- A California woman was inspired by her brother’s murder conviction to study law, so she enrolled at Southwestern Law School.
- The wife, AB Burns-Tucker, is scheduled to graduate in 2023.
- He has also launched a TikTok account where he breaks down current affairs in a way that is easier for young people, especially black people, to understand.
AB Burns-Tucker saw his brother Brandon convicted of murder as a teenager.
He was sentenced to 50 years to life in prison and convicted under a law that allows the state to prosecute anyone who was “in” a crime or knew it was happening.
Burns-Tucker committed to changing the system from within and enrolled at Southwestern Law School. Then, in 2020, she started filming TikTok videos about current events to help young black people like herself better understand them.
He has amassed more than 630,000 followers on the video-sharing site, and his skills have even earned him an invitation to the White House, where he met the president and vice president.
Burns-Tucker, a 33-year-old mother of one, says her videos resonate with people because she talks just like she would her friends and family, without code-switching (or changing the way she talks).
Among the catchphrases he uses to start his videos is the popular “OK, then BOOM!”
One of his first videos to do big numbers was about Ukraine and Russia, but he has also talked about current issues such as inflation, healthcare and international relations between China and the US
His videos help him reach an audience that might not otherwise pay attention to current events, he said.
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African American Vernacular English: A lot of our slang comes from the black community. Not recognizing that this perpetuates racism.
Why did you start making the videos?
While studying law, Burns-Tucker found some of the legal “archaic” quite difficult to understand. “I’d be looking up every other word in the dictionary,” he said. “To help myself and help my friends, I would just make a story out of it.”
So when he talks about cases, he might say, “The court is mad because the old boy took the old girl across the state.”
Calling it a “survival tactic” as a law student (first generation, that is), Burns-Tucker said she doesn’t write like this during exams, but it helps her retain information.
“I know we code-switch when we go out and go to work and things like that,” she told USA TODAY. “But when you’re in your own zone … that’s how I relate to my community and the people I hang out with.”
Her brother’s case is what led her to practice law in the first place, she said. Then just a teenager, he had two trials.
As Burns-Tucker watched them unfold, she became confused by the intricacies of the law. He was convicted under the state’s complicity law, which says a defendant is guilty of a crime if he knew the perpetrator’s intentions.
“Basically, the prosecutor’s argument was ‘Brandon wasn’t the person who shot the victim, he was there with the co-defendant, the person who actually shot him, so that makes him equally guilty.’ “, he said.
Back then, it was rare for him to see other black people in the courtroom unless they were accused, so he set out to learn all he could about the law.
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Why are your videos so popular?
Burns-Tucker’s videos are quite popular because he uses African American Vernacular English, also known as AAVE. It is a specific speaking style that has its own grammatical structure, pronunciation and vocabulary, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica.
Linguists say that AAVE has its roots in the South; became more common as blacks migrated north in the early to mid-20th century, sociolinguist Walt Wolfram wrote in his article “The grammar of urban African American Vernacular English.”
Notable examples of AAVE include different uses of to be i doneHe wrote
For example, someone using AAVE might say:
- “Sometimes they’re playing.”
- “They’ve used all the good ones.”
- “I’ve had it for about three years.”
- “He was known.”
Burns-Tucker said she used to be insecure about the way she spoke and her use of AAVE.
“I have a brain from Stanford, but the grammar from Compton,” he said. “I’m very, very smart, but sometimes the way I talk might not be so appropriate, I guess. What I’m finding is that people love me for that, and they appreciate me for that.”
How have the responses been?
When Burns-Tucker speaks this way in her videos and breaks down current issues, the responses are usually positive. The videos have even been played during classes at his school, he said.
And while she had previously attended the content creator’s press conferences at the White House via Zoom, she was invited to one in person on September 13. There, he posted a video with content creator Vitus “V” Spehar, host of @UnderTheDeskNews.
Burns-Tucker is happy that his platform has allowed him to reach so many people.
“For a long time, we’ve been told to talk like it’s ghetto,” he said. “What I’m learning is that more people talk that way than they don’t. More people can understand it that way. . . . There’s no community that feels left out.”
Saleen Martin is a reporter for USA TODAY’s NOW team. She is from Norfolk, Virginia – the 757 – and loves all things horror, witches, Christmas and food. Follow her on Twitter at @Saleen_Martin or email him at email@example.com.