President’s Message: Let’s Do More and Talk Less
LaShawnda K. Jackson, Esq.
The Briefs // October 2020, Vol. 88 No. 8
This month the OCBA, along with the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers (“CFAWL”) lead by President Mary Walter, will continue the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification and adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Some think of the 19th Amendment as giving women the right to vote. However, as humans and citizens of this country, women always had the RIGHT to vote. They just had to fight to have that right recognized.
The passage of the 19th Amendment expressly stated that a woman’s right to vote should no longer be “denied or abridged” on the basis of sex. But there were many who knew that words on paper were not enough. They continued the fight to effectuate change until and beyond the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which sought to enforce the so-called voting “rights” of ALL women.
When we think of the Women’s Suffrage Movement, we think of names like Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. During the OCBA and CFAWL Joint Luncheon on October 22, 2020, with the help of legal scholars from around the state, we will explore the work of some of the lesser-known individuals involved in the Women’s Suffrage Movement.
In preparing for the luncheon, I came across the biography of Mary Ann Shadd Cary. In addition to being a lawyer, an anti-slavery activist, a journalist, and a teacher, she is noted to be the first Black woman publisher in North America and the first woman publisher in Canada. She used her writings to criticize abolitionist who claimed to advocate for equality but supported segregation. She used her knowledge to educate children of freed slaves to give them more opportunities. She also used her legal skills to advocate for voting rights for women. She was often criticized by other journalist, male Black leaders, and even some women. But she was not discouraged. Arguably, her most courageous efforts for equality came in 1848 when, at the age of 25, Ms. Cary responded to an ad in Frederick Douglass’s North Star newspaper wherein he had asked readers for suggestions on improving the life for Black people in America. In her letter, which was published by Frederick Douglass, she advocated that “we should do more and talk less.” Those words resonate even more today.
The year 2020 has wreaked havoc on our lives. We’ve seen the loss of prominent sports figures, a great civil rights giant, and even a beloved superhero. We’ve been confined to our homes and offices and away from our colleagues and friends due to a pandemic. Some of us have lost loved ones, jobs, relationships, and so much more. And we find ourselves in the midst of social unrest and a fight for racial equality. Despite it all, we must continue the fight to effectuate change. As lawyers, jurists, and legal scholars we are in a unique position to do so. As a past president of The Florida Bar, Eugene Pettis reminded us during the August virtual luncheon that we are defenders of the Constitution and advocates for justice. As such, we must do more and talk less.
As we approach the October luncheon, I ask each of you to reflect on what you are doing to enrich the lives of others, which will undoubtedly enrich your own life. Instead of just talking about The Florida Bar exam being rescheduled multiple times, have you joined the OCBA Bar Buddies Program or similar programs created to assist law students who face additional months of studying, delayed employment, and lack of resources? Instead of talking about the upcoming influx of eviction and mortgage foreclosure cases, have you assisted the Legal Aid Society of the Orange County Bar Association’s COVID-19 Housing Clinic to provide legal guidance to those facing eviction? Have you decided to take a stand for racial equality and against racial injustice by joining the ABA 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge to advance deeper understandings of the intersections of race, power, privilege, supremacy, and oppression? As we approach the close of election season, have you volunteered to be a poll watcher or registered as an election protection volunteer with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the Hispanic Federation, or similar organizations that provide non-partisan support to identify and respond to instances of voting-related discrimination? Have you passed along information about the efforts of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights to ensure the public’s safety during the election in light of the threats posed by COVID-19?
As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification and adoption of the 19th Amendment, consider even the smallest tasks like educating friends, family, and neighbors about their voting rights, as well as the importance of voting and the sacrifice that so many made for the recognition of voting rights for ALL! These are just little things that we can do to make our community, our profession, and our country better. Simply put, we must do more and talk less.
LaShawnda K. Jackson, Esq., is a partner at Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.A., practicing in the areas of casualty litigation, products liability, and trucking defense. She has been a member of the OCBA since 2002.