Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby encouraged black women attending the 2015 NAACP Annual Convention in Philadelphia to empower young people facing a world of negativity.
“Ladies, we are the backbone of our families and our communities and when you look at the numbers, I recently came out of a heated election, I know, we women are the ones who will decide the future of public policy not only on the local or state level but national scale as well,” Mosby said to an audience of more than 500 at the Women In NAACP Empowerment Forum on Sunday.
At age 35, she is the youngest chief prosecutor of any major U.S. city. Mosby became recognized nationally when announcing the homicide charges and arrest warrants for the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore in April. The police officers have been indicted.
Following the charges Mosby received praise as well as criticism by those who thought the charges to be excessive, and filed in haste, including the Baltimore police union.
However, it is clear in her speech at the convention, following a theme of “Pursing Liberty in the Face of Injustice,” that Mosby is not deterred.
“Every great movement toward progress began with warrior women who channeled their confidence and were unafraid to challenge the status quo in the pursuit of justice and equality,” she said.
Mosby, who graduated magna cum laude from Tuskegee University, talked about her personal journey of overcoming obstacles, such as being wait-listed at every law school she’d applied to because she didn’t perform well on the LSAT exam.She asked for interviews with admissions directors to tell them her exam score wasn’t indicative of her potential.
Mosby, a mother of two girls, expressed it was her faith that prevented circumstances or self-doubt to define her future.She said that black women have to overcome more obstacles, stereotypes, and “all to often self-imposed barriers in the exhibition of leadership,” which makes it essential to support one another’s successes.
Mosby began serving as Baltimore City State’s Attorney in January. When running for the position, she said some colleaguesdiscouraged her. They told Mosby shewasn’t experienced enough for the job, couldn’t raise enough money or would destroy the political career of her husband, Nicholas J. “Nick,” a member of the Baltimore City Council.
“For me, as a young black woman, to run against an older white male incumbent, powerful, with the ability to raise close to a million dollars, the skeptics wanted to know: How could I have the audacity” she said to a cheeringaudience.
Mosby noted that “people of color” only constitute 1 percent of elected prosecutors in the country. She recognizes her accomplishments are “not because of my own doing but because of the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices of the audacious warrior women who have come before me, who lived their lives by example for all of us.”
At the age of 14, she encountered tragedy in her life. Her cousin, 17, was shot and killed outside of her home when he was mistaken for a drug dealer. He was an honors student with hopes of becoming an architect. His killer was also just 17-years-old.
This event propelled her into a career in law and sparked a desire to reform the criminal justice system.She shared bureau of justice statistics that one in three black men will go to prison in their lifetime.And, according to the Prison Policy Initiative, blacks are six times more likely to be incarcerated than whites.
“To become part of the solution of transforming the state of our communities,” she said, “it begins with you, it begins today.”
Keynote speakers at the convention also included President Obama on Tuesday and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday night at the closing dinner. Both Obama, who will become the first sitting President to visit a federal prison, and Lynch discussed the need for reforms in the criminal justice system, mainly why and how people in the U.S. are incarcerated.