There has been a swirling controversy over a freestyle that rapper Jay Z performed at his Webster Hall conference in May. His freestyle, which was to honor slain rapper and entrepreneur Nipsey Hussle, has the following lyrics:
Gentrify your own hood before these people do it/ Claim eminent domain and have your people move in/ That’s a small glimpse into what Nipsey was doing/ For anybody still confused as to what he was doing.”
Some folks said on Twitterthat gentrification can only be viewed in a negative way because it requires pricing people out of their own neighborhood.
I am really thrilled about my latest piece to run in Essence Magazine. It was fueled out of the horror of seeing just about every recently elected African American elected prosecutor coming under fire for things that occur in offices nationwide on a regular basis. It’s clear to me, especially seeing how the Florida Legislature has stymied the citizen driven/voter approved Amendment 4, that the old guard does not want change. We as voters have to be wise not only in choosing our District/State/Commonwealth Attorney, but also our mayors, police chiefs, and commission members. If they do not support reform, then the reform minded elected prosecutor is often left twisting in the wind.
A record number of women of color have been elected to District Attorneys positions in the past four years. In 2014, a Women Donor Network study found that 95% of elected prosecutors were white, with 79% being white men. Since that study was released, African American women have been elected as District Attorneys in major metropolitan cities like Orlando, St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, and New York.
Now that they are in office – are the standards the same for them as their white male counterparts? There has been great discussion about the wide latitude prosecutors have to exercise their discretion; do African-American female top prosecutors have that same level of freedom?
In honor of Father’s Day, I’m sharing some of the greatest pieces of advice my father has given me over the years. He tended to speak in parables/riddles – it took me several decades for the meanings to sink in and resonate. There is that moment (as popularized by a series of Progressive Auto Insurance commercials) when you realize that you’ve become your parents. I find myself using a few of these – at work, in speeches, or when there is simply no other way to explain a situation.
So here we go! Imagine all of these said with a Jamaican patois accent for full effect.
It’s not where you begin, it’s where you get off
This gem is a reminder that it’s all about the journey as well as the end result. You could have had a rough start, a slow start, or botched a few things along the way. If you end up in a good place, how and where you started becomes irrelevant.
You have to have 2 types of friends – the one who can push the car, and the one who can sign the papers.
This one is so real to me. It’s a reminder not to be a snob. Don’t exclusively run with one group of people – make sure to be diverse in your friends and acquaintances. It’s easy to say “oh I’m educated, I don’t socialize with certain people“. Just because someone may not have the same educational level as you does not mean they aren’t a good person or worthy of your friendship. And as a practical matter, the partner at a law firm is (generally) not going to come down from his/her office and jump start your car if your battery dies. But the janitor, if you have been treating him/her with respect, will help you out.
Make hay while the sun is still shining
My father grew up in an agricultural area of Jamaica. It’s literal – after dark you can’t get a whole lot done. But on another level, it encourages me to get a jump on things early, and not procrastinate. It could be a business idea, a project, or a chore. You never know when you will lose an opportunity or time will run out on you (literally or figuratively). His biggest push was for me to finish my education before pursuing anything else – because life has a tendency to get in the way of finishing goals (bills to pay, family, etc.).
A king never gets recognition in his own country.
There’s nothing worse than putting all of your efforts into something, and it not working out the way you planned.
Sometimes it goes completely sideways and you get drama for trying to do a good thing.
But sometimes, you get recognition or support from the unlikeliest of places, while those you thought would support you are nowhere to be found. This is a reminder that it’s not so bad, just do your best and the rest will see for itself.
Stand crooked and cut straight
This is my personal favorite — I have been using it like crazy of late. Sometimes you find yourself in a bad situation. Use where you are as a way to get yourself out and make future plans. For instance, your job is not working out well. For the time being, stay in it, but focus on where you want to be. Network, get another degree, learn the skills that will help you get as well as succeed at the job you really want. It’s all about making the best of the current situation while working on getting to the next level.
In closing, I hope you enjoyed these gems – please share the favorites from your family!
Super thrilled that my latest piece appears on the blog Very Smart Brothas. They are doing a series “America in Black”. My piece explores the stereotypes and misconceptions held by all races of what it means to be a black woman.
“Every black person’s struggle takes a different path but has the same theme. In my legal career, the struggle is respect, being heard, and having the ability to make meaningful change to uplift communities of color. The bias looks the same—while some people of color may be hesitant to embrace you because you’re perceived as “bougie,” certain white folks marvel that you can afford a luxury purse or a high-end foreign car without being tied to illegal activity. I was once at an event when a judge joked to me whether or not my Michael Kors purse was a result of dropping cases as a prosecutor.”
As Mother’s Day approaches, the conversation should not only be about Hallmark cards and what gift to buy the mothers in your life. While it is extremely important to show honor to our mothers daily (not just on Mother’s Day), we as a society should be focused on supporting mothers too. We are in a country with an extremely high rate of mortality for Black mothers — 3 to 4 times that of white mothers. Serena Williams has been public about her near death experience after giving birth; the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, chose to have a doula present when delivering her baby. If high profile Black women are having concerns in the delivery room — let’s think about how much more dire this can be if a mother is giving birth behind bars.
The conversation has been elevated to include mothers who are in custody. Movements like #FreeBlackMamas and The Dignity Act illustrate the problems that face mothers behind bars. The Dignity Act was included as part of federal criminal justice reform bill, which just recently passed. It requires that women are not shackled while they give birth, receive menstrual care items, and searched by same-sex guards when at all possible. Sadly, states have been slower to pass these types of reforms.
A version of the Dignity Act passed in the Florida Legislature this month. However, this bill would not have helped Tammy Jackson — who was left to give birth alone in her jail cell for six hours in Broward County. Despite her repeated pleas to the guards, she was not provided medical attention. This is part of the greater problem where certain mothers are not valued. The fact that someone is incarcerated or in custody does not diminish their humanity. People who are in custody are the responsibility of the Department of Corrections; as such, it is the guard’s responsibility to ensure that those in their care receive the help that they need.
Additionally, medical professionals need to have regular implicit bias training. The assumption that Black women are stronger, therefore perceived to be less in need of medical attention, is a deadly fallacy that costs mothers their lives. This is something that is a relatively easy fix to the high mortality rates.
As for the guards who left Tammy Jackson to give birth alone in her cell without medical attention, it is my hope that her pain becomes a teaching moment in the road to criminal justice reform. No one should be judged by a mistake they may have made. 83% of people who go into custody come out – the trauma that was caused by this experience lasts, leaving repercussions on not only the person who was incarcerated, but begins a ripple effect from the immediate family to society as a whole.
As I do every Mother’s Day, I must wish my own mother a happy Mother’s Day in heaven. As I learn more about the medical traumas that mothers, especially Black mothers face, I marvel at her strength and appreciate her even more.