Part 2 in a 2-part series
In the last BCT blog, we profiled several women who made history in the recent Congressional mid-terms. But as we all know, local district elections can be even more impactful for constituents. This week we are going to dive into some members of the Houston 19. In case you missed the story, all nineteen black women who ran for Houston judgeships won, making history in the process. This is especially timely as data collected by the American Constitution Society found that women of color still make up less than 20 percent of state judges. And while the sheer number of women that ran (and won) made this meaningful, each of these individuals deserve to be celebrated in their own right. Meet three amazing women…
Angela L. Graves-Harrington
Compassion, integrity and respect. Those are the principles that Graves-Harrington has used to guide her legal career. She became interested in the profession while still in high school where she was part of a mock trial team. As a student at Mississippi State University, Graves- Harrington dedicated her free time to helping children in a local Head Start program, using her compassion to make an impact. She later attended Thurgood Marshall School of Law on a full academic scholarship. In addition to her studies, Graves-Harrington was very active in community-based organizations such as the Earl Carl Institute, NAACP (student volunteer), and the Black Law Student Association (President). She also served as Secretary of the Student Bar Association and Symposium Editor of the TMSL Law Review. Graves-Huntington strongly believes her role is to give a voice to the voiceless and she fully respects the tremendous impact that family law judges have on families.
Erica Hughes ran for office because she believes in fairness. As an attorney, she did not feel that justice was always administered equitably, and she saw a disparity in the way people were treated when they had financial means versus individuals that were low income and had very little knowledge of their rights. Hughes firmly believes that justice should be blind and never based on connections, race, or status. While attending Prairie View A&M University, she decided her life mission would be to help the disenfranchised. She went on to attend The Thurgood Marshall School Law on a full scholarship and later became an attorney as well as a judge advocate for the National Guard. Her goal as a judge is to help to restore integrity, fairness, justice and honor for those that she serves.
Sharon M. Burney
Burney served as an advocate in education for 24 years at the Houston Independent School District. She co-created and administrated the Lighted Schoolhouse, a program for homeless and high-risk youth and also worked as a facilitator at a local hospital in their drug prevention program. She then decided to pursue a career as an attorney and graduated from Thurgood Marshall School of Law. However, she first became interested in politics while studying at the University of Houston. She received a master’s degree in Future Studies where she concentrated on political diversity and later hosted a radio show called “Reflections Black on Black”, which included politically relevant topics. Burney also happens to be the daughter of a respected judge, Zinnetta Burney. She knows first-hand that her responsibility in her new role is not only to understand the law but to interpret it in a fair and impartial way.
In summary, the Houston 19 not only made history, but they also helped to amplify a clear message that you do not have to be a white man to get elected. While we profiled only three of the nineteen deserving women, there are sixteen other who were elected as judges. And they all have had distinguished legal careers as well as an unwavering commitment to equity in their communities.
LaShawn Williams (one of the nineteen) posted a picture of her fellow judges on Facebook, writing "Never did I imagine that the day I decided to run to be judge, I'd become a part of a club of phenomenal black women, sisters-in-law, gifted, brilliant, strong - everything I hope to be!" Well said…
The full list of the Houston nineteen includes: Sandra Peake, Judge Ramona Franklin, Judge Maria Jackson, Germaine Tanner, Angela Graves-Harrington, Cassandra Holleman, Tonya Jones, Dedra Davis, LaShawn Williams, Latosha Lewis Payne, Linda Dunson, Toria Finch, Erica Hughes, Lucia Bates, Ronnisha Bowman, Michelle Moore, Sharon Burney, Shannon Baldwin, and Lori Chambers Gray. #houston19