Legal Divas of Color: Jasmine Twitty

Legal Divas of Color: Jasmine Twitty

The RLD Black History Month segment continues with our Legal Divas of Color.  Black history is always evolving, with people of color breaking barriers and challenging stereotypes.

Often when folks think of millennials, they think of a spoiled generation who lives at home for as long as they can.

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Jasmine Twitty challenged that perception by becoming the youngest judge in South Carolina history in August of 2015. At the age of 25, she has reached a goal that, as many can attest, others have spent their lives pursuing with no success.

Judge Twitty is a Greenville, South Carolina native.  She graduated from the College of Charleston with a degree in Political Science.  Before ascending to the bench, she was a court clerk in Greenville’s 24 hour bond court.  She worked nights and weekends, learning about the court system.  In 2011, she decided that becoming a municipal judge was the path for her. As she put it in an interview with Jenna Regan  of the blog  “Smart Girls”, she became intentional about her goal.

She sought a judicial appointment in the town of Easley, South Carolina.  In South Carolina, the city council is the body that appoints judges for the municipal court.  It is not required that one be a lawyer, or a resident of the town in which they seek appointment.  After going through the interview process (which can be quite intense), she finally attained her goal in 2015. As a non lawyer, Judge Twitty had to complete a training program, and pass a certification exam.  She will have to take continuing education courses, and be re-certified every eight years.

See the interview Judge Twitty gave to local television station WSPA a few months after her appointment.

At the end of the day, you have to go for opportunities, and not self deselect.  So many times women, especially women of color, put extra requirements on themselves in addition to the qualifications they already have. “I’ll be ready to apply x position after I do xyz“.  She may be overqualified, and yet she is still doubting herself. Others fall into the trap of “I need to wait my turn”.  Judge Twitty is the perfect example — if you want it, go for it!

Best of luck to you Judge Twitty, and thank you for being  a Legal Diva of Color!

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Legal Divas of Color: Ada Louis Sipuel

Legal Divas of Color: Ada Louis Sipuel

Hello RLD Family,

Well, it’s that time of the year again! Every year during Black History Month, I do a series entitled “Legal Divas of Color”. The purpose of the series is to highlight the accomplishments of female attorneys of color — women who have been trailblazers in their own right in the legal community. 


Many of you have heard of the landmark education discrimination case “Brown v. The Board of Education“. However, before the Brown case, there was Ada Louis Sipuel. Ms. Sipuel was born in Oklahoma in 1924. She endured much during her childhood due to growing up during the height of the Jim Crow era. Her house was burned; her father, who was a pastor, was jailed unjustly. Ms. Sipuel lived in a time where lynchings of African-Americans were the norm. All of these experiences gave her a burning desire to see justice served, and to become a lawyer. However, the law school in Oklahoma did not allow students of color. Students who wanted to pursue a law degree were forced to go out of state, most notably to Howard University School of Law. The concept of “separate but equal” meant that segregated schools were the norm. Of course, although equal on paper, the schools were not equal in reality. White schools had better resources, leading to a wider array of opportunities for graduates. In 1946, Ms. Sipuel applied to the law school at the University of Oklahoma. The law school president  reviewed her transcript, and indicated that there was no academic reason for her not to be accepted — only the color of her skin.  

With this information in hand, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund took on her case. The case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. Thurgood Marshall, who later became a Supreme Court justice [the first African-American to do so] argued masterfully as to why these “separate but equal” laws were unjust. The court agreed;  Ms. Sipuel was allowed to enroll at the University of Oklahoma law school. The state of Oklahoma tried to get around this ruling by hastily building another school just for her but that plan failed. She then finally entered the law school with white students in 1949. Of course, knowing the time period, this was a difficult road for her. She was forced to sit at the back of the class with on the bench with a sign “Coloreds Only”.  Despite the obstacles, she persevered and graduated in 1952.

She decided to use her law degree as a teacher after briefly practicing law. She became a faculty member at the all Black Langston University, rising to become the chair of the Department of Social Sciences. Her alma mater finally righted the past wrongs by appointing her to the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma in 1992. Once segregated against, she then was able to run the school that had treated her unfairly.

Ms. Sipuel passed away in 1995. Hear more of her intriguing story as told by her son Bruce. 

Thank you Ada Louis Sipuel for being Legal Diva of Color, paving the way for millions of African-Americans to be able to attain legal degrees. I would not be here without your sacrifice.

