Black students in politics inspired by Bolden’s appointment to Michigan Supreme Court

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she will appoint Michigan Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden as a Michigan Supreme Court justice. Bolden will be the first Black woman on the Michigan Supreme Court and will replace retiring former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack.

The expected appointment of Bolden reflects similarities to the election of former President Barack Obama and the recent appointment of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court — an expanding change that is shaping the discourse and ideas of the political sphere, political theory and constitutional democracy junior Joshua Dorcely said.

“I think it signaled to a lot of, especially young Black women, that this can be an avenue for that type of change,” Dorcely said.

Social relations and policy junior Drue Bender found Bolden’s appointment inspiring and gave her hope as a Black woman in politics.

“I don’t see many people that look like me — that was actually something that discouraged me to go into politics because it wasn’t that prominent to see Black women in the political field, or if there were there weren’t many of us,” Bender said. “Like OK, I can actually be prosperous in my field as well, like if she can do it, I know I can do it too.”

Bolden has prioritized criminal justice reform while serving in the Michigan House of Representatives since 2018.

“I’m hoping that her appointment can continue that thread, and I anticipate it well, and I think also it will impress upon many people that the importance of our institution is up the wall and then how it is shaped and how it affects everyone,” Dorcely said. 

Bolden is one of the youngest Michigan Supreme Court justices at 34 years old and social relations and policy junior Collin Naylor thinks it’s encouraging to see representation from younger generations in politics.

“Especially older generations are making decisions that they won’t necessarily reap the consequences of,” Naylor said. “It’s just awesome to see more and more Black people, especially Black women being in roles that we should’ve been in since America’s conception, but many of them just kept us from being in those roles when we were more than qualified for them.”

Student efforts through organizations including the Black Undergraduate Law Association and W.E.B. DuBois Society work towards a more inclusive parliamentary system every day at MSU. 

“It doesn’t stop here,” Dorcely said. “This sort of work continues for future MSU students, and I’m hoping that whoever comes after … retains that same passion and dedicates the time to ensuring that what is discovered now, what is figured out now, it works in the future too.”

Bender advises politically passionate students to not be scared to work in the field, although it may be intimidating.

“Even though I may be nervous about things, I just run towards it because you’re supposed to run toward your fears,” Bender said. “Go for it anyway because you never know what could happen. … (You) can be somebody else’s role model too.”

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