The Dawn of A New Day

My reflections on our historic Election Day, which appeared in the Miami Times.

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

It was 11:45am. I was getting ready for brunch with a mentee. The news flashed across the screen of my phone – we have a new President. Immediately I screamed for my husband and shared the news. So many emotions ran through me  — joy, pride, tears, and laughter. It was an overwhelming feeling of relief and vindication to see Joe Biden win the race to become our 46th president. In all of this, I felt the joy even more acutely due to a personal connection. I remembered when I first met Vice President- elect Kamala Harris nearly a decade ago. It was during the National Black Prosecutors Association conference in July 2010. At that time, she was the San Francisco District Attorney. During our brief interaction, it was clear Ms. Harris was so sharp yet incredibly kind. It’s wild to think that I had been speaking to the future Vice President of the United States.  To see a woman of Jamaican heritage like myself follow the path of being a prosecutor, then successfully running for District Attorney, California Attorney General, United States Senator, and now Vice President gave me so much hope and promise. 

By the same token, I still feel sadness. Knowing that more than 70 million Americans are either racist or racist adjacent (accepting of racism) is a hard pill to swallow. I knew it was out there, but seeing the quantitative data – a hard number – is tough. It broke my heart to really digest this about the country (as well as the county) in which I live. Hopefully it’s a temporary emotion that will subside with time while focusing on the hard work ahead to rebuild. But the Trump vote is a clear vote against police accountability, control of our communities and destiny, and voting rights, in favor of – supposedly – the economy; but in actuality, supporting white extremism and preserving the status quo. 

The road ahead is very long; we are in a period of time in this nation much like the Reconstruction era after the Civil War. There will be anger, followed by a lot of introspection. Hopefully, we emerge a little bit more conscious as to who we are as a country, with a new focus on who we want to be. 

As the millennials say, please “miss me” with any pronouncements that racism is over due to Kamala Harris being elected. Her opponent’s words and actions, as well as those of some Republican leaders, made this very clear. I am reminded of comments made by the Miami GOP chair who stated on Facebook Live election night, “if you do not want a Kamala Harris presidency- because you know that is what it will be – go out and vote.” That is a stark reminder of where we are. The dog whistle was clearly designed to motivate racists and sexists. Also, seeing recent events where the University of Miami Republican club made racial slurs regarding Kamala Harris, with no real public rebuke by university officials or the GOP leadership, shows the level of racism from the new generation on up to current leadership. 

Even more troubling, in this time of celebration, there are some African Americans (mostly men) who have made comments that Vice President-elect Harris’ status as a daughter of immigrants somehow doesn’t reflect the experiences of African Americans — suggesting their ancestors would not be proud of this moment in the same way. We saw an increase of support for the outgoing administration in the African American community (albeit small).  While we celebrate, we have to be cognizant of the work that needs to be done to heal the divides in our own community. Pitting Black immigrants against Black Americans does nothing to move our interests forward. We’ve seen it locally this election cycle. It’s insulting as well as destructive. The racists are betting on the effectiveness of the divide and conquer strategy; we cannot let them succeed. 

I did meet my mentee. 

We laughed, cried, celebrated and toasted to the victory. 

And now, the work commences.

Melba Pearson is the Director of Policy and Programs at the Center for the Administration of Justice at FIU, focused on prosecutorial reform. She is a former Miami homicide prosecutor and Deputy Director of the ACLU of Florida. Follow her on Twitter @ResLegalDiva.

Pearls of Wisdom From Papa P.

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.

My father and I when I was a munchkin, giving you 70s realness…

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.

My father and I at my law school graduation

 

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!

 

Happy Father’s Day!

My father’s 80th birthday, giving you dapper all day!