CUMBERLAND — About 50 people gathered downtown Monday night across from the county’s Democratic Central Committee headquarters for a candlelight vigil in honor of the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the feminist trailblazer who died Friday.
In between the remarks from the young women who spoke Monday night, former Cumberland Mayor Brian Grim shared a bit of history about Ginsburg, the second woman ever appointed to the nation’s highest court. She “led the nation through a living Constitution, and maintained a professional judicial relationship across the ideological spectrum,” Grim said.
Frostburg State University junior Delanie Blubaugh, the editor-in-chief of the student news organization The Bottom Line, spoke of how powerful it must have been to witness her being sworn to the bench in 1993, and “what it would have been like to be in a room with Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first two women on the Supreme Court, to hear their conversations and see how these incredible and powerful women helped make incredible and powerful decisions.”
Blubaugh remembered first learning about Ginsburg as a 13-year-old, and how “just a few short weeks later I had immersed myself in the story of one of the most remarkable women in the nation’s history.” That opened the door for her to learn more about other women who’ve shaped America, Blubaugh said, but Ginsburg remained her personal hero and the inspiration for the path she’s taken in life, along with many other young women and others who want to serve their country well.
Even before her time on the Supreme Court, Blubaugh noted, Ginsburg had been “fighting to shatter the glass ceiling.”
“She did it all with a husband and two children in tow,” Blubaugh said. “… She advocated for what she believed in until her last days on Earth.”
Local social worker Jade Washington spoke of traveling to Washington for a vigil for Ginsburg over the weekend.
The justice’s death has made her scared, Washington said, and she “felt like the protagonist in a horror movie being chased by a crazed maniac, and I just wanted to run like my life depended on it.”
But ultimately, Washington noted, she decided running away was not the right move, nor the best way to honor Ginsburg’s memory.
“It wasn’t until I had the privilege of attending her vigil … that I realized her legacy allows me to be an independent woman of color in today’s society, a badge of honor that I wear so proudly,” Washington said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have been able to walk into a lawyer’s office three years ago and sign my name for a mortgage, or have the hope that one day, if not myself, someone who looks and is like me is at the head of the table where decisions are being made.”
She never let go of the fight for equality, Washington said, and “I am certain my life would not be the life I have” if not for Ginsburg and her legacy, which she urged the crowd to fight for.
“It is our duty to continue her legacy, not only for ourselves but for generations to come,” Washington said. “It’s OK to be sad and mourn her loss, but now is not the time to let fear or sadness darken the path to what we desire and deserve as people of this country. Tonight we mourn, and tomorrow we bear down.”
Local freelance journalist Cassie Conklin’s remarks centered on Ginsburg’s work for LGBTQ citizens and women, and noted how the justice’s decisions on the subject of expansion of LGBTQ rights during her 27-year tenure were always in the majority.
Despite Ginsburg’s progress, Conklin said, misogyny remains alive and well, both locally and nationally.
“One thing we must do moving forward, now that we do not have Ruth’s intellect to fall back on, is to call a spade a spade,” Conklin said, urging those gathered to call out injustice whenever witnessed and vote in the upcoming general election in November. “... We call a spade a spade, and then we take corrective action.”
Follow staff writer Lindsay Renner-Wood on Twitter @LindsayRenWood.