Black women celebrate the swearing in of Ketanji Brown Jackson

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On International Women’s Day in 2021, Glynda Carr wrote a list with other members of her organization, Higher Heights for America, which is dedicated to electing more liberal black women to power. There were no black women governors, they wrote. No black women in the Senate. No black woman had ever been president. No black woman has ever served on the Supreme Court.

More than a year later, Carr is taking time to defend, write, protest. Today, however briefly, she is able to celebrate.

Live: Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in Supreme Court, making history

“On the 50th anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s bold bid for president, we have a black woman on the Supreme Court,” said Carr, who is president, CEO and co-founder of Higher Heights. “We didn’t think there would be an opening in 2022. We are definitely seeing the fruits of [Chisholm’s] work today.

At noon on Thursday, Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in as the first black female Supreme Court justice in US history. Her supporters have been waiting for this moment since April, when Jackson was confirmed to the court in a 53-47 Senate vote. She was sworn in minutes after Judge Stephen G. Breyer, her mentor, formalized her retirement.

The liberal-leaning judge joins a court in turmoil – one that has seen a hugely unusual leak of a draft opinion this year. And the court’s rulings this month reflected its conservative majority: it overturned the fundamental right to abortion established in Roe vs. Waderestricted firearms regulations and, more recently, limited the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.

For liberal organizers like Carr, Jackson’s rise to power comes during a terrifying time.

But “we needed that happiness today,” Carr added. “I am thrilled to be able to see and hear the excitement [online]. Between today and tomorrow I will wear a poster of Ketanji Brown Jackson, I will post a photo of Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Black women reflect on joy throughout Jackson hearings: ‘We need to celebrate this’

Indeed, for many black women, it is a time of celebration. Although some have expressed concern about the politicized timing in which Jackson joins the court, the promise of representation in Supreme Court decisions and for other black women trumps everything at this point.

Many expressed their joy on social media.

“This wonderful thing happened today. We can definitely pause to celebrate,” Joy-Ann Reid, MSNBC host wrote on Twitter.

“Congratulations to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson,” Sherrilyn Iffil, President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, tweeted.

Rebeca Lafond, 24, didn’t dare dream of being a lawyer when she was growing up, she says. After all, the lawyers she knew weren’t Haitian immigrants, they didn’t live in downtown Brooklyn like her, and most importantly, they weren’t black.

Now a sophomore at the City University of New York School of Law, Lafond is “celebrating today like a holiday.”

“Actually, it should be a holiday,” she said. “I haven’t had a lot of support or seen a lot of people like me on the pitch. I hope younger, younger children will see her as a judge now and think that it could be me one day.

But there were times during Jackson’s journey to the Supreme Court that weren’t so joyous, Lafond said: Listening to Jackson’s confirmation hearings was difficult for her.

“Black women are still 10 times harder hit. It’s never as easy for us as it is for our counterparts,” Lafond said, referring to questions from Republican senators during Jackson’s confirmation hearings. “We always have to be the strong black woman. We must always stand firm, not cry, be strong. But, in reality, it hurts to see that, because why do we have to be a punching bag? But [Jackson] did it with so much grace.

Third-year law student Ebony Cormier also watched the hearings — but she did so from inside Congress, seated several rows behind Jackson.

“At that time, I remember Republican senators trying to tarnish her legacy and tear her down,” said Cormier, 39, a student at Southern University Law Center. “But to see her hold her head up high and stand in her truth, she was just such a pillar and an example to black women, all women really, of how you face controversy head on with dignity and class.

Today, Cormier is celebrating Jackson’s swearing-in with his two young daughters. She’s happy they’re growing up with Jackson as a role model, proof they can do “anything they want,” she said.

Carr plans to call her goddaughters after celebrating with thousands of other black women at a conference later today. She also thinks of her mother and the other “anonymous black activists” who join her celebrations in spirit.

Her favorite Maya Angelou quote also comes to mind, she said, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.”

Jackson, standing with his hand raised today, “Maybe she’s one, but she’s at 10,000,” Carr said. “And I think that sums up today’s moment for me.”

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