If anyone is qualified to comment on issues of race, urban violence, and policing, it is Marilyn Mosby. Born to an unmarried high school junior in the gritty Dorchester neighborhood of south Boston, she was raised alongside her younger brother and sister in a house full of cops: Her grandfather was on the force, as was her mother, as was her uncle next door. “It gives me perspective,” she says. “I know the majority of police officers are outstanding, dedicated, loyal public servants, just like my family.” The house she grew up in, nicknamed the Police House, was a boisterous place, where Marilyn’s grandparents would host competitive karaoke nights around the family pool. “The entire community would come,” she says, “which is annoying when it’s 4:00 a.m. and you’re trying to study.”

Her mother, Linda, describes Marilyn as “a determined little girl. When she was a baby, I had to rock her to sleep to a specific song, Michael Jackson’s ‘Rock with You.’ ” Linda enrolled her daughter in a desegregation program that bused Marilyn an hour away to one of the top schools in the state, where she was at first the only Black student. “She soared through the curriculum,” remembers Monique Marshall Veale, an administrator who became a mentor to Marilyn. “I can still hear her voice in the halls in eighth grade. She challenged anything that didn’t feel right or sound right.” Then, the summer before ninth grade, Marilyn experienced a tragedy at home. Her seventeen-year-old cousin Diron Spence was shot and killed just steps from her house when, she says, he was mistaken for a local drug dealer. As Mosby describes Diron lying in the street, emotion catches in her voice. “We were raised like brother and sister, and both wanted to be first-generation college graduates.” The trauma of that scene has never left her.