Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson marked her historic confirmation to the Supreme Court with a moving speech from the White House on Friday, in which she celebrated the "hope and promise" of a nation where it was possible to go from living under segregation to a Supreme Court appointment in a single generation.
"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," Jackson said, while standing alongside President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
The sentiment was further reflected on Sunday’s 64th Annual Grammy Awards where the best song, record and album all went to African Americans.
We expect the Best Rap song, album and performance to go to black culture (Jail, Family Ties, Call Me If You Get Lost) and even the Best Gospel song, album and performance, too (Never Lost, Believe It Or Not). But it was Jon Batiste who came into Sunday’s ceremony with seven nominations, the most of any artist this year, winning 4 Grammy Awards.
Silk Sonic — R&B duo Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak — took best song, record and performance for "Leave The Door Open,” but the coveted Album of the Year award went to Jon Batiste’s breathtaking "We Are" when he began "...the ghetto is full of stars."
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
"It’s a powerful thing when people can see themselves in others," President Biden said, “and the U.S. Supreme Court needs to look more like America.”
"The anger and constant interruptions,” Biden continued, referring to Jackson’s confirmation hearing this week, “were vile, baseless assertions and accusations. In the face of it all, Judge Jackson showed incredible character. Poise, composure, restraint, integrity and patience. Her life and countenance reflect an American cornerstone — perseverance.”
While a mere 41.1 million Americans identify as black, according the 2020 census, their influence amongst the nation’s population of 329 million is unmistakably increasing.
Batiste began working on the album in late 2019, as the coronavirus began making headlines, and finished in 2020. The album's lyrical and thematic content reflect the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and his involvement leading Black Lives Matter protests in New York after the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. On June 12, 2020, he released the single "We Are," by explaining that “plural pronouns best reflect the American story." In fact, Batiste’s album “We Are” is now considered the #1 All-Genre album in the world.
Still I Rise
Since the early settlement of America, African slaves and citizens have influenced the nation's language, manners, religion, music, literature, cuisine, art, civics, dance, law and politics. From R&B to desegregation, from Dred Scott to 2022’s Anti-Lynching Bill, “we are, we are, we are” Batiste begins, referring to an America that has failed to integrate with 13% of its population.
The median income in 2020 was $45,000 for black households, according to 2020’s U.S. Census, and 20% of African Americans — roughly 10 million Americans — actively live in poverty. In fact, the African American community are and remain the poorest ethnic group in America, yet integration (the process of ending systematic racial segregation) has failed to lift them on the whole.
Integration includes leveling barriers to association, creating equal opportunity, and the creation and development of a culture that draws on diverse traditions, rather than merely bringing a racial minority into the majority culture.
“Desegregation is largely a legal matter,” says Felix Frankfurter, Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and chairman of the Society of Fellows at Harvard University. “Integration largely a social one.”
“Our children are telling me that they see now more than ever that here in America anything is possible,” Jackson says, concluding her remarks at the White House. “And it’s a mistake for Americans to presume they’re not a part of this movement, “Biden added, referring to U.S. race relations. “We’re all present and accountable to this moment.”
Batiste’s warm, crushing lyrics in the title song “We Are” may begin in the ghetto, but for the All Genre superstar they crescendo and conclude “...in a country full of stars.”