On the November ballot, voters will see a ticket that reflects a change in society – more Black women running in state races.
Judge Sheila Johnson, who oversees the 46th District Court in Southfield, is vying for a Supreme Court position. Johnson, who made history being the first Black woman to hold her current post, may make history again by being the first Black woman elected to Michigan’s Supreme Court.
As a Supreme Court Justice, Johnson said she wants to establish the citizens’ trust.
“I am aiming to make a difference in the lives of the citizens of the state of Michigan and I want to bring to the Supreme Court, as a justice, how to be relevant and identify with the citizens,” said Johnson. “There is a perspective that the law and the justices are outdated. No one knows who the justices are, and that needs to change.
“In the Supreme Court, since you are not seeing people, your decision is based on seeing people through the documents that are presented. You are looking for error, looking for the facts and you are relying on your exposure and experience to make a decision. It is not the decision of one person, you are one of seven people.
“I believe the people’s rights have been limited and there is a need to bring more integrity to the justice system. I want to bring a diverse perspective, which comes from my background first as a lawyer and also as a trial court judge. I believe that I have a good reputation for listening and that I have a strong connection with the community. I care about fairness and justice for the people.”
Also on this year’s ticket is Kim Trent for Wayne State University Board of Governors and Dr. Shauna Ryder Diggs for the University of Michigan’s Board of Regents.
Locally, there has been a decline in Black women in politics.
“You really see how the numbers of Black women are decreasing in politics,” Trent said. “Four years ago we had five women on City Council, now we have three. In the state Legislature, if everything goes, we will have one Black woman in the Detroit delegation. Because of term limits and other factors we are not seeing as much support.”
Trent said she plans to improve student retention and graduation rates, offer affordable college tuition, and assure that students are prepared for their future careers.
A native Detroiter, Trent has been involved in the political arena for many years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Africana Studies and a master’s degree in Communication. Her experience includes serving as the communications director for former US Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick; the Detroit regional manager for US Senator Debbie Stabenow; amd director of the Governor’s Office for Southeast Michigan under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Additionally, Trent has worked with Wayne State University in several capacities.
“Having worked for three very strong and very talented women elected officials really prepared me for this,” she said. “All of them have a shared a commitment, using their voices to be especially mindful to help vulnerable populations. I do believe that women tend to be more sensitive to the needs of those that are sometimes left out of the equation.”
However, Trent added that she believes each of the candidates can add value to their role, building upon their own experiences.
“I am running for the Board of Governors for Wayne State because I am a Wayne State graduate and I am someone who really understands that higher education is really the most direct pathway to success in our knowledge-based economy,” Trent said. “Wayne State has a key role in educating our citizens for jobs and training them to be innovative and entrepreneurs.”
Diggs, running for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, is seeking the post as a way to impact the University of Michigan.
Diggs, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is the daughter-in-law of current University of Michigan Regent S. Martin Taylor and Judge Anna Diggs Taylor. She is vying for the position because of the opportunities that she received while completing her education.
“Provided that a lot of my formal education was spent at the University of Michgan, I feel it’s an opportunity for me to give back,” said Diggs.
Among the issues she is most concerned about is the the high cost of education and student loans.
“The university wil tell you that 70 percent of the students are helped by the federal government with financial aid, but most of the financial aid is student loans,” she said. “Graduating with that kind of debt is a disadvantage and I would like to do a better job at lowering costs and providing students with more grant assistance.”
“When Mayor Bing appointed Godbee to the position of police chief, he wasn’t
appointing Mother Theresa or the Dalai Lama of Detroit. Yet that did not excuse the chief from maintaining the highest professional standard that is expected of those who enforce and interpret the law.”