Ada Sipuel signing the register of attorneys, 1952 Barney Hillerman Collection

I’m Angry & Ready: Now What?

I’m Angry & Ready: Now What?

As some of you may know, I ended my career as a prosecutor this week to become Deputy Director of the ACLU of Florida. I’m really excited, and this change could not have come at a better time. 

As a result of the current administration’s executive action against immigrants from specific Muslim majority countries,  many folks are angry and wish to help. 

But how?

Here are some ideas:

There is a need for legal observers to help immigrants stranded at airports nationwide. If you are an attorney located in Florida, please contact ACLU Florida Legal Director Nancy Abudu at nabudu@aclufl.org. Outside of Florida, please contact your local ACLU affiliate. See the national list here

Here is a practical list for everyone: 

  • Become a member of the ACLU. 
  • Recruit 3 new members to join the ACLU. 
  •  Sign up to get National and our ACLU of Florida Action Alerts, and respond to our requests for action in support of important ACLU issues such as reproductive rights, immigrant’s rights, criminal justice reform.
  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter; share our Facebook and Twitter posts with your social media network.
  • Learn the names – and add the contact information – for your representatives in Congress and the Florida Legislature
  • Commit to writing a handwritten note to an elected official on a critical ACLU issue in 2017. You may want to write about Congress not taking aggressive action to override the President’s executive order. 
  • Talk to your family members and friends about the work of the ACLU. 
  • Get involved in an ACLU of Florida local chapter (see link for contact information for a chapter near you.) Help the local chapter with active work in the community that is in alignment with ACLU’s top issue priorities.
  • Staff a table at a local farmer’s market, art fair or similar event with ACLU materials and information on how to become an ACLU member.
  • If you are affiliated with a local ACLU Chapter, volunteer to help organize a public education forum on a priority ACLU issue, i.e. Immigration and sanctuary cities
  • Make a tax-deductible contribution to support the work of the ACLU: 
  •  Go to the ACLU online store, where you can buy ACLU clothing, stickers, pocket constitutions, and much more.

Want to protest? Before you go, know your rights. The ACLU Florida did a great Facebook Live chat; you can also read more information on your rights here. Be warned; some state legislatures are trying to introduce bills stating it is legal to “accidentally” run over a protestor in your way. If you are in an affected state, be sure to stay vigilant, and inform your representative that if s/he votes for this, you will pink slip them at the next election. And do it!!

You can always reach out to me with questions. Always remember that there is strength in numbers. Be careful, be strong, #resist. 

M. 

New in The Hill: Protest from MLK to Women’s March

New in The Hill: Protest from MLK to Women’s March

Last week, my first piece for the policy blog The Hill was published.  I examined the legacy of protest in this country during the last sixty years — from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to Colin Kaepernick, and ending with this past Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington.

While it was wonderful to see so many women across the globe so engaged, the real pressure needs to be placed on local officials.  Take your key points of contention, and march on your Congressperson, Senator, Mayor, on down. These folks are more important in many ways than who is in the White House, because they touch your day to day life. Additionally, they can act as a check/balance on the current administration if they realize their political lives are on the line.

Please read the article and share your thoughts!

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America has a long legacy of protest against injustice. When done effectively, protest serves as a catalyst for political as well as social change.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. marched against specific injustices, many times triggered by an incident. Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, became the galvanizing figure in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Dr. King was central to the boycott’s effectiveness, which resulted in the Supreme Court finding segregation on public buses unconstitutional in 1956. He, in partnership with other nonviolent organizations, organized sit-ins, boycotts and marches to shed light on the injustices African-Americans were enduring at the time, including unfair hiring practices, segregation and police brutality.

Although history judges him as a hero, it was not so at the time.

Read the rest of the article here.

Diva Reads: #FarewellObama

Diva Reads: #FarewellObama

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Today is Inauguration Day, which marks the official end to the administration of President Barack Obama.

In honor of his departure into the former Presidents Club, I am sharing some pieces that I found interesting, as well as some of my favorite pictures by White House photographer Pete Souza.

past-presidents-club

First, let’s start with President Obama’s legacy.  Washington Monthly  did a great roundup of all that he accomplished in two terms.  Even though steps are underway to completely dismantle the Affordable Care Act, for a time, every American had healthcare. But number 50 on this list should not be ignored.  President Obama is the first President since Dwight Eisenhower to serve two terms without any major personal or political scandal.

Let that sink in for a minute.  Eisenhower was President from 1953 – 1961.

