She sees a need and steps up to fill it. Areva Martin, Esq. is America’s Advocate. When a major media outlet needs a legal expert, it’s frequently Martin. She’s seen regularly on shows including Dr. Phil, AC360, CNN Tonight, Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, and others. She is also a regular guest co-host on the syndicated Emmy Award-winning daytime talk show, “The Doctors.”
In addition to her on-screen persona, trial attorney Martin is founder and a managing partner of Martin & Martin, LLP in Los Angeles, which battles behind the scenes in civil rights litigation. She created the Special Needs Network, Inc., a grassroots autism nonprofit that has helped more than 35,000 underserved families, and leads the way in legislation and policy advocacy in California. Her activism is inspired by her son, Marty, a teenager who was diagnosed with autism at age 2. She also has two young adult daughters, Michael and Morgan.
Martin is a long way from her tough neighborhood of North St. Louis. She credits her grandmother and godmother for instilling positivity, unbreakable values, and non-stop drive. She obtained degrees from the University of Chicago and Harvard Law School and went on to pursue her dreams and help others fulfill theirs. Martin told BELLA LA about what inspires her to do—and be—more.
What are you doing to make this year’s holidays special in your house?
Christmas is my favorite holiday. To extend my joy, I invite supportive friends to a cocktail party open house. They bring unwrapped toys that we give away at a huge event for thousands of Special Needs Network kids and their siblings. It’s the perfect way to give back.
You are incredibly busy. Do you feel like you can actually do nothing for a while during the holidays?
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s the whole world seems to slow down. Even news stories change their focus from hard-hitting to more personal interest and heartwarming topics. I get to spend more time with family and friends—maybe even have a two-hour lunch.
Do you have a special holiday tradition?
Before cell phone photos took over, I was the family historian, always taking pictures for albums. I loved buying Christmas frames, too. I still bring out those photos during the holidays and it’s a great way to reflect. Now my daughter, Morgan, takes pictures but getting her to create the albums… well, she’s a teenager! You became an attorney to make positive changes. Has your career fulfilled your expectations?
I thought my practice would be limited to civil rights law, but I didn’t anticipate so much of it to be focused on individuals with disabilities and workplace discrimination. I never envisioned becoming a TV lawyer, commentator, and talk show host. I didn’t imagine using the law and my career to play a part in critical national debates about topics including race, policing, and gender bias. I’m so grateful to the many people that follow my commentary, write to me, and say, Thank you for being our voice.When you watch TV dramas that involve the legal profession, do you ever want to change the script?I’m a fanatic who watches every episode of Dick Wolf’s Law & Order: SVU. These shows are drama and fiction, but they do give a glimpse into how the court system works and how imperfect it is. On TV, things happen one way, but in the real world, it’s more complex—never as black and white. You advocate for children’s and women’s rights. For both of those groups, what are the number one issues that still need work?First, early childhood education can level the playing field for minority and low-income children. We know that by the age of 3, children born into low-income families hear approximately 30 million fewer words than peers in more affluent households. We can and must fix this. Second, gender bias is real, but can be subtle. Pay equity is an issue, since female full-time workers still only make 80 cents for every dollar earned by men for doing the same work. It’s time to change these inequities. Though my mantra is You simply will not outwork me, hard work without policy and shifts in attitudes won’t put working women on equal footing with their male peers. What should we know about autism that perhaps we don’t know? Autism is a spectrum disorder, and if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met oneperson with autism—you can’t generalize. Early diagnosis and intervention can change the trajectory for a person on the spectrum, but sadly, such services are lacking in many communities. You’re a runner and advocate for health and fitness. How do you motivate other people? Running is a lifestyle for me, not a chore. I try to lead by example and share my runs and tips for staying fit on weekly social media timelines. I hope my journey inspires others.
By Stephanie Stephens
Photography: Gilles Touca
Hair and Makeup: April Chaney
Decor: Donna Robinson Interiors
Clothing: Eduardo Lucero