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Jane Bolin – America’s First Black Woman Judge

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With Justice Breyer’s retirement announcement, there has been a lot of buzz about his next replacement. All we know is that the next Supreme Court Justice will be a black woman. This will be the Court’s first black woman judge in our nearly 250-year history. There are a lot of well-qualified jurists such as Ketanji Brown Jackson or Eunice Lee. 

But before all of them, there was Jane Bolin. 

The Top of Her Class

Jane Bolin was born in 1908 in Poughkeepsie, New York, the youngest of four children. Her father was a lawyer and her mother a British immigrant. At 16, Bolin enrolled at Wellesley College where she was one of two black freshmen. 

In 1928, Bolin graduated at the top of her class and enrolled in Yale Law School. She was the only black student and one of three women. 

In 1931, Bolin became the first black woman to receive a law degree from Yale. The next year, she passed the New York state bar examination – the first black woman to do so. 

Our First Black Woman Judge

In 1939, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia appointed then-31-year-old Bolin as the first black woman judge of the Domestic Relations Court. For 20 years, she was the only black female judge in our country. 

Bolin worked to end racial segregation – specifically involving children. In cases where children may be wards of the state, Bolin worked to ensure that probation officers were assigned without regard to race or religion. She also made an impact in ensuring that publicly funded childcare agencies accepted all children regardless of their ethnic background. 

She would serve on the bench for 40 years. 

A Quiet Legacy

Bolin retired in 1979. In her retirement, she volunteered as a reading instructor in New York City public schools for two years. She also served on the New York State Board of Regents. 

After a life of trailblazing achievements, Jane Bolin died in 2007 at 98 in Long Island City, Queens, New York. 

Jane Bolin, though not necessarily the most immediately recognizable, was a pioneer for black women and worked tirelessly to ensure the advancement of black people – especially children. 

Those gains we have made were never graciously and generously granted. We have had to fight every inch of the way – in the face of sometimes insufferable humiliations.” 

Whoever is chosen to sit on our nation’s highest court, Jane Bolin will be smiling down on them.

Chris Blondell is a Philadelphia-based writer and social media strategist with a current focus on tech industry news. He has written about startups and entrepreneurs based in Denver, Seattle, Chicago, New Haven, and more. He has also written content for a true-crime blog, Sword and Scale, and developed social media content for a local spice shop. An occasional comedian, Chris Blondell also spends his time writing humorous content and performing stand-up for local audiences.

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People

Advocating For Yourself In Any Language: Q&A With Fanny Stassar of Memrise

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I’m not sure if any of you have been reading the news lately, but it really ain’t easy for a woman in this world. Between the oppression, dismissals, interruptions, and generally unpleasant situations, women need all the help they can get. Enter Memrise, the world’s most innovative and effective language learning app. 

Fanny Stassar, the Senior French Language Specialist at Memrise, has been enthusiastically spearheading specific language lessons for women traveling abroad. She has led the company in a progressive direction by developing a collection of phrases in six of their most popular languages.

Memrise is aiming to give women travelers the tools they need to communicate effectively and assertively while traveling abroad. And with Stassar taking the lead, they’re sure to succeed.

We sat down with Stassar to get some insight on this project and how she encourages her female peers to advocate for themselves in any language. 

Can you describe a situation where a woman would need a specific language to protect herself? How do you know this is effective?

It can feel quite helpless and vulnerable when we don’t understand what people are saying around us, or when we can’t make ourselves understood. Having some expressions and sentences you can easily remember and rely on when you need them the most can be a game-changer. Simply being able to ask for help or ask for someone to stop whatever they’re doing that makes us uncomfortable can both be empowering and make us safer. 

Let’s say someone is bothering you in a bar, you may be more likely to call them out on their behavior and make them stop, or you may be more prepared to ask for help.

On the other hand, if you don’t have any knowledge of the language to ask for help or express that you feel in danger, you might completely shut down or truly not know what to do or who to turn to.

I think for me, especially when I was younger, street harassment was always a huge source of anxiety and fear at times. French phrases like laisse-moi tranquille (“leave me alone”), and non c’est non (“no means no”), instantly come to my mind. In Japanese, I really like the sentences 興味ありません (“I’m not interested”) and 失礼ですよ (“that’s rude”).

