(WASHINGTON) — As Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson enters a historic and high-profile week of confirmation hearings, Black law students from across the country are showing up in droves to show Jackson they “have her back.”
“We have students coming in from New York, Dallas, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Iowa, Seattle,” Simone Yhap, National Chair of the National Black Law Students Association and a third-year law student at Northeastern University, told ABC News.
More than 100 Black law students from 17 schools will gather at the nation’s capital this week for events marking Jackson’s confirmation. In partnership with Demand Justice, National Black Law Student Association, and the Black Public Defender Association, the students will rally outside of the Capitol as Jackson arrives on Monday and host a watch party of the hearing.
Jackson, 51, is the first Black woman nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in its 233-year history.
Viky McDonald, one of the law students invited to come to D.C., told ABC News Jackson’s confirmation hearing is a “beautiful” moment because growing up, she didn’t see herself represented in the legal field.
“It’s beautiful. It’s breathtaking, but it’s also very inspiring just to see another, one, female, but also a Black female who looks like myself being in such a position of honor,” said McDonald, who is expected to graduate from Southern University Law Center in May.
As the first person in her family to graduate from high school, undergraduate, and now law school, McDonald said watching Jackson’s confirmation hearing will reaffirm her own capabilities.
“As minorities, sometimes we think that certain things are not obtainable because we don’t see someone who looks like us in that position. So, for me, this moment will be a moment of truth,” McDonald said. “Whatever it is that you set your mind or your goal. You can reach it, you can do it.”
The moment is also motivational for Zsa’queria Martin, a second-year law student at Florida A&M University who looks to Jackson’s previous work as a public defender for inspiration.
“So, for me wanting to be a civil rights attorney, it adds more fire to my journey,” Martin told ABC News. “With her background, it just shows that we can open the doors to so many other avenues.”
If confirmed, it will be a history-making moment the law students say they couldn’t think about skipping despite having to miss class or fly across the country.
“A Black woman is finally on the precipice of basically a mountain that has never been claimed before,” Edrius Stagg, a third-year law student at Southern University Law Center, told ABC News.
Stagg is the father of three Black girls. When he first heard President Joe Biden nominated Jackson, he said he was filled with pride knowing his daughters will have a noble role model to look up to.
“To bring that experience back to my daughters, I think that it would have an exponential impact on their young impressionable lives,” Stagg said, beaming with excitement, talking about what this moment means for his daughters. “You know, have those candid conversations that anything is possible, and now be able to believe it. It’s an awesome opportunity.”
While the students are in D.C. supporting Jackson, they’ll also be able to meet and network with other Black law students, an opportunity they say won’t go unappreciated.
“Out of all attorneys in the United States, only 5% are Black, and that percentage has not moved in years. So how do we increase these numbers?” Yhap said about the importance of bringing Black students together.
Martin said the ability to celebrate Jackson with people that look like her will be a “powerful moment.”
“Normally, when I’m in masses with hundreds of people from all over the place, it’s normally us protesting against police brutality, or you know, something that the center of it is pain and suffering,” Martin said. “So the fact that I know that I’m meeting with people not to protest but to cheer on this Black woman, it means so much to me, like this is a happy moment.”
As they get ready to cheer on Jackson, a former member of the Black Law Students Association herself, the students have one final message: “You got this.”
“We’re here to support you. We’re excited for this. She’s more than qualified for this position,” McDonald said.
“It’s a showing that we are here to support Black attorneys and that we are here to be impactful and supported and really demonstrate that there is an entire community behind you,” Yhap added.
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