Tag: black firsts

Legal Divas of Color: Darcel Clark

darcel sworn

The third Legal Diva of Color this month is Darcel Clark. On January 16 of this year, Ms. Clark made history as being the first woman to become the Bronx  District Attorney, and the first African American female District Attorney in the State of New York!

Her path to success was certainly not an easy one. As a true “daughter of the Bronx”, she hails from the Soundview section of the borough.  Her parents both worked tough jobs, but took the time to be involved in their community.  These early lessons clearly rubbed off on their daughter. Ms. Clark attended New York City public schools, then went on to receive her undergraduate degree at Boston College, and her law degree at Howard University.

Upon graduation, she returned to the Bronx and never left. Ms. Clark was a prosecutor for 13 years in the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, rising to the rank of Supervisor of the Narcotics Bureau, and Deputy Chief of the Criminal Court Bureau.  In 1999, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani appointed Ms Clark to the bench.  She served as a judge for a total of 16 years before winning the coveted position of District Attorney in a landslide election in November 2015.

Ms. Clark stated in her swearing in speech at Lehman College:

“I can say to any little girl, you know, if you work really hard, you can go on to law school, you can become an Assistant District Attorney, you can become a judge and then you can become District Attorney of the Bronx,”

The new District Attorney will focus on wrongful convictions, corruption, gun violence, and reforming the Rikers Island jail complex.

Thank you Darcel Clark, for making history, and being a Legal Diva of Color!

darcel

Saving the Best for Last? Vanessa Williams Comes Full Circle

vanessa-williams-crowned-america
photo credit AP

30 second quiz — name another Miss America other than Vanessa Williams.

Yep. I couldn’t either.

Just over 3 decades ago, Vanessa Williams became the first African American to ever hold the title of Miss America. Ten months later, just seven weeks short of the end of her reign, she was forced to resign due to nude photos that were released of her.

It’s ironic, how in stark contrast to this present age of social media, where having a sex tape is almost a norm among celebrities, that a few nude photos could cause such an uproar.  But it did. I remember it firsthand, and all the judgment surrounding her. Lauren Duca in the Huffington Post did a great piece on the hypocrisy that surrounds beauty pageants in general as well as this scandal. You can give it a read here.

But my thoughts are more focused on the “story behind the glory”. Look at her now! After the initial scandal, she was a virtual pariah.  No one would work with her.  But all she needed is one break — and once she got it, she was unstoppable! She is an accomplished singer, songwriter, actress, author, dancer, model and producer. Vanessa Williams received her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2007.

The story comes full circle as she returned to the Miss America pageant to judge this year’s competition. Miss America CEO Sam Haskell apologized on stage to both Vanessa Williams and her mother for the prior Miss America organization “making her feel less than the Miss America you are“. See the apology here.

vanessa-williams-receives-apology-from-miss-america-pageant-christal_rockBetter late than never; and she accepted the apology like a true queen.

But it is clear from the trajectory of Vanessa William’s career that she does not need the validation of anyone, least of all the Miss America organization. However, I wonder (maybe I am being a wee bit cynical here), if with the progress of the women’s movement, and the growing viewpoint that pageants which showcase predominantly beauty not brain are antiquated, that the Miss America organization is hoping to mend fences with a certain demographic while renewing interest with others?

Only time will tell.

But Vanessa Williams has been, and always will be, Miss America. And the only one anyone will remember, with a successful career after the crown.

vanessa-williams-2

Always feel free to weigh in!

M.

Legal Divas of Color: Kamala Harris

kamala harrisContinuing in my Black History Month Legal Divas of Color series, I now bring you Kamala Harris. Although I featured Ms. Harris last year (read the post here), she’s doing even bigger things in 2015!

When current United States Senator for California Barbara Boxer announced that she would not be running for re-election in 2016, Kamala Harris announced that she would run! In her statement, she said “I want to be a voice for all Californians”

In the days that followed, Ms. Harris picked up endorsements from some heavy hitters, including Senator Elizabeth Warren (whose name is still being discussed as a potential Presidential candidate).

If elected, Kamala Harris would be the first Indian American in the US Senate.  She is descended of a Jamaican American father and an Indian mother. Ms. Harris has also just been sworn in for her 2nd term as Attorney General for the State of California.

Thank you Kamala Harris, for continuing to push boundaries, being a great role model, and being a present day Legal Diva of Color!