How would a woman use language to assert herself?

I think we’re still used to associating power, assertiveness, and confidence more with men than women – especially in the workplace. Women tend to be interrupted, ignored, or have ideas stolen more so than men – especially women of color and ethnic minorities. Being prepared to use “I’ve not finished my point,” or “I’m still talking” when that happens can ensure you assert yourself and make your point across. 

If you take the time to prepare yourself before a meeting, in which you feel that might happen, then you’re more likely to make yourself heard (and that’s true for everyone). You will also potentially be more prepared to call it out when you see a colleague being interrupted or ignored.

What kind of success do you anticipate with this specific use of language? 

Hard one to answer! I think I’m still from a generation when you would learn that it’s better not to make waves. We’re taught that if someone is bothering you, it is best you leave the situation and not “make it worse.” 

I think things are definitely changing; behaviors that may have been acceptable or shrugged off in the past, are now being called out and mentalities are evolving a lot thanks to that. 

But to be able to call things out, you need the words and to me, the success of those courses is in modeling those words, modeling how to call out, how to make yourself and others respected, regardless of your gender, your age, the way you dress, or your job title. The success of these courses to me would be making even just one person feel more confident about how to make themselves respected in any kind of situation. 

What has your experience been as a woman in a leadership role?

I do look up to the female leaders I have the chance to work with, as well as those in my personal life. I’ve learned a lot from the female leaders in my life, especially about the way they express themselves and the words and intonations they use to assert themselves. I try to apply some when I need to. Things like “trust me, I know what I’m talking about” when their expertise is put in doubt; “let me finish my point” when someone jumps the gun before they finished talking. I know on paper these can sound quite confrontational, but when said with a calm, confident voice, there is nothing defensive about those phrases.

 How do you encourage your peers to advocate for themselves and their principles? 

I try to be a good listener and if I’m interrupting someone, I will call myself out. I hope sets the example that it’s OK to call someone out for interrupting. There isn’t always malice behind it. Something I try to do more of is to celebrate my workmates when it is due. I make sure light is shone on their work, ideas, and efforts, especially with those who tend to not talk about their work too much. 

At Memrise, we also wanted to include sentences that can be used to uplift your peers and show them you’ve got their backs. I love the Spanish sentence no te dejes pisotear (“don’t let others walk over you”), and the Korean 전 당신을 믿어요 (“I believe you”). In German you can say kannst du sie bitte ausreden lassen? (“can you let her finish speaking please?“), which is a great way to advocate for someone.

Some people are great communicators and will make sure that they get recognition when due. Others might find it more difficult or uncomfortable, so I try to bring that up when I can.

–Learn more about this constructive effort on Memrise’s site here. If you’re looking to learn a new language, you can’t do better than Memrise.

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The 5 Most Badass Ukrainian Quotes

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When Putin decided he wanted to go down in history as the next Hitler, he probably never considered just how fiercely the Ukrainian people would resist. There are plenty of examples of badassery by Ukrainians, but here is a list of five of the most badass Ukrainian quotes. 

“Take these seeds and put them in your pockets. So, at least sunflowers will grow when you lie down here.”

Source

A badass Ukrainian woman marched up to a Russian soldier and gave him a piece of her mind. Her words speak loudly: 

“Prove you are with us.”

Source

Zelensky has emerged as one of the most inspirational leaders of our time. Certainly since Churchill. One day after signing the EU application, Zelensky pleaded with EU members to make their support for Ukraine loud. 

We are fighting to be equal members of Europe.

prove that you are with us. Do prove that you will not let us go. Do prove that you are indeed Europeans and then life will win over death and light will win over darkness.

“The EU will be much stronger with us.

That speech is made all the more stirring by the existence of this clip: 

“I would do it again.”

Source

A 55-year-old Ukrainian sailor attempted to sink a Russian oligarch’s superyacht while it was docked in Mallorca, Spain. He opened valves in the yacht’s engine room as “revenge” for a Russian helicopter attack on a civilian building in Kyiv. 

When put in front of a judge, the sailor had proudly proclaimed that he had no regrets. 

“Russian warship, go f**k yourself.”

Source

Soldiers on Snake Island, a tiny island west of Crimea, faced down a Russian warship and held their ground. 

