Mbye Njie of Legal Equalizer: “Be your authentic you”

Be your authentic you. I got into a tough field not knowing how tough it would be, but the one thing that has kept this going is my passion. When I talk about these issues it drives something inside of me and people can hear, see, and feel that passion. That is being my authentic […]

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Be your authentic you. I got into a tough field not knowing how tough it would be, but the one thing that has kept this going is my passion. When I talk about these issues it drives something inside of me and people can hear, see, and feel that passion. That is being my authentic self.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mbye Njie.

Mbye Njie is an activist and founder of Legal Equalizer, a mobile app that allows users to capture police encounters after being pulled over, automatically notify loved ones in real-time, provide information on legal rights involving that encounter, and receive legal advice at the scene. Njie launched the first version of LE in 2015 after seeing the fallout from the Michael Brown case, and pulling from his own personal experiences with law enforcement. He is originally from Gambia, West Africa and moved to the US in 1990 when he was just 9 years old. Since living in the US, Mbye has dedicated countless hours to helping others, including volunteering at homeless shelters and local churches as well as helping with the Fair Fight and New Georgia Project organizations. Mbye is currently on the College Alumni Board at Davidson University and lives in the suburbs of Atlanta with his husky.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I didn’t mean to get into this career path, I was just fed up with seeing video after video and hearing story after story of issues dealing with brutality. I finally decided I was going to do something about it when I was pulled over 3 times within a week and a half in December of 2014.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

One of the most interesting stories since I’ve started this company was when I went out to Silicon Valley for about 6 weeks in 2017 to try and learn about the tech industry and secure possible investors. I went to a couple of conferences including one for attorneys, and met with people involved with different VC firms, but they didn’t understand the issue. It was this trip that made me realize a divide in tech (people with the money), and what people actually experience. It was also this trip that made me realize, in order to save lives in this business, I was going to have to figure out a way to monetize the app. This trip gave me a completely different insight into the tech world.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the funniest mistakes that I made when I first started was spending money to go to a couple of tech conferences. It is only funny now, because I realize how naive I was by thinking that we would get some investment or funding by going to these conferences. The lesson I learned from that is to spend money on improving your product instead. If you can build a good enough product, people will find you.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

Legal Equalizer is making a social impact in that it is going to change the way that law enforcement interacts with people. We are providing people with the help that they need when they actually need it. I look at it as giving people a guardian angel in their pockets.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

We have had numerous people reach out to us to tell us that they used the app and it has helped them. We have even had people send us videos describing their experiences. We have a man from Saint Louis who was a former college football player who used the app last time he was pulled over and he said that not only did it make him feel safer, but the officer treated him differently when he saw that there were 5 people watching.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1.) Get rid of qualified immunity for police officers because there will never be true accountability in policing as long as qualified immunity is around. 2.) Get rid of police union contracts and re-work the contracts between cities and law enforcement that will now place the people and their safety at the forefront. 3.) Reallocate city budgets that will fund low income communities, and allow mental health workers to answer mental health calls. By giving those low income communities opportunities for jobs, better food, after school programs, and resources it would lower crime in these communities. I can go on for days, but these are three.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

The best leaders in history have been the best listeners. Leadership is about listening. The best leaders have been the individuals who listen to the people not only about their problems, but also their solutions. Ghandi, Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Malcolm X, and so many more were great listeners. They all learned from others, and were great leaders because they listened to the will of the people and acted upon that.

What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1.) Building apps is not cheap! I thought I would be able to build out my app and the whole platform for less than 15,000 dollars…. 2.) Entrepreneurship is incredibly hard and there will be times that you will have to make choices between your business and your comfort. There have been numerous times over the past 5 years in which I chose to pay a bill for the company over paying a personal bill. 3.) Take care of yourself mentally. This is not easy or for the faint of heart. You will be stressed out, and you need to find out what gives you peace.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We have enough resources in this world where we shouldn’t have people that are dying of hunger and people that can’t find housing. I would want a global movement of basic decency in which we promise to make sure every human has food and housing. Solving these two issues would also solve a lot of other issues in this world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Be your authentic you. I got into a tough field not knowing how tough it would be, but the one thing that has kept this going is my passion. When I talk about these issues it drives something inside of me and people can hear, see, and feel that passion. That is being my authentic self.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

The answer is a cliche one, but probably President Obama, just so I can understand his thinking and his rationalization of things. Would love to discuss the things that I passionately disagree with him on, and things that I whole heartedly support. He has mastered the art of walking through different spaces as well.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me at @mnjie on Twitter, and @GambianChampion on IG. Legal Equalizer is @legaleqapp on Twitter, @legal_equalizer_app on IG and Legal Equalizer on FB

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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