No blog post next week. It is the end of the year and I’m taking a speed bump (slow down) to enjoy the week with the fam. My kids are growing fast (as all kids do) so I need to
annoy them be with them while I can.
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to listen to two amazing women of color, Justices Mary Yu and Raquel Montoya-Lewis. Justice Yu was Washington’s first Latina and Asian justice, and the first member of the LGBTQ community to serve on the court. Justice Montoya-Lewis is only the second Native American in the nation to serve on a supreme court. She is an enrolled member of the Pueblo of Isleta and descendant of the Pueblo of Laguna Indian tribe, and of Jewish descent. The event was hosted by Womxn of Color in Education, which seeks to recruit, endorse, and support women of color running for school boards in Washington state.
If it isn’t going to be you, who is it going to be? – Justice Montoya-Lewis
Reflecting on the close of 2022 I thought about Justice Montoya-Lewis’ question back to the group, “If it isn’t going to be you, who is it going to be?” This was both a challenge to step up, but also a call to all of us to recognize, support, and sponsor emerging leaders and each other.
Sponsorship of each other and supporting fellow POCs is an important part of being in a mutually reciprocal community. There have been many times when people have opened professional doors, offered support, or as Justice Montoya-Lewis called it been curbs on the side of the journey to bump people back onto the road.
As we close out 2022, the questions are:
Who are the people of color who need a little nudge, that we can pull forward?
And, who do you owe a thank you to for sponsoring you along the way?
These two questions need to go together, we didn’t just end up where we are on our own and as the justices reminded our group, we must believe we belong in the rooms where decisions are made. Justice Yu said she recognized if it wasn’t her in that Supreme Court seat, who would it be, she didn’t want to leave it to chance. She also reminded the group to put fear and doubt aside.
“Take fear and insecurity out it.” – Justice Mary Yu
The two Justice were amazing to listen to. They are fearless and grounded by and in their lived experiences. I was struck by how their humility and connections to each other and communities of color.
It takes a lot of courage to step forward and say “yes, I am the right person,” and to know your lived experiences and perhaps less traditional and less pedigreed path will yield dividend for others. That is insecurity talking. Justice Yu talked about how some of the decisions made by the court are better and heavily influenced by the diversity and experiences on the court – they are better decisions rooted in the experiences of communities of color.
I wish I could hear her Speak Again – 13 year old
A few years ago Justice Yu participated in Constitution Day. It is a day where judges across the state visit schools. My teacher friend signed up and was thrilled, wildly thrilled, to have Justice Yu assigned to her school. She arranged for most of the school to cycle through so they could spend some time with Justice Yu. My older kid was fortunate to be one of the students.
He’s older and reflected on the experience. Somewhere in his brain he remembered Justice Yu visiting and speaking even if he can’t recall what she talked about. He also wished she would visit his school now since he’s older. I share this because this is where the next unicorns are born (unicorns, meaning rarifed, unique, one of a kind). Everyone has the potential to be a unicorn in some way. Not all of us will be on the Supreme Court, end up on TV or in movie, or do heroic actions but we are all important and a unicorn to someone. Use your influence to help someone else learn and grow in their understanding of what is just. That pony is the next unicorn.
As a side note, when the justices were asked about being unicorns, if I remember correctly, they brushed that notion aside. They don’t want to be unicorns, they want rooms to be like them, reflective of the full diversity of Washington. There is no need for unicorns when we have justice.
Why I wrote this: Reflect on how we can grow more and better leaders by investing in POCs. And because Justices Yu and Monotya-Lewis are amazing and more people need to know about how incredible they are.
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I am writing from the lands of the 29 federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in now Washington State, including the Coast Salish people — Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish, and Native American organizations that have treaty rights and have been here since time immemorial. I give my thanks to the elders, Native and Indigenous colleagues and relations, and the land itself. Fakequity pays “rent” to Native organizations in Washington and Hawaii; a small act to repair and work to be in more justice-based relations.