This is a Russian military warship. I suggest you lay down your weapons and surrender to avoid bloodshed and needless casualties. Otherwise, you will be bombed.”

“Russian warship, go f**k yourself.”

Snake Island was bombed by the Russian warship. Initially, it was reported that the soldiers had been killed. Now, there are reports that they actually survived. Regardless, the soldiers are heroes and their defiance of the Russian military screams “badass Ukrainian.” 

“The fight is here. I need ammunition, not a ride.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was offered asylum by the United States in order to escape capture or execution. And who would blame him? Any of us might take the opportunity to govern safely from afar. Zelensky defied that. Instead, he is staying in Kyiv and leading his citizens fiercely. 

This quote will go down in history as one of the most inspirational quotes of all time. It’s easy to see why Zelensky is universally adored by the West. 

These are not the only examples of badass Ukrainians. There are several reports of “tankjacking” of Russian tanks by Ukrainian citizens. Citizens are being taught how to build Molotov cocktails. People are building as big a roadblock as they can to stop the 40-mile-long Russian convoy. 

There is no stopping Ukraine and all the progress they’ve made. 
Here’s how you can help the people of Ukraine.

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People

Reparations for Black Americans Now

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In 1988, the United States passed legislation called the Civil Liberties Act. This law stated the “grave injustice” that had been done to Japanese Americans during World War II. In addition to a formal apology by the U.S. Government, $20,000 (roughly $44,000 today) was allocated to all those who had been interned and were still alive at the time. 

Actor George Takei was one of those individuals. 

I was 5 years old at the time.

“It was a terrorizing morning I will never be able to forget. Literally, at gunpoint, we were ordered out of our home.” 

In 1942, Executive Order 9066 commanded that any and all Japenese-American citizens, regardless of how many generations they had lived in the United States, be interned in a concentration camp. 

For us, it was four horrific years.

“For African-Americans, it’s four torturous centuries.” 

The first attempt at reparations for Black Americans was known as “40 Acres and a Mule.” That attempt was eventually scrapped once Andrew Johnson took office.

Since then, there have been scant attempts at reparations for Black Americans by the United States Government. 

It’s time that reparations for Black Americans be awarded. Now. 

Why Haven’t There Been Proper Reparations for Black Americans?

It’s 400 years of atrocities. Slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, voter suppression, aggressive policing, minstrel shows, and much, much more. 

Other minority and marginalized groups have received some form of reparations from the U.S. Government. According to a 2020 paper by Rashawn Ray and Andre Perry:

Native Americans have received land and billions of dollars for various benefits and programs for being forcibly exiled from their native lands. 

“For Japanese Americans, $1.5 billion was paid to those who were interned during World War II. 

“Additionally, the United States, via the Marshall Plan, helped to ensure that Jews received reparations for the Holocaust, including making various investments over time. 

“In 1952, West Germany agreed to pay 3.45 billion Deutsche Marks to Holocaust survivors.

Black Americans are the only group that has not received reparations for state-sanctioned racial discrimination, while slavery afforded some white families the ability to accrue tremendous wealth.”

When Black Americans Create Their Own Wealth, It’s Stripped From Them. Sometimes Violently.

Look no further than the Tulsa Massacre for a clear example of this. It’s hard to comprehend why white Americans cannot handle the idea of an independently wealthy Black American. 

A Black American who has had opportunity stripped away from them based on their race should qualify for damages and have that wrong righted – no matter how recent or long ago it may have been. 

How Do We Determine Who Receives Reparations? 

We can determine the descendants of enslaved Africans by DNA testing, census information, and birth records are good places to start. 

For example, Senator Cory Booker did DNA testing and determined that his lineage stemmed from Sierra Leone. 

Michelle, Sasha, and Malia Obama would qualify for certain reparations because they descend from enslaved Africans. Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant and white mother, would not. 

It won’t be easy to determine who or how many Black Americans will receive reparations but it is absolutely worth the effort. Not just because it will be a critical step towards healing America’s festering wound but because it’s the right thing to do. 

The National African-American Reparations Commission (NAARC) has been working since 2015 on accomplishing the goal of reparations for Black Americans. 

There is also HR-40, which would establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. The commission would examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the U.S. from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. 
We have to at least try. Black Americans deserve reparations for all the everything White America has put them through.

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