Like Ta-Nehisi Coates said so eloquently in The Atlantic article My President was Black:

“he walked on ice but never fell”.

Since I know some may be struggling today, a little humour is in order.  News One  put together a list of the best comebacks by President Obama at the White House Correspondents Dinner. My top two are teasing sworn enemy House Speaker John Boehner (yes, the one who led the charge unsuccessfully to make him a one term President) with “orange is the new black”; and when he literally dropped the mic.

Lastly, I share the Atlantic’s  review of 44 photos taken by White House photographer Pete Souza.  All photos in my blog post are credited to him as well.

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U.S. Senator Barrack Obama talks with his daugher Malia, 6, outside the U.S. Capitol after he was sworn in on January 4, 2005. Chicago Tribune photo by Pete Souza

On a personal note, I remember the tremendous pride I felt on Election Night 2008, when I saw, after 250 years, a family in the White House that looked like me.  A family who reflected my values.  A couple that fought the odds to get to the highest office in the land.

I remember when I met the President in 2015 – I was so in awe that words never came out of my mouth.  Yes, very shocking, because I am never at a loss for words. But so much was going through my mind and my heart that nothing came out of my mouth.  So I will take the moment now to simply say:

From the depths of my soul, thank you President Obama.  Thank you for being a role model, for being strong, and for doing the best you could for the American people.  History will judge your legacy, and give it the full credit it deserves. This is the end; but I accept this as a challenge to rise and finish the work that was started so long ago. You did your part. I and others will carry the torch on the path to Dr. King’s mountaintop.

obamas-skyline

New in HuffPo: What’s Fair is Fair

New in HuffPo: What’s Fair is Fair

Hey RLD Family, and Happy New Year!

My newest post in the Huffington Post tackles the recent attack on a disabled man in Chicago. Before you flip out — read the article until the end.

What’s Fair is Fair: Give the Chicago 4 Probation

It has recently come to light that four young people in Chicago brutally assaulted a disabled young man. They filmed the entire incident on Facebook Live, and broadcast it for all to see. He was kidnapped, forced to drink toilet water, and was beaten repeatedly. Brittany Covington, Tesfaye Cooper, Jordan Hill, are 18. The last offender was Covington’s 24-year-old sister, Tanishia Covington. This crime was particularly heinous because of the fact that the victim was attacked not only for his disability, but for his race, as well purportedly supporting a different political viewpoint to the offenders.

This crime is horrible and must be punished.

In October 2015, three young men in Idaho assaulted a disabled young man. John R.K. Howard, 18, and Tanner Ward, 17, were charged as adults with felony counts of forcible penetration by use of a foreign object. A third teen was charged as a juvenile. The history of their interactions with the victim included racial slurs, taunting him because of his race and disability. The victim and the offenders were on the same high school football team. The young men forced the victim to sing racist songs, and beat him on prior occasions. The prior harassment ended in these young men holding the victim down and inserting a metal hanger in the disabled victim’s rectum; they then kicked it repeatedly. The victim has now been institutionalized; it is not a stretch to conclude that it is partially because of this despicable crime.

The prosecutor in this case argued that this was not a sex crime, and that the racial component was not as bad as it seemed. The defense attorney and the prosecutor reached an agreement that would include probation as a punishment with no prison time; there is also the opportunity for the charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor at a later time.

Read the rest here.

#TBT: Best of 2016

#TBT: Best of 2016

voting 2016

 

 

Hi RLD Family,

As we bring 2016 to a close, I wanted to share the stories on the blog that were the most popular this year. I’ve put the link to the post in the title, so go ahead and click to read it again…or for the first time if you missed it.

Let’s begin the countdown!

 

 

#5. Don’t Leave America, Fight For It!

This Presidential election definitely brought out some strong feelings — and the outcome came as a surprise to many. I shared my thoughts as to “where from here” and my resolve to fight for what is rightfully mine as an American. My forefathers planted trees on this land, and I intend to stay and enjoy the fruit of their labor.

 

#4. An Open Letter to Bill O’Reilly on Slavery

My response to the crazy and factually incorrect comments regarding slavery made by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly appeared in the Huffington Post. It remains the most commented on and liked piece that I have done so far.  We must be vigilant to make sure that those who wish to revise history, whitewashing it and trying to minimize the effect it had on this nation, are held to task.

