Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Sis Did That: Fani T. Willis and Countless African American Women

 It was meant to be an ordinary after-a-busy-weekend-Monday for me.

I had two small meetings scheduled.

Came home to refresh and relax, and decided that the evening news was to fill the space of knowing I missed out on all weekend.

The Grand Jury had been meeting in Fulton County all day on Monday.

It was now past 5 o'clock Eastern Time and they were still there.

I went on about my evening and one pundit turned into the next into the next and it was getting past my bedtime.

Then well after ten o'clock Eastern Time, the clerk of the court, an African American woman who resembled so many that I know, walked, through a sea of other African American women and the smattering of men, to the waiting scene in the courtroom, all of this televised, but silent.

She stood as the judge read through the stack of papers - looked like a full ream to me - asked her a few questions, signed them, handed them back to her.

In her summer orange dress and pixie cut, she turned with that stack in her left hand and walked out.

The judge addressed the crowd of reporters and told them that all these civil servants had been there well past quitting time and none of them could go home until they leave, so kindly leave.

Then the pundits came back on and were waiting for the unsealing of the papers - was it or wasn't it an indictment?

I think it had to be closer to eleven o'clock at night and they panned to the briefing room of Fulton County and were setting up a podium, the indictment was unsealed and it was a doozy.

An attorney I am not, just the daughter, sister-in-law, friend, and mother of a want-to-be-one, so I wasn't aware of all the steps involved in this and how meticulous she had been as a prosecutor to be sure the state case was airtight.

Even the political commentators were a bit stunned as they read through that ream of paper and started naming all the defendants and the charges - all felony - that exist without possibility of parole.

What a doozy!

I kept texting the family chat and at least admonished my political science/pre-law daughter and my journalism/media studies daughter that they needed to be tuned in to this.

It was a moment that reminded me a bit of Nixon and Watergate.

This was history.

This was necessary.

This was cathartic.

They read the charges.

RICO was and is a big one, it is how they got some of the other organized criminals.

Then, later in the night, again, well past my bed-time, District Attorney Fani T. Willis came out with the entourage of Deputy District Attorneys and in her no-nonsense way, read what was happening. She did not allow her expression to reveal any emotion she felt, not the tool on her and her office, not the weight of the egregious and just sheer nasty threats against her person. She did was she was elected to do and in so doing, also communicated that she was more than qualified to do this - she had tried and won eleven other RICO cases.

Sis did that.

An American Black woman, in Georgia, bringing a moment of relief and healing to the country that the country probably doesn't even know it needs.

Part of my earlier day included a three hour coffee with the assistant of one of the state senators where I now call home.

He was a history major.

It was a get-to-know and perhaps a bit of the privilege of my position as the First Lady of a university, he may have given me more time than just any other constituent. 

Our conversation flowed effortlessly.

He, the same age as my youngest son and a race and ethnicity different than mine.

Me, a past-middle-age woman.

We talked about the state, about the connected issues of housing, economics, health care, and education.

He gave me pointers of places to travel since I'm a foodie and coffee snob.

After the pleasantries of getting to know each other and we turned to the situation at hand, we made the connections in history and the founding of this country that are playing out now.

Neither of us had our phones on or were following the news of being present with another human being.

That was important because it was on one of the pundit evening shows that I was waiting up for to hear the woman who should have been president in 2016. She wrote an article about the issues of loneliness and it was ironic to me because that is what the young man and I talked about as an after effect of covid and part of what is driving this angst we feel in the air.

We agreed that social media and these powerful devices that track every moment of our lives, have us disconnectedly connected to reality. 

If it wasn't on the screen, was it real?

So I was tuning in to hear her when in the middle of that after-nine-o'clock-segment, they interrupted their intended conversation for the breaking news from a young African American woman correspondent who was reporting from outside the Fulton County Courthouse.

I sat up more in bed and listened through the lens of history.

This was big.

Huge, even.

And part of the story that places like Arkansas that just banned AP African American Studies and Florida that ban anything and everything about African Americans, don't want taught or studied.

I absorbed it and recounted the entire day, the entire past few weeks, the entire time since that day in 2016 when that menace "won" the election.


I'm not a political pundit, but it was not lost on me how much this was a social, cultural, and political moment and the importance of African American women leading this charge. 

The Federal judge is an African American woman.

The Fulton County Prosecutor, Clerk, and court officers were all African American women.

The Georgia election workers that the menace and several of the co-conspirators attacked, were African American women.

We tried to tell the country.

Back in 2008.

Years since.

From activists to organizers to scholars, African American women have been canaries in the mine-shaft sounding the alarm that this who thing is about to implode if we don't do something about it.

African American women delivered for the woman who should have been president, it was the white women who just couldn't bring themselves to consider her and instead voted for the nation's long nightmare.

Even after that, African American women worked tirelessly, in the wake of assault after assault against civil rights, after social injustice, and police indifference and brutality, to try to hold up the light of hope and possibility for this country.

It has to be all of us or none of us will make it, despite the rapid dog racism and vitriol of the disgruntled 30-percent of cult followers.

We, historically, have borne the brunt of the worse.

It was on our bodies that the enslavers made it perpetual and declared that even if they raped us and produced a child, that child would not be free like the white father, but perpetually enslaved. The Law of Maternal Descent.

We have placed our bodies on the line for the country we built and are and have been the least respected and least protected.

Fani T. Willis thanked the sheriffs that were protecting the building, the office, the staff, the attorneys and would continue to do so.

It is because history has shown us, January 6 showed us, that there are segments bent on violence to uphold white supremacy and systemic racism.

A dying dog barks the loudest.

And DA Fani T. Willis was steady and sure, well prepared, she stood against vitriol as a professional. She is an HBCU alumna, went to the Mecca. She knew how to do the meticulous cross the ts and dot the I's research that every African American woman knows one must do to be impeccable in her work because this country is stacked against us.

She was ready.

She put in the work for two-and-a-half-years.

She is the one he always feared.

That is why he had the most egregious commentary for Black women.

That is the way this country has been.

And sis stood strong through all of that.

I am very proud of her.

There will be some hard days ahead and a lot of work, but sis did that.


©2023. All Rights Reserved by Antona B. Smith

Sippling my morning latte, looking out at a rainy Northeast morning, smiling at her good work

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