Reflection: Lift As You Climb

On June 17th, 2013, the NAACP Law Fellows visited the United States Supreme Court and had the opportunity to witness the release of several opinions. It was a truly amazing experience—I even caught a glimpse of Justice Sotomayer in her chambers, the same chambers Justice Thurgood Marshall used during his time at the Court.

One of the most memorable moments was a conversation the Fellows had with NAACP General Counsel Kim Keenan and Staff Counsel for the Supreme Court Tonia Powell. Both are phenomenal women and “game changers” in the legal field. They spoke about their journey through the legal world and their experiences as women in such powerful positions. Hearing Ms. Keenan and Mrs. Powell speak reminded me of how crucial it is to have a strong support system.

Ms. Keenan and Mrs. Powell are both extremely driven. When they discussed their careers, it was clear that neither of them were thoroughly satisfied when they reached a goal. Instead, they pushed to overcome more challenging feats. Both noted that they received a wide array of support from mentors, friends, and loved ones. Hearing two humble, powerful, and fierce African-American women speak about their experiences truly motivated me. Growing up in Chicago public housing, I am no stranger to adversity. I was able to defy the odds and proudly set an example as a first generation college student. However, I would not be where I am today without the support and encouragement of my family and loved ones. I know that it is important to work hard and encourage oneself to strive for success, but I also recognize how comforting it is to know someone believes in you. 

Too often, women must work harder to establish themselves in the work place and gain respect. That is why it is extremely important for women to motivate each other. Ms. Keenan and Mrs. Powell highlighted the importance of supporting each other and making connections. I completely agree. A supportive network is absolutely essential. All great leaders had at least one person that encouraged them every step of the way.

As young future leaders, we must help each other and find joy in others accomplishments. Ms. Keenan and Mrs. Powell pushed forward despite doubt and adversity—never accepting failure as an option. Most importantly, they supported and inspired one another along the way. It is imperative for all of us to follow their examples and do the same.

Sierra Wallace is a third year Law student at Howard University School of Law. There, she served as the Graduate Student Representative for Howard’s Graduate Student Assembly and is currently the Vice President of the Criminal Justice Society and a member of the Huver I. Brown Trial Advocacy Team. She has interned in various legal capacities with government agencies, investment banking firms, and civil rights organizations.  As an aspiring civil rights attorney, her legal interests include: equal education, affordable housing, and equal access to health care. In addition to practicing law, Sierra hopes to draft policy and legislation for government agencies. As a Law Fellow with the NAACP, Sierra intends to gain hands on experience battling civil rights issue that plague our nation today. She strives to build on the legacy left by those who were committed to fight against injustice.