American Born -Puerto Rican descent who loves everything about her culture, is a Councilperson for the City of New Carrollton, a community organizer; lawyer, teacher, and caregiver that always bring people together and advocate for justice.
Briana Urbina in an exclusive interview with Adewale Adenrele speaks about her growing up, experiences, challenges, and major responsibilities in her chosen career and political journey.
Below are excerpts:
Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your family?
I am a middle child with an older sister and a younger brother. My wife Laura and I have been married for 14 years. We became caregivers to my younger brother with special needs in 2012 and adopted our oldest son in 2016. We welcomed our youngest son in 2022.
Recently, you went on vacation, can you share the exploration experience and aspects of tourism you like?
I went to Puerto Rico, and we stayed in the town of Luquillo. It was a wonderful trip. The thing I enjoyed the most was the food. I am 2nd generation Puerto Rican and I love everything about my culture. We ate out every day, at different restaurants and we all enjoyed trying new foods and eating the staples I was raised with. We plan to one day buy property in Luquillo because it is a beautiful town and is close to many tourists hot spots.
Tell us about your early childhood…Where did you grow up, who were the most memorable characters growing up, and what do you remember about your town/city during the time you were growing up?
I was born in the Bronx, NY, and raised in a suburb of New York City, Middletown, NY. I was primarily raised by a single father alongside my younger brother. Our sister is more than 20 years older than us, so she was not present in our day-to-day lives. I was a total tomboy and enjoyed sports. I still truly love sports. I was always outside riding my bike, going for runs, or shooting hoops in the driveway.
Who influenced you the most in life and why?
I have been most influenced or impacted by my brother Andres. He is a person with intellectual disabilities, and we grew up inseparable. I always knew there would be a day I would come to be his caregiver and expanding his access to opportunity has been my life’s work. I think growing up with a sibling who has a disability instilled a sense of justice and equity in my heart at a young age. I never wanted my brother to be excluded and I never understood the structural limitations our society has placed on people with disabilities.
You adopted your kids, tell us the process of adoption and your reason for adoption and do you wish to adopt kids from Africa?
I have one son who is adopted and one son that I carried. I would love to have more children, specifically a girl but for a variety of reasons, I think it unlikely we would adopt again. Childcare costs as well as the costs of adopting are the greatest barriers to us expanding our family. Sadly, there is no country in Africa that allows same-sex couples from the US to adopt. I did the research prior to becoming pregnant with my youngest because we wanted to adopt again but very few countries allow same-sex couples to adopt. If it were possible and affordable, we absolutely would have welcomed a child from Africa.
As a community organizer; a lawyer, a teacher, and a caregiver how were you able to combine all at a time?
How do I do it all? Not very well. I was a teacher from 2015-2017. I left the classroom for opportunities where I could expand my impact to serve more people. I still see myself as a community organizer in my roles as a Councilperson for the City of New Carrollton and as a lawyer because I am always trying to bring people together and advocate for justice. I have been at my current law firm for nearly a year, and I enjoy my work because the work that I do can have a lasting impact on my clients’ lives. I am honored to have that responsibility and I do not take it lightly.
Tell us your experiences, challenges, and major responsibilities in your chosen career.
I really struggled in law school. I nearly failed out twice. Even after graduating, my professors all warned me not to take the bar exam because they were certain I would fail. I studied 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 12 weeks (only taking 3 days off) and I passed the New York Bar. I was the first student from my law school to do so. I have a lot of belief in my ability to succeed and I am a praying woman. Passing the bar is still my greatest accomplishment other than being a mother.
Discuss a time you faced adversity and how you overcame it, also how you handled an unexpected situation at work, actions you helped your team to succeed and what career accomplishment are you most proud of.
As a woman and a mother in the workplace, there are so many challenges. I had to quit my last job because they didn’t offer maternity leave. I have since found a workplace that has been truly accommodating to me as a mother and understands that you can’t schedule your children’s illnesses and school performances. Balancing it all is the struggle of a lifetime but I think it is important for my boys to see their mother and women in general who work hard, who are ambitious and who are educated. I really don’t have a story specifically regarding overcoming a challenge in the workplace but overall I want to work towards creating a society that values work/life balance and affords women equal access to professional opportunities.
In the past 20 years, the political space has achieved some of the most dramatic breakthroughs in the world. The number of female legislators on the continent has increased, would you consider yourself a politician someday?
I am a politician now. I was recently re-elected to the City Council for the City of New Carrollton. I was promoted to the position of Council Chair where I preside over a council that is all male, except for myself. I have great pride in my political success, and I aspire to continue to earn the confidence of my community.
Ethnic groups and tribes have customs and traditions that are unique to their culture. What do you like about African Culture? Have you been to the African Continent before?
I have been to the continent one time. I had a short visit to Morocco while I was studying abroad in Spain. It was an amazing experience and unlike any other traveling, I had done before. My oldest son is African American and he is really interested in all animals, native to Africa, so it is my dream to take him on Safari when both of my boys are older. As a Prince Georgian and native New Yorker, I have many friends from across the continent and I love learning more about the different cultures of their ancestry. As a woman of Puerto Rican descent, I value my own connection to the continent and have always seen the beauty of the diaspora across Latin America.
Amazing memories are unforgettable; can you share with us the most amazing memory?
I guess my most amazing memory was the day my son’s adoption was finalized. It was over Zoom and the Judge asked Javarie if he wanted to describe my wife and me to the court. He said, “Briana is the bad cop and Laura is the good cop.” When she asked if there was anything else he wanted to add, he said, “No.” Everyone on Zoom laughed and she made her ruling granting the adoption. I didn’t expect to get as emotional as I did but we all (Javarie, Laura, and I) cried. I will never forget how tightly I squeezed Javarie and how tightly he squeezed back at that moment. It will probably be my favorite memory forever and surprisingly was more impactful that the birth of the baby I carried. Being an adoptive mom is a completely different experience and he chose us as much as we chose him. The baby didn’t have a choice and so much of our bond is built on biology. Javarie was 8 years old when he moved in and it took years for us to be worthy enough to be his parents.
What advice would you give the younger ones?
My advice would be never to wait for someone to give you permission to do what you know you are capable of doing. Chances are, no one will give you permission to do what you can do. You can’t rely on outside validation and your driving force has to come from God, from hard work and your belief in yourself.
Thank you for sharing with ADM.