Justice Kentaji Brown Jackson (AP Photo)

By Margot Brown

From the moment I met Justice Kentaji Brown Jackson, I embraced what so many Black women felt — I saw myself, my daughters, and the many generations of women who came before us all. An exceptionally qualified professional, wife and mother, Justice Jackson greeted me, my husband, and my children with grace and kindness. 

On April 8, my family and I sat on the White House lawn and were witnesses to history- 232 years in the making. Amid the excitement, I sat still for a moment thinking, “we will rejoice and be glad.”

On June 30 as the nation and the world watched her being sworn as the first-ever Black woman justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, we rejoiced.  

We look forward to having a Justice who has shown she understands the needs of the oppressed and can implement the law to ensure environmental justice, equity, and climate justice. A strong and compassionate Court can ensure that our children have a cleaner, stronger planet for generations to come. Justice Jackson reignites joy, hope, and promise for the future.

Four years ago, my eldest daughter, then age 7, declared that she would become the first Black woman to serve as a United States Supreme Court Justice. My husband quickly responded, “I pray that is not the case,” as we both knew it had already been far too long with far too many well-qualified black women overlooked and dismissed for the position.

Four years later, aware of our story, Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s office invited me and my daughter to the Senate hearing for Justice Jackson. My daughter’s 11-year-old mind was quick with astute observations. When asked what her biggest takeaway was from the hearing she said, “Justice Jackson was calm and composed no matter how hard or ridiculous the question … Some senators were ill-prepared while others were just plain mean.” My daughter watched with admiration, taking note of the importance of having Justice Jackson on the Supreme Court. 

Immediately following this experience, my daughter was asked to write an essay about what she wants to be when she grows up. She wrote, “When I grow up I want to be a lawyer who fights for people’s rights and maybe even a judge who defends people’s rights. Ultimately, I want to be a person who protects human rights and makes the world a safer and better place for everyone.”

My daughter’s awareness and aspirations remind me of how people have watched and waited patiently while policies often overlooked the needs of communities on the frontlines of climate change.

In my role as Vice President of Justice and Equity at Environmental Defense Fund, I see the frustration of communities that have had to deal with the disastrous outcomes of inequity due to draconian zoning and connivance laws. That’s why it’s so important to have Justices like Justice Jackson who have lived experiences.

Justice Jackson was born in Washington, D.C, but reared in Miami, Florida — a state experiencing a sea-level rise, changing storm patterns, and increasing coastal erosion. She has a specific awareness of the world we navigate today, and the change needed for better tomorrow — for all generations.

I believe she knows and sees the possibilities of change. That means the world to me —  not only as an environmental advocate but also as a mother who knows her daughter is watching and preparing to fight for an equitable future as well. 

Dr. Margot Brown is the vice president of environmental justice and equity initiatives at the Environmental Defense Fund.

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