Leaders share their advice for Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson as she begins her first term on the Supreme Court

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On Monday, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson sent a message that she would be a vocal member of the court as she dominated the questioning in a case on water pollution; then on Tuesday, she shined while calling out Black voter suppression. For a country that is changing with the rising tide of fascism, massive disinformation campaigns online, climate change, and reproductive rights restrictions, her accomplishment as the first Black woman to serve in the highest court in the country comes at a very auspicious and urgent time . All eyes are on her. The expectations are high, and the stakes are even higher.

For many Black women across the nation, watching Justice Jackson go through hours and hours of harsh questioning and undermining from Republican politicians was as painful as it was historical. Many knew what she would endure as those who are Black and female tend to see our gifts underestimated in all kinds of different fields and sectors in the workplace. So as Justice Jackson begins her first session with the highest court this week—weighing in on topics from affirmative action to voting rights— we asked other exemplary Black women leaders for their words of advice on how to make the most of her new position.

Write your own vision of justice

“The best advice I could give Justice Jackson is to always remember her community and carry us with her with every decision that she makes. The current balance of the Court is currently not on the side of the people, but that doesn’t mean she cannot make a difference. I hope she will use her pen to not only point out flaws and injustice in the conservative arguments, but to help envision a liberated future in her dissents. She can use her writing to create a vision for what our nation should look like, free from criminalization. I hope that Justice Jackson takes this pivotal opportunity to write her vision of justice, so that all Black women, cis and trans, ratchet and radical, can see themselves reflected in the Court’s decisions. I hope that she creates an opportunity for all of us to finally be seen, heard, protected, and liberated. I know that it’s ironic to call for liberation from an archaic institution that absorbs the Black and Brown people in it and punished all who do not conform, and my hope is that she and Justice Sonia Sotomayor are able to create as much change as possible to ensure all of us are able to live free.”

—Renee Bracey Sherman, author, founder of We Testify, and abortion rights activist

Let your voice be heard

“While Justice Jackson is more than equipped to succeed on her own, if asked, I’d advise her never to underestimate the power of a dissent to shape future doctrine or the presence of a single justice—and a Black woman even more so— to shift the Court’s chemistry, even if it doesn’t immediately change the outcome of decisions.”

—Janai S. Nelson, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

be bold

“As a lawyer myself, so much of what we do in law is based on the past. It’s a type of order that has a side effect of giving the past dominion over our present. So, long before a defender or plaintiff becomes one, long before a girl becomes pregnant, the law has already decided how you will be treated, what your punishments might be. But we are now living in a version of the future the past never could have imagined. Be future-minded, and also, be of this moment. Be bold in your God-given gifts of discernment, foresight, nuance, and service. We believe in you.”

—Natashia Déon, NAACP Award-nominated author and attorney

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