Black History Month 2021 – Reflections From Fox Attorneys and Staff

To mark Black History Month, we asked our attorneys and staff to share their thoughts about the historical figures whose courage, commitment and contributions inspire them on a personal or professional level. Their heartfelt responses reveal the lasting influence of these remarkable individuals, as well as the extent of the work that remains to be done in the nation’s journey toward racial justice.


What figure(s) in Black History has influenced/inspired you?

As a Black Latina, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and someone who grew up in Chicago’s inner city, I have certainly been inspired by Black women in my life who have sacrificed greatly for the benefit of their loved ones and have shown tremendous bravery, grit and grace in the face of adversity. Beyond the resilient Black women in my own life, I have been deeply inspired by two leading Black women: one from the past, the other from the present. Harriet Tubman’s legacy as one of the bravest Black women in history reminds us of the importance of fighting for oneself (as she did when she escaped slavery), but also of the need to reach back and uplift our communities (as she did in liberating hundreds from the chains of slavery through the Underground Railroad and in tactical liberation missions), even when doing so imperils our own safety. While the struggles do not compare, her story gives me the strength to fight for DEI both in the legal profession and beyond. A Black woman from the present who also inspires me is Vice President Kamala Harris. While her accomplishments vastly differ from General Tubman’s venerated legacy, her role as Vice President has allowed women, specifically Black and Brown little girls of South Asian, LatinX or other descent, to see themselves as powerful leaders.  She broke countless glass ceilings with her role as Vice President and no doubt has served as a great source of inspiration to women around the world. I have seen her great influence in the eyes of my 5 and 8-year-old daughters who were filled with pride in seeing her step into this historic role and forever change what it means to be Vice President of the United States.

Gray Mateo-Harris

Gray I. Mateo-Harris
Partner
Chicago 


What historical event resonates/inspires you and why?

The Black Lives Matter movement inspires me. Its message of equality and respect for all of humanity continues to raise awareness and is moving the needle in the right direction.

Monique Terrell

Monique Terrell
Office Administrator
Washington, DC


What historical event resonates/inspires you and why?

The integration of elementary schools in Mississippi has always resonated with me. Growing up in the South, I cherished the ability to attend integrated public schools because if I was born, let’s say 50 years prior, I might not have been afforded that opportunity.  To this day, I strive for excellence in honor of my ancestors, including my grandmothers, who were not granted the same educational opportunities as me.

Jeffrey Johnson

Jeffrey Jarel Johnson
Associate
Exton


What figure(s) in Black History has influenced/inspired you?

Ottowa W. Gurley was a founder of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known as "Black Wall Street." Post-Civil War, Black sharecroppers fleeing segregation and extreme oppression, relocated to the Greenwood District where a town built by Black people, for Black people became a thriving community with a self-contained and self-reliant economy.  I am inspired by Ottowa Gurley’s unyielding determination, vision and belief that allowed him to realize his dream of progression and true independence for Black people.

Donna Johnson

Donna Johnson
Office Administrator
Chicago


Who in Black History, past or present, would you like to take to dinner and why?

If I could go to dinner with anyone in Black History, it would be Shirley Chisholm. As a Black woman and woman in general, she shattered so many glass ceilings and had so much influence during her lifetime. I would want to go to dinner with her to ask her what it was like when she became the first Black woman elected to Congress or to run for President. Once elected to Congress, she made sure that her voice was heard, and I know that this did not come without its obstacles. I would love to hear about the troubles she faced and what she did to overcome them. Although it is now 2021 and the country has had some changes since then, I still face many challenges being a Black woman in the legal profession, and I’m sure that I would greatly benefit from her insight. I would love to be a role model for young Black girls much like Ms. Chisholm was for me, and I’d like to tell her how much she inspired me. Lastly, she is a member of my sorority, so it would be an added bonus to have a chat with my sorority sister.

Maliya Rattliffe

Maliya G. Rattliffe
Associate
Minneapolis 


What figure(s) in Black History has influenced your career? How?

As an African American male growing up in America, you are constantly being reminded that your value and intelligence is perceived as inferior to that of the white male. I decided at an early age that I would never give anyone a reason to see me in that light. Accordingly, I decided to pattern my life after someone whose ethics, stature and intelligence in society could not be questioned. For me that person was Thurgood Marshall. He was a crusader for equality and justice. To me, he represented the epitome of perseverance and hard work, so I wanted to be respected and revered just like him. I tried to mimic his career path. I attended an HBCU and I pledged Alpha Phi Alpha because he attended an HBCU and pledged Alpha. I applied to public interest law school because he was a civil rights attorney and I started my career in public interest. Although I did not continue a career in public interest, I still espouse all the same values of equal rights and social justice. Therefore, his influence still guides me to this day. Ultimately, in similar fashion to Thurgood Marshall, I refused to let where I began my life dictate where I will finish.

joshua Edwards

Joshua A. Edwards
Counsel
Los Angeles 


What historical event resonates/inspires you and why?

For me, the year 1619 is the historic event that resonates most because it's when the first slave arrived in America. This one action changed the course of so many lives, including my own, and though it is heart-wrenching, it's also a reminder of how far we have come and inspiration to keep going, educating and striving for the betterment of all people.

Youlonda Wayne

Youlonda Wayne
Office Administrator
San Francisco


What figure(s) in Black History has influenced your career? How?

I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela as a summer intern in Washington, D.C., when I graduated from college.  His work and belief in the rights of all people along with how he rose from wrongfully imprisoned person of immense principle to President of South Africa gives me constant inspiration of what can be. He epitomized resilience and dignified diplomacy.

Kelley Hodge

Kelley B. Hodge
Partner
Philadelphia