Philadelphia’s Immigrant Lawyer Writes himself into American History
“When you want to be an example, you have to be prepared for it.” The former Philadelphia top lawyer, Sozi Pedro Tulante, has done just that: prepare.
At the age of eight, Tulante began his journey in Philadelphia as a refugee from Kinshasa, Zaire on December 15, 1983. In the book This I Believe: Philadelphia,Tulante writes, “I vividly recall the indescribable blend of wonder, trepidation, and anticipation, I felt about what lay ahead: forging new friendships, settling in a new home, learning a new language, all a world apart from virtually everyone and everything I have ever known.” Since then, Tulante has went from being a child on welfare to graduating from Harvard twice, serving as Philadelphia’s city solicitor, and now a Penn Law professor.
Growing up in his North Philadelphia neighborhood, hardships defined Tulante experiences. He went to bed hungry many nights and lived through a neighborhood ravaged by the crack-cocaine epidemic and gangbanging. However, Tulante’s hard work and his parents’ determination to offer him and his sibling a brighter future would lead him to Harvard. Tulante would graduate, cum laude, from Harvard College and would earn a JD, cum laude, from Harvard Law School.
Throughout his law career, Tulante has worked in key positions. He was as an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In 2015, Tulante became Philadelphia’s top lawyer in serving as city solicitor in Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration. The mayor called him a “change agent” who will move Philadelphia forward. His signature achievements included defending Mayor Kenney’s soda tax, increasing the number of lawyers to help the child welfare system, and protecting Philadelphia’s sanctuary city status.
Sozi Tulante receives the 2018 Nationalities Service Award.
Tulante recently started a new journey as an educator. Since March 2018, he has been a full-time lecturer and advisor at Penn Law School. Even with his busy schedule as city solicitor, Tulante taught as an adjunct instructor at Penn Law and mentored students. Speaking with the Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn Law graduate Jamil Favors remembers Tulante inviting him at his office to share personal career advice. “I can speak for a ton of [alumni] that say he’s going to be a great addition to Penn," Favors said. "For any student that wants to go into law, for any student that’s a first-generation American, for any student that didn’t come from a traditional background, his story is one that motivates and shows that no matter where you come from, these are things you can accomplish."
Aminata Sy is the founder and president of African Community Learning Program, a multimedia journalist, and a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studies international relations and English. She is also the founder, editor, and publisher of the #500EmpoweringAfricanStories Project.
African Community Learning Program educates, connects, empowers, and supports people of African background in West Philadelphia.
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