Guest Blog: No Vote. No Voice.

By Melanie E. Bates

No Vote. No Voice.

(Originally posted on


United We Stand

Over the weekend and during Monday Night Football, millions of people from all around the globe watched a beautiful thing: unity in the fight for justice. The National Football League came together to take a stand against police brutality and racial injustice in America, by kneeling and locking arms during the singing of the National Anthem. Even the Baltimore Ravens and Jacksonville Jaguars, who were playing in London on Sunday, demonstrated their support. These historic acts by the courageous players of the NFL signals a giant step forward in our fight for equality.

No vote. No voice.

There is nothing more important than voting in the fight to effectuate change. I have heard people say, “What is the point of voting? My vote does not count anyway.” This could not be further from the truth. If you do not vote, you silence your voice. By not voting your address is in jeopardy of being removed from the voter rolls. You will therefore not receive bulletins about debates or other information about how to become involved in the political process. Generally, candidates running for elected office work unbelievably hard to raise money to run their campaigns. These candidates do not have the incentive to use their limited funds to engage persons who do not vote and they will instead focus on persons who do. As Thomas Jefferson said, “The government closest to the people serves the people best.” The reality is if you do not exercise the privilege of voting, you will not have the ability to make your voice heard.

Take Action!

Today is National Voter Registration Day. If you are not registered to vote, there is no better day than today to do so. Tell everyone you know to register to vote as well and create a plan to get out to the polls on Election Day. We owe it to ourselves and our ancestors who put their lives on the line to fight for our right to vote. Use the inspiration of the NFL to fuel you to take action.

The Lady Lawyer

By Patricia Donkor

Welcome Readers!

I am ecstatic about this blog and excited that you are tuning in.  Being a Lady Lawyer is challenging.  Our work can be intense, emotional, and chaotic and that does not even begin to address the obstacles that we encounter in our personal lives.  This is why the notion of self-care is paramount.  However, self-care is a dynamic concept.   Sometimes self-care occurs organically and other times it requires ongoing internal conversations or even consultation with others.  With this blog, I am hoping to explore every cornerstone of this subject.

Upon graduating from law school, I spent a year as a judicial law clerk and from there have held multiple trial attorney positions.  Deciding which positions to take, when to leave a position, and how to succeed in various positions involved an element of self-care.   Certainly, with every career move, I had to assess my long-term goals and how the position juxtaposed with them.   However, the less apparent assessment that I needed to make was whether that move made me feel good inside.  That thought process is one version of self-care.  Similarly, I have pursued leadership opportunities in the legal community, some of which I have out grown, while others are still near and dear to my heart.  Moreover, I like to maintain an active social life.  I am constantly weighing which social activities are the best uses of my scare free time.   Each of these are other versions of self-care.

Because this is the first installment of the blog series, it was only right that GWAC’s President, Janea Hawkins, weighed in on the subject.

President Janea Hawkins

Patricia: Hi Janea, our members and readers know you as President of GWAC, but tell us a little more about yourself.

Janea: By profession, I am a trial attorney with the Personnel and Labor Relations Section of the Office of the Attorney General for DC. I am also an Adjunct Professor for the second-year appellate legal writing program at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason. I am heavily involved with the Washington Bar Association Educational Foundation Board and the Washington Council of Lawyers. I also immensely enjoy singing with the choir at my church, Ebenezer AME Church in Ft. Washington, Maryland and my biweekly bible study sessions with my small group. Last but not least, I am happily married to my husband of just over one year, Jabari, and we love to travel, spend time with friends and family, and play tourist around DC!

Patricia: You have your hands in a number of things.  With so many interests, what does the concept of self-care mean to you?

Janea: For me, self-care means making yourself a priority. We all lead incredibly busy lives and it is so easy to lose ourselves in that.  Self-care means unapologetically taking an hour out of each day to exercise, pray, meditate, whatever you need to keep yourself balanced.  Self-care for me also means eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep, and shutting the computer and/or phone off at a set time each evening so that I can reset to tackle the next day.

Patricia: Self-care seems to be a popular topic among our members, why do you think that is?

Janea: I think it is primarily because we all want to operate at our optimum level. It is difficult to do that when we are constantly tugged and pulled in multiple directions at the same time. We are all Wonder Women in our own right, and we need to openly share ways to maintain our optimum levels. The best way to do that is to align ourselves with like-minded people and encourage each other along the way.

You see, although we may share common traits as black women attorneys; there is substantial diversity amongst us.  Some of us our mothers, mentors, or mentees. Others work as government lawyers, trial lawyers, transactional lawyers, criminal lawyers, big firm associates and partners, and non-traditional lawyers. These distinctions shape how we self-care.   Each month, we will speak to a different Lady Lawyer and explore the role and importance that self-care plays in her life.  Perhaps you will recognize yourself in some of our features, learn new ideas for taking care of yourself, or think about a concept that had not previously dawned on you.    Whatever you take away, hopefully you enjoy journey!