Speaking exclusively with theGrio, former White House officials and activists relish Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic swearing-in as the first Black woman on the nation’s high court.
Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson’s historic swearing-in on Thursday to become the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court has been met with jubilation from Black leaders and activists.
Justice Jackson became the 104th associate justice sworn into the high court and the 116th justice overall to join the bench. Jackson took two oaths of office, one administered by Chief Justice John Roberts, and the other by outgoing Justice Breyer. She was met with applause from a small number of invited guests at the Supreme Court, including her husband and two daughters.
In this handout provided by the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer (R) administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson (L) in the West Conference Room of the Supreme Court on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Jackson was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice today, replacing the now-retired Justice Breyer. (Photo by Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)
In a statement to theGrio, Valerie Jarrett, former senior advisor to former President Barack Obama, said, “At a time of great anxiety and pain, today is an extraordinary moment where Justice Jackson’s swearing-in shines a bright light of hope for the future.”
While the reputation of the Supreme Court has been called into question after its conservative majority ruled to overturn Roe v. Wade, subsequently stripping away a 49-year-old constitutional right to an abortion, many see a silver lining in Justice Jackson being installed to a lifetime seat.
Rev. Al Sharpton told theGrio that while the recent rulings from the Supreme Court are “bigoted and anti-woman,” he believes Justice Jackson’s “presence gives us hope for the future and a reason to vote in the present.”
“After over 200 years, we finally have a Black woman justice, making the Supreme Court more representative than it has ever been before,” April Reign, co-founder of Sista SCOTUS, told theGrio.
Reign lamented that Justice Jackson’s “ascension” to the court “comes at a perilous time.”
“The court has decimated long-standing laws that protect women, Native Americans, the environment, and more this term,” she said.
Justice Jackson also made history as the first former federal public defender to be on the Supreme Court. Reign noted, “While her impact may not be felt immediately, I find some measure of hope in her ability to provide balanced and humane perspectives, based on both her lived experience and her time as a public defender, while in deliberation with her colleagues.”
In this handout provided by the Supreme Court, Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pose for a portrait together on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. Jackson was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court Justice today, replacing the now-retired Justice Breyer. (Photo by Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)
Janette McCarthy Wallace, NAACP general counsel, told theGrio that she is feeling a “wave of emotions.”
“Today marks one of the most significant historical achievements for the Black community, and the value of having representation on the nation’s highest court as we battle for our basic, fundamental rights, is unmatched,” said Wallace.
“It is now possible for Black women and girls who dream of reaching the highest levels of governments to see, and understand that they can do anything they set their minds to.”
Wallace, who was present during Jackson’s Senate confirmation hearings, recalled “the racist, misogynistic attacks on her career and character” by Republican senators. She said she was in “constant awe” at how Jackson handled the exchanges with “confidence, poise, and eloquence.”
She added, “Regardless of who tries to undermine their greatness. Black women truly are Supreme, and today, our country has recognized that.”
Minyon Moore, a longtime Democratic strategist who worked inside the Clinton White House and was tapped by the Biden administration to serve on the team that advised President Biden on his Supreme Court search, told theGrio that she’s thinking of all the Black women who organized and made sacrifices for this moment.
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JULY 05: Minyon Moore speaks during the 25th Essence Festival at the Ernest N Morial Convention Center on July 05, 2019 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Josh Brasted/FilmMagic)
“I thought about all the Black women who put this woman on their shoulders and said that they were going to disrupt their own lives for the 68 weeks that she was going through this process,” said Moore. “So many of them decided that this was their priority for their organization, for them individually.”
Moore recalled working with Jackson during confirmation briefings earlier this year in preparation for her Senate hearings. She recalled Jackson telling her stories about her childhood and how she would sometimes skip out on partying with friends in order to be on top of her studies.
“It wasn’t that she had the Supreme Court in her forefront, but she felt like she had to really take herself seriously and really double down,” recalled Moore. “She’s been a person that’s been committed to the rule of law and committed to her work.” But outside of her legal talents, Moore noted that overall Jackson is “just a decent, decent human being.”
She told theGrio, “[She’s somebody that you would love to be at a lunch table with…somebody that you would love to listen to when it comes to interpreting and articulating the Constitution and the law.”
In this handout provided by the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. (R) looks on as Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson signs the Oaths of Office in the Justices’ Conference Room at the Supreme Court on June 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)
As the nation celebrates the historic swearing-in of Justice Jackson, Moore said it was important to thank President Joe Biden for staying “true” to his commitment to nominate a Black woman to the Supreme Court — a promise he made on the presidential campaign trail. She also thanked Vice President Kamala Harris for “being a Sherpa for [Jackson] and making sure that we all understood the credentials of all the Black women that were put before the president.”
Moore told theGrio she is grateful to have played a part in Justice Jackson’s now historic journey to the highest court in the land. “I’m just honored to have played a small role,” she said.
TheGrio’s Gerren Keith Gaynor contributed to this report.
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