As the Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson got underway Monday, District residents rallied in support of the D.C. native but lamented that the city has no say in the matter.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), who recommended Jackson to President Obama as a judge for the U.S. District Court for D.C. in 2012, pointed out the District has no representation in the Senate and is therefore left out of the process.
“Today also reminds us of the stark reality that despite Judge Jackson’s connections to D.C., without statehood, the District has no senators and, therefore, will play no role in her confirmation,” Norton said. “The lack of voting representation in Congress for D.C. residents can be remedied by Senate passage of and the president’s signature of my D.C. statehood bill, which has passed the House twice.”
Earlier in the day, District residents held a rally in front of the Supreme Court building to call for Jackson’s confirmation.
“We need someone who understands that everyone in this country needs equity,” said Carol Jenkins, president and CEO of the ERA Coalition. “We are asking the Senate for a fast confirmation.”
However, the rally was interrupted by activists from the pro-life organization Students for Life, which opposes the nomination. As the pro-Jackson speakers delivered their remarks, Student for Life activists shouted anti-abortion slogans and “No Way, KBJ.”
“I am opposed to KBJ going on the Supreme Court,” said Norvilia Etienne, an African American woman from Fredericksburg, Va., said. “She has supported partial-birth abortions. She is helping to kill the Black community. While Blacks make up 15% of the country’s population, 30% of abortions are committed on Black babies.”
As the two opposing factions attempted to drown out each other’s chants, Kiah Morris, a leader in the Rights & Democracy organization, led the pro-Jackson demonstrators in singing the first stanza of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” informally known as the “Black national anthem.”
Mariko Bennett, a leader in the Metro D.C. chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, said the anti-Jackson activists should not deter people from supporting the nominee.
“We see who the adversaries are, they showed their faces today,” Bennett said. “We have to keep raising our voices. We have to reach out to media outlets and to our senators to indicate our support of Judge Jackson.”
Rachel Howell, who sported a shirt signifying her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, said she supports Jackson “because she symbolizes Black excellence.”
“I have nothing to say about those who oppose her,” Howell said, noting the anti-abortion activists. “I can’t pay attention to that.”
In Ward 8, the Anacostia Coordinating Council along with members of the Ward 8 Democrats sponsored a watch party for Judge Jackson at the Busboys and Poets restaurant in the Historic Anacostia neighborhood. A dozen people visited the restaurant’s Marion Barry Jr. Room to watch the Senate proceedings on a wide-screen television. The crowd listened as Democratic senators praised Jackson and tended to start conversations when Republicans were speaking.
However, the crowd listened carefully when retired U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Judge Thomas B. Griffith and University of Pennsylvania legal scholar Lisa Fairfax delivered remarks on behalf of Jackson. When Fairfax formally introduced Jackson to the senators, former D.C. first lady Cora Masters Barry wept.
“I am very proud today,” Barry said. “You had a sister introducing a sister. Black women are really standing up.”
The crowd listened intently as Jackson, in her introductory statement, talked about her early life in the District and her road to Harvard University undergrad and law school. When she finished, Barry said she was impressed.
“It is way overdue for a Black woman to sit on the Supreme Court,” she said. “This should have been done 10-15 years ago.”
Philip Pannell, executive director for the Anacostia Coordinating Council, said he was moved by the hearing but was upset that the District is left out of the process.
“I am absolutely angry that we don’t have a voice in this,” Pannell said while sporting a “51 State” button. “We should be part of this historic process and we are not at the table.”
Monica Ray, who coordinated the watch party as the vice chair of the Anacostia Coordinating Council’s executive board, agreed with Pannell.
“I am so excited about this,” Ray said. “Black judges do matter. I am upset that South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham can express his dissatisfaction with the nomination process because his candidate wasn’t selected by Biden. At least he could have a candidate and D.C. does have a voice in the matter because of our lack of statehood.”