by Sabrina Acloque
Obtaining equality has been the perpetual struggle of women and people of color in the United States. The struggle for equality has reared its head in many forums, including in education, in access to housing and safe neighborhoods, in employment opportunities and rate of pay, and as of late, in ensuring the equal value of Black lives.
The biggest hindrance to obtaining such equality has been due to embedded beliefs that regard individuals from marginalized groups as less than those in the dominant group(s). Today, we often refer to these embedded beliefs as racism and sexism. While most would agree that racism and sexism are ills that we should strive to erase from our society, what keeps them alive is a phenomenon more complex: implicit bias. Implicit bias is the subconscious favoring or disfavoring of one group over another based on stereotypes. I believe that overcoming implicit bias is necessary to dismantle the larger ills of racism and sexism that have divided our society for centuries.
Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (“ICCPR”) is instructive because it proclaims that “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law…[T]he law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground, such as race, colour, [and] sex.” In addition, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“ICERD”) provides that State parties should encourage “means of eliminating barriers between races” (