Black women of all ages rallied outside the Supreme Court on Monday to show their support for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as her historic confirmation hearings began before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her confirmation would make her the first Black woman and first public defender on the Supreme Court.
Jackson’s supporters, many of whom were Black women, hoisted signs that read, “My Justice She’s Black” and “Confirm KBJ,” and wore flashy pins and vibrant shirts in support of the judge. Speakers took turns leading chants and describing why Jackson is uniquely qualified for the Supreme Court.
“Someone who’s had the lived experiences she’s had is missing from that bench,” Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, told HuffPost. “Someone who is not a prosecutor. Someone who has defended others as a public defender. She’s served all her life.”
Jackson, 51, has served on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit since she was confirmed to that role with bipartisan support in June. She was an assistant public defender in Washington, D.C., from 2005 to 2007. In February, President Joe Biden picked Jackson to succeed Stephen Breyer, the justice for whom she once clerked.
Monday’s rally was organized by the National Coalition Black Women’s Roundtable, She Will Rise, and the National Women’s Law Center Action Fund, which brought together like-minded organizations such as the National Council of Negro Women, NAACP, Black Women’s Health Imperative, and the Black Girl Magic Network.
One rally participant, Mia Jones, brought along her parents, Sue and Vertner, who were visiting from Florida.
“Seeing this great woman sit in this chamber makes me, at 72 years old, very proud,” Sue Jones said. “And to be next to my daughter to see this happening. And to know that other children coming along will know they, too, have a chance and not to lose sight of their dream.”
“It’s a precious moment to share with my parents,” Mia Jones added.
Jackson has already faced racist lines of attack from Republicans and conservative pundits, including Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who demanded to see her LSAT scores, and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who baselessly accused her of being soft on sex offenders. Anti-abortion activists showed up to the rally with megaphones, chanting “no KBJ! Abortion hurts women!”
Rally attendees said they were already expecting the attacks.
“It’s not new. It’s to be expected,” Stacie Dukes, a second-year law student at Southern University Law Center, explained. “She’s prepared for that, and we all knew it was coming. No surprises there; her track record speaks for itself. Regardless of how they smear, she’s overqualified for this position.”
Following the rally, several organizations hosted watch parties for the confirmation hearing, including the NAACP and Demand Justice, a progressive judicial advocacy group. The group brought more than 100 Black law students and public defenders to Washington to rally for Jackson’s confirmation and participate in watch parties and educational seminars for judiciary work.
Alice Fontier, managing director at Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, described why Jackson’s experience as a federal public defender is so critical: Around 8% of federal district judges have some experience as public defenders.
“Having the intimate knowledge of what it means to stand next to somebody who is the most vulnerable, who is charged with an offense by the most powerful — the United States government — and to have the responsibility of standing next to that person and making sure they’re heard and treated fairly,” Fontier said. “You cannot get the perspective unless you do it.”
“She understands it. It’s not something that you can forget, because access to justice and the way that people are treated differently within the courts must be reckoned with. For her to bring that to this level is so needed.”