NEW YORK, March 27, 2021 — For New York Attorney General Letitia James, March has not only been a time to celebrate the achievements and perseverance of our foremothers. “Let’s really talk about how we just hold up the consciousness of this country and how,” said the state’s first Black — and female — chief legal officer during an online conversation this Saturday that was hosted by the McSilver Institute and the Greater New York Chapter of The Links, Incorporated (GNY Links). She said that the “feminization of poverty” resulting from the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on women, as well as racial unrest and an assault on voting rights, all point to this Women’s History Month as an urgent time to uplift and support the struggles of women — especially those of color.
The Hon. Letitia James was interviewed by Dr. Christina M. Greer, an Associate Professor at Fordham University and NYU McSilver 2018 Fellow-in-Residence, during the inaugural program of the GNY Links’s “She Leads” series of conversations with Black women leaders. Their wide-ranging conversation, followed by an audience Q&A, touched on voting rights, police reform, the NYC mayor’s race, the gender gap in pay, systemic racism and the need for more women — particularly those of color — to run for office and win. In opening remarks prior to their discussion, Dr. Donna Jones, President of the GNY Links, hailed James as “a trailblazer and history maker.”
When asked about the upcoming primary election for Mayor of New York City, James declined to endorse a candidate, but did say that a holder of that office should have progressive values, experience in government and know all of the relevant agencies. She added that the officeholder should recognize that, “there’s been a disinvestment in certain communities and that we can’t return to normal after this pandemic. I refuse to return to normal.”
Speaking two days after Georgia passed a law that restricts voting access, James gave a “shout out” to voting rights activist and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, and urged action in the Senate on voting rights reform. Referring to a procedure that places a higher threshold on the number of votes necessary for legislation to pass, James said, “The filibuster must be repealed and or modified. We can not allow the filibuster to continue. Otherwise… all the change that we voted for will not be put in place, from the Voting Rights Act, to criminal justice reform…to infrastructure reform, to assistance for those who are struggling right now during this pandemic.”
When asked about police reform, James pointed out that earlier this year her office filed a lawsuit against the New York City Police Department for use of excessive force and false arrests against protestors. “They were unfortunately not prepared and not trained adequately and they engaged in excessive force in response to individuals who were peacefully protesting, in violation of the First and the 14th Amendments…It was clear that we had to take legal action.”
Despite the struggles discussed, Hon. Letitia James expressed optimism. “When the times are the darkest, that is when we, as women, to shine. I get my grace from my community, a community that tends to struggle and continues to to overcome those struggles. A community that reminds me that the struggle is real and the struggle is not over. And I am also grounded in the fact that I’m a woman of faith. That is my the steel and my backbone.”
Watch the video on YouTube.