This week, we pay our respects to the first African American woman appointed to New York's highest court.



This Week in Women: RIP Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam

A salute to women activists this week is in order, ’cause whether they’ve been quietly supporting the efforts underground or the standard bearers leading the charge, one thing’s certain—we are all on the battlefield together. The past few days have been a rollercoaster of gains and loss, but we are thankful for the inspiration that has been imparted on us by trailblazers like Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam and Malala Yousafzai. Let’s re-cap the highlights: it’s time for This Week in Women!

Malala Yousafzai Becomes an Honorary Canadian

Malala Yousafzai and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave us an inspirational, tear-inducing event this week as Yousafzai was presented with honorary Canadian citizenship. “As the world prayed while she recovered, we were reminded that a bullet is no match for an idea; that in the face of evil, what is right and what is good will always prevail,” said Trudeau.

In 2012, Yousafzai was struck in the head by a Taliban bullet because of her active campaigning for more educational opportunities for women and girls. Now at 19 years old, Yousafzai is the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (received in 2014 at the age of 17), and was appointed as a United Nations Messenger of Peace this week (she is the youngest to achieve the U.N.’s highest honor).

“These men have tried to divide us and destroy our democracies, our freedom of religion, our right to go to school. But we—and you—refuse to be divided,” she said to the Canadian Parliament on Wednesday. 

Rest in peace, Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam

On Wednesday night, we were shook to read the headlines of Justice Sheila Abdus-Salaam’s passing. Judge Abdus-Salaam was the first African American woman appointed to New York’s highest court as one of seven judges. She was a fearless advocate for teachers, immigrants, LGBTQ families, and people suffering from mental illness.

“I discovered that I am the great-granddaughter of slaves. That’s important because this great-granddaughter of slaves is the first African American woman on the highest court of the state of New York,” Judge Abdus-Salaam said in a 2014 “Impact for Knowledge” interview. “It tells you and me what it is to know who we are and what we can do.”

We salute and thank her for being an inspiring figure in the justice system, and setting the bar high for women everywhere. Rest in peace.

Shonda Rhimes Takes Her Activism Primetime with Planned Parenthood 

Producer extraordinaire and Hollywood mogul, Shonda Rhimes, has taken her activism primetime by joining Planned Parenthood’s national board. The creator of shows like Grey’s Anatomy, How to Get Away with Murder, and Scandal has long advocated for empowering storylines in which women grapple with their choices and destiny. Case in point: who can forget Olivia Pope’s poignant abortion scene in Season 5?

“The fact that I’ve never had to use a Planned Parenthood, the fact that I’ve never been in need of medical services I couldn’t afford or didn’t have access to, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be concerned about the fact that other women don’t have that access,” Rhimes said in an interview with Elle and Cecile Richards, where she announced her new role within the organization.

Her appointment is a natural complement to her work and the work of the Planned Parenthood organization. “To me, the most important work we can do now at Planned Parenthood is make sure that the voices of all those folks are heard, particularly in this political environment,” said Richards. “And there’s just no one better at utilizing the power of storytelling than Shonda Rhimes.”

In related news, Planned Parenthood faced more legislative hell yesterday, as Trump signed and effectively reversed an Obama-era regulation that prohibited states from withholding funds to organizations that provide abortion services. Why is this important? Because only three percent of services that Planned Parenthood provides are abortion-related, with the bulk of services including critical preventative healthcare and cancer screenings, family planning birth control, and related services. And now the vitality of the organization is seriously at risk.

Did we mention that Trump didn’t even have the decency to invite the press to this super unpopular, closed-door bill signing? Maybe next time Shonda Rhimes can show up with her camera crew.

Featured image via The New York Times

Stay tuned to Milk for more of This Week in Women and check out our previous installments here.

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