 

#3. My Take on Police Shootings

This piece was published in the Huffington post as well. It was in response to some of the horrific shootings by police that we saw this year. Not every case merits an arrest;  if an officer can articulate legitimate reasons for being in fear, then the shooting is justified.  The focus must remain on deescalation tactics  to reduce the number of fatal shootings, and shining a light on those shootings that are not justified to ensure that everyone is equal under the law — facing consequences when the law is broken.

 

#2. #LoveWins: Interracial Relationship Realities

An innocent and sweet Old Navy ad featuring an interracial family drew the ire of Internet trolls. As a result of the racist backlash, many families started to post pictures showing what love is. I was no different;  not only did I post pictures of my husband and I, but I penned a piece to discuss some of the challenges that we face as a couple. At the end of the day, as long as you have a love and communication, you can overcome anything!

 

And the number one post of 2016 on the Resident Legal Diva is:

#1. Goodbye My Dear Friend…

This was one of the toughest pieces for me to write. Actually, writing it wasn’t that hard; reading and sharing it was the difficult part. My friend suddenly passed away earlier this year, and left a hole in my heart that can never be filled. This was a tough year for me with regards to friends and family transitioning to the next life. All we can do is cherish those we love while we have them, mourn those we have lost, and keep them alive in our hearts through our beautiful memories.

This year I also took a gander at vlogging! I did three videos — check out the links below.

 

So for 2017, what do you want to see on the blog? Do you want to see more articles? More Diva Talks videos? More Diva Reads where I discuss articles of interest that I have been reading?  I’d love to hear from you, sound off in the comments below.

Wishing you a happy, healthy, prosperous, and amazing New Year. I’ll see you on the flipside!

M.

 

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courtesy CreateHerStock

 

Why 2016? RIP George Michael

Why 2016? RIP George Michael

The news broke late Christmas Day — George Michael passed away peacefully at home. 

In a year where I’ve been reeling from the death of my childhood soundtrack with the passing of Prince, yet another musician who musically narrated my life has left this world. 

I remember goofy dancing to “Wake Me Up” in my childhood bedroom in NY. 

I remember my high school English project where the teacher told us to research a poem and present it to the class. I submitted “Careless Whispers“. Granted, I didn’t get the adult content until much later — but I did okay on the assignment, which is what mattered at the time. 

I jammed on my Walkman while commuting on the New York City subway to “Monkey” and “Too Funky”

In between it all, who could forget the classic Saturday Night Live sketch where Dana Carvey spoofed George Michael’s posterior? See it here

And years later, when I was planning my wedding, I knew I needed a song to reflect the long, unconventional, winding path to love I had found. 

Like a warrior that fights

And wins the battle

I know the taste of victory

Though I went through some nights

Consumed by shadows

I was crippled emotionally

Somehow I made it through the heartache

Yes I did. I escaped.

I found my way out of the darkness

I kept my faith (I know you did), kept my faith

When the river was deep I didn’t falter;

When the mountain was high I still believed;

When the valley was low, it didn’t stop me;

I knew you were waiting for me

I walked down the aisle to marry the love of my life to the duet performed by Aretha Franklin and George Michael “Knew You Were Waiting“. 

No one person’s time on Earth is unlimited. I hope George Michael left knowing the love and positivity that he gave his fans. 

Check out Rolling Stone’s list of 20 essential George Michael songs here

Rest in Power, George Michael. 


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Merry Christmas! 

Thank you RLD family, for all of your love, support and comments throughout this year. 

As I have said before, love is the most precious as well as priceless gift we can give. Give it abundantly, not only on Christmas Day, but every day!! ❤️

My husband and I are spending our Christmas in Stowe, enjoying the snow and each other. May you have a holiday filled with love, friends and family. 

M. 

The Cowboy and I on a sleigh ride in Stowe, VT
#TBT: Grief During the Holidays

#TBT: Grief During the Holidays

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Hi RLD Family,

I know some of you have lost loved ones this year as I have.  It is tough going through the holidays — you are joyful on one hand, because the year has come to an end and you get to spend time with those you love. On the other hand, there is always an empty seat at the table as well as in your heart.  Here is a piece I wrote on surviving the holidays when grieving — I hope this helps you get through it. 

Hugs!

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Tips for Grieving

  • Take it day by day, minute by minute. Don’t think beyond today. It’s easier that way.
  • It’s a rollercoaster. You will feel a ton of emotions – anger one minute, crying the next, laughing for a moment. It’s totally normal although it feels weird. You’re working through all those memories and emotions at the same time, and that’s how it manifests itself. Take it one step at a time, and allow yourself to feel whatever it is you are feeling without judgment.

Read the other tips here.