by Marian Wright Edleman
Founder and President of the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF).
On April 7, the Senate confirmed Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States and the first Black woman justice, marking a new era of progress in our nation. For the first time in American history, white men will not be the majority on our Supreme Court.
It is slowly becoming more representative of all of us.
In her remarks at the White House the next day, Judge Jackson spoke gratefully about the overwhelming number of encouraging messages she received from people across the country and world during her confirmation process. She said: “The notes that I’ve received from children are particularly cute and especially meaningful because, more than anything, they speak directly to the hope and promise of America. It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But we’ve made it. We’ve made it, all of us. All of us. And—and our children are telling me that they see now, more than ever, that, here in America, anything is possible.”
Black girls will now see themselves represented on the highest court in the land and all children have a new role model for what is possible. It was an overwhelmingly joyous moment. For all those celebrating Passover, Easter, and other rituals of renewal and rebirth, we are reminded again that this is a season of hope.
In April 1957, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached an Easter Sunday service at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery titled “Questions that Easter Answers.” Dr. King said one of these questions is “Is the universe on the side of the forces of justice and goodness?”: “Sometimes it looks dark and sometimes people come to feel that the universe is on the other side, that the universe seems to say ‘Amen’ to the forces of injustice . . . Every now and then I feel like asking God, Why is it that over so many centuries the forces of injustice have triumphed over the Negro and he has been forced to live under oppression and slavery and exploitation? Why is it, God? Why is it simply because some of your children ask to be treated as first-class human beings they are trampled over, their homes are bombed, their children are pushed from their classrooms, and sometimes little children are thrown into the deep waters of Mississippi?. . I begin to despair sometimes, it seems that Good Friday has the throne. It seems that the forces of injustice reign supreme. But then in the midst of that something else comes to me. And I can hear something saying, ‘King, you are stopping at Good Friday, but don’t you know that Easter is coming?’”
Dr. King continued: “This is the meaning of Easter, it answers the profound question that we confront in Montgomery. And if we can just stand with it, if we can just live with Good Friday, things will be all right. For I know that Easter is coming and I can see it coming now. As I look over the world, as I look at America, I can see Easter coming in race relations. I can see it coming on every hand. I see it coming in Montgomery. I see it coming in Alabama. I see it coming in Mississippi. Sometimes it looks like it’s coming slow, but it’s still coming.”
Easter is still coming. Sixty-five years after Dr. King preached that Easter sermon, sometimes it may still feel as if the change is coming too slowly. Sometimes even now it may feel as if the forces of injustice and those who are afraid of the light and the truth are winning for a day. But the message of this season is that darkness will not prevail. Some of the changes Dr. King saw coming in Montgomery and Mississippi came to pass during his lifetime. Judge Jackson noted that in her own American family, after the legacy of generations of ancestors born into slavery and the Jim Crow south, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court. We can see more changes to come. As we celebrate this season of transformation, renewal, and hope, we must keep lifting up the vision of a changed nation and world where anything is possible for all of our children.