By Donna Lamb
On Tuesday, September 9th, New Yorkers will go to the polls to cast their votes in the Democratic primary. One name to look out for is Geraldine Pickett for Civil Court Judge in the Second Municipal District for Kings County, which covers Bedford Stuyvesant, Clinton Hills, and portions of Crown Heights and Ocean Hill. Her motto is, “For Justice with Dignity, Elect Geraldine Pickett.”
For many years Pickett, an attorney, has been known and respected for her community activism and excellent legal work throughout Bedford Stuyvesant where she lives and practices law. She has her own law firm in which she deals mainly with criminal, landlord/tenant, family and real estate cases. She is a member of the Assigned Counsel Panel where the courts assign attorneys to work with clients who can’t afford legal representation.
She has provided pro bono legal representation in such situations as families trying to get their children back from the Administration of Children’s Services, people who were arrested at various demonstrations like the Patrick Dorismond funeral and the Feb. 15th protest of the war on Iraq, and for various community organizations such as People United for Children.
How Geraldine Pickett conducts her law practice is indicative of how she’s lived her whole life. She was born in Birmingham, Alabama where she grew up under the Jim Crow laws. “At an early age I recognized that there was something very wrong with the Colored Only and White Only signs,” she says. “It was clear to me that the white only facilities were far superior to those provided for Blacks. So very early on I became involved in the civil rights movement.”
She went on to fight for civil rights nationally and internationally. She mobilized with the National Black United Front and also took up the cudgels in the anti-apartheid movement during the 1980s.
Even while attending law school at SUNY Buffalo’s School of Law, Pickett was unflagging in her activism. For instance, she formed the Ronald Longmire Defense Fund. Longmire was a SUNY undergraduate who was arrested for murder after he defended himself from attack. A couple of white young men had entered his room and assaulted him. He stabbed one of them in self-defense, and when the police was called, unbeknownst to Longmire, this young man went into the closet instead of exiting the room. Tragically, his body was found there the next morning, and Ronald Longmire was charged with murder. States Pickett, “I thought this was horrendously unfair so I organized the law students, the undergraduate faculty and the community in fighting to free him.”
Geraldine Pickett has the backing of many respected elected officials and long-time community activists. State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, who is very pleased to see such a qualified woman candidate running, states, “She is a person with impeccable credentials. If I’m going to support anyone, it would be someone like Gerri Pickett.”
City Council Member and 2005 mayoral candidate Charles Barron says, “There’s no one more deserving in this race than Gerri Pickett. She’s progressive on all the issues, not just in talk but in action, from reparations to police brutality to fighting for those locked out of power in the ‘hood. She will truly be the people’s judge because she came out of the people.”
Rev. Craig Gaddy, Pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church, concurs: “She is a part of the fabric of this community. She understands from an internal point of view what the people go through here. That brings compassion. She’s the best person for the job, period.”
Elementary school Assistant Principal, Jitu Weusi, who is a life-long community resident, explains, “She combines the best of the old traditions of the civil rights movement to sacrifice and struggle, with the new traditions, the quest for justice and equality and equal treatment under the law. That’s why I see her as the ideal judicial candidate for the community.”
Medgar Evers Professor Safiya Bandele sums it all up by saying, “Gerri Pickett is a woman of integrity, which is no small attribute in these days and time.”
Last year Pickett ran for the position vacated by Judge Burt Bunyan when he was elected to the Supreme Court. She came in only 127 votes behind Wavny Toussaint who won the election. Now, there’s another vacancy and Geraldine Pickett is hopeful that this time she will be the one filling it.
“I’ve always fought for the rights of everyday people,” she declares. “It’s very important because when you come into court you need someone who is going to listen and be objective, someone who is concerned about the rights of the people as opposed to corporations and big business. That’s where I stand. I take the position not for power, prestige or money but for justice and equality for all people.”