In The News


FAMU Law students visit Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination hearing





At 26, Zsa’Queria Martin has been an activist for nearly a decade.

Often willing to travel to witness historic moments, she marched in Minneapolis after George Floyd was killed by a police officer.

When activists protested in Louisville following Breonna Taylor’s death, she traveled there too and was among the 87 people arrested outside Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s home in July 2020.

This week she joined another group rallying in the name of a Black woman — this time in celebration. Martin, a second-year at Florida A&M University College of Law, was among 10 students who traveled to Washington D.C. to watch the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. 

“As a Black woman, law student and future civil rights attorney... it was beautiful watching her confirmation hearing,” Martin said. “Seeing her beautiful natural hair, seeing her carry herself with style and grace, seeing people say her name correctly — because I have an ‘ethnically difficult’ name, as some would say — it gave me butterflies inside. I want to remind everyone that her story is our story. It also meant a lot to me to rally in support of a Black woman and that this rally wasn’t centered around trauma and pain like our normal protests and rallies are.”

Traveling for the hearing made her emotional, she said. “Being a civil rights activist who has gotten arrested, who has marched at many protests and spoken out against a lot of injustices, this moment was like a sigh of relief,” Martin added.

Back in Orlando on Wednesday, Martin shared her experience from the trip with her schoolmates, each of them finding different ways to connect with Jackson, who could become the first Black woman to be confirmed to the highest court in the nation.

For Suwana Janvier, a third-year student and mom, it was hearing Jackson touch on the sacrifices she made as a mother while building her career.

For Daniel Helligar, also a third-year, listening to Jackson talk about coloring at the kitchen table as a toddler next to her father, who was in law school at the time, reminded him of when he sat with his mother at his own kitchen table as a child.

For Tiana Loving, a second-year who has long dreamed of seeing a Black woman on the Supreme Court, watching Jackson’s work bring her before Congress to even be considered for the role is meaningful. 

.“Coming to law school that’s always been in the back of my mind: When is someone who looks like me going to be in the highest court in the land,” Loving said. “Those students who are interested in law... I think they are going to be inspired by this very moment and will be ecstatic about seeing someone who looks like them on the Supreme Court. Just her representation matters. Just her being there.”

Still watching the hearings unfold was bittersweet for the students and faculty that either witnessed it in Washington D.C. or watched from Orlando.

“I wondered, as did many of my students, would a white candidate have been asked about Critical Race Theory,” said FAMU Law professor Patricia Broussard, who watched the hearings from Orlando with her students. “Would a white candidate have been put in a position [of] being viewed as a Jezebel who endorses child pornography and over-sexualization? Would a white candidate have been asked that?”

Republican senators during the hearings have accused Jackson of handing down light sentences to child porn offenders, though experts say her sentencing practices were within the mainstream.
“As African Americans, we’re proud. As women, we’re proud. But we all understand the cost that it took. The lashing that she is taking in our name is to be commended. I have faith in the broken system that somehow she will emerge from this and we will all be better for it.”

The Senate will still need to vote on Jackson’s confirmation. Democrats are hopeful that will happen before lawmakers leave for Easter recess next month.