestone. And so I'm happy that Texas Law Review has sort of taken a step in this direction. I think that it's really positive, and it's going to be beneficial for the journal as we sort of think about what the next century looks like.

KUT: Has it been a goal of yours to become editor in chief of the journal?

I wouldn't phrase it that way; I think it's been a dream of mine to be editor in chief of the Texas Law Review. But there are so many tremendous and incredibly intellectual and capable individuals here at the Texas Law School, and that's also the case here at the Law Review.

Becoming editor in chief was a dream, and I'm glad that that dream has come true, but it's not something that I sort of set my mind to or thought that I was absolutely 100% going to do. It was just something that I thought, if this happens, that's going to be absolutely terrific and I'm going to put in the work to make sure that it can happen. I'm just fortunate enough to be on the other side of this and to say that I was successful.

KUT: What direction do you plan to lead the journal in during your time as editor in chief? Are there any specific goals that you'd like to achieve in that time?

I think the first and foremost goal is the same goal as every editor in chief, and that is to continue the phenomenal reputation that Texas Law Review has for putting out incredible legal scholarship.

Secondarily, I think that an important thing for me is to make sure that all the members of the Law Review have their mental health and their well-being taken into account. That's extraordinarily important to me, and that's something that I've conveyed to members of the editorial board is, you know, we're living in tough enough times, and I think it's important to make sure that we check in with folks and make their experience here very positive.

Another goal of mine is to sort of increase the outreach that Texas Law Review has in the Texas legal community more generally. Being a member of the Law Review comes with privileges and responsibilities, and I think to the extent we can extend those privileges to folks outside the review, here at the law school or elsewhere, and let them know what it is to be a part of the journal and what it is to be a part of a larger legal community. I think it's important to make it feel as inclusive as possible.

KUT: Do you feel that there is any particular pressure on you as the first Black person to be selected for this role? Do you welcome that pressure?

I feel excitement, I think that that's sort of the feeling that I get. I am so incredibly honored to be in this position, and I'm supremely excited about what the new editorial board is going to do.

I think that there's a fair bit of discretion given to students in what direction to take the journal and I'm super excited and happy about the number of competent folks that I have working with me to make sure this journal is going to be as fantastic as it is. So, you know, maybe there's pressure, but I primarily feel excitement.

KUT: How do you see your selection affecting future editors in chief and other members of the Texas Law Review?

I think it's a really important thing and I hope that folks will take a look at not just my position, but the number of folks at law reviews across the country who can say they were the first Black editor in chief of their law review.

I hope that inspires folks; I hope that they take a look at that and think whatever sort of endeavor that they're engaged in, they take a look and say, 'Well, maybe I can be the first person who looks the way I do, who has my lived experience to take a position of leadership here.' I think that would be my ultimate goal, and that's something that I hope comes from this.