After the nomination and confirmation of the first black female Supreme Court Justice in the United States, it made me reflect on some major historical events that I have been able to experience in my lifetime while living in the United States. Being an immigrant from Jamaica where our motto is Out of Many One People, I was not intimately aware of the struggles black people had and is still experiencing today in this country. Since I have been living here I have become more educated about the general history and find myself in awe of some of the events that is now in the history books that occurred during my lifetime. My intent in this piece is not to highlight only events to black history or to all events, but to emphasize some major ones.
The first major event was the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a Noble Peace winner, Activist Leader of the Civil Rights movement in 1968. I remember sitting in a class room when the news broke and the class ended abruptly. Then there was the assassination of Robert Kennedy, a past US Attorney General and a United States Senator also in 1968. Robert Kennedy was the brother of President John Kennedy who was also assassinated in 1963. In 2011 the Martin Luther King memorial was opened in Washington DC and is one of the must visit when in DC. It is so life-like and the workmanship on statue is simply awesome. There was the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of a US President ( Nixon).
In 1984 we had a female( Geraldine Ferraro) nominated to run for Vice President and here in 2022 the first female Vice President, Kamala Harris who was elected in 2020. She is now the highest ranking female in the history of the United States. She is also the first African American and Asian American Vice President; her father a native of Jamaica West Indies and her mother from India.
In the 90s there was an event though not specific to the US but a major one for me was the release of Nelson Mandela from prison after 27 years. This was a major incident that reverberated internationally as there was a call for his release all over the world. He ended up being the first black head of state. Then I had the opportunity to visit South Africa and actually stood in the cell that he occupied on Robben Island.
This release proved ever so beneficial as his negotiations and steadfast focus helped in the decision made by the South African President F W De klerk to end apartheid.
On September 11, 2001 terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in New York City, The Pentagon and in an open field in Pennsylvania. I remember that morning how clear the skies were that it was impossible for this not to have been intentional for a plane to fly into the World Trade Center buildings. The loss of lives was unreal (3000) and even today there are families who have not been able to say their final goodbyes. Every effort was made to find missing bodies or any evidence that could help to identify those victims to give closure to family members.
Another major event was in 2009 when Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th president of the US. This was a major historical president because he is the first black and he went on to be elected for two terms. It was interesting that the leader of the Republican party, before Obama was inaugurated, stated that he would be a one term president. Of course that did not prove true and it is my belief that if he was to campaign again today in 2022 he would win again.
The last pandemic to hit the world was more than one hundred years ago until 2020 Covid took the world in a flash. Our previous president viewed this as something not very serious and that it would go away swiftly and unfortunately he was not honest with the nation. Hence thousand of lives were lost that might have been saved. We were caught in a shut down for two years and we are still experiencing up ticks from different variant strains but life is steadily moving forward in a new normal fashion. We now have vaccinations, oral meds, businesses are re-opening etc. The new President and his team are working very hard to establish and maintain some normalcy while continuing to follow science and data.
The United States is experiencing a political divide that threatens the country’s democracy. The most devastating was the insurrection on the State Capital on January 6, 2021 fueled by the outgoing president who is a one term twice impeached president who is yet to accept that he was not re-elected. I have been here for many change of Presidency from party to party and have never seen one as disgusting and shameful as this one.
The current president, Mr. Biden during his campaign declared that should he have the opportunity to choose a chief justice he would choose a black female. When one of the long standing Justice tendered his resignation and after considering several accomplished candidates he nominated Kentanji Brown Jackson. After a contentious three days of hearings she received a bipartisan confirmation. It should be mentioned that only three Republicans crossed and voted with the Democrats to confirm this nominee. Historically confirmations were based on qualifications and not political maneuvers reflected by a majority of Senators were reflected in the final count for nomination.
The hearings were at time painful to watch and frustrating to say the least, but Judge Jackson maintained her composure. Her speech after the introduction by the President and Vice President was impactful and I am sure was a tear jerker for many including me. I look forward to more historical experiences.
While we celebrate our accomplishments and history making events we must remain mindful of the people suffering from the atrocities occurring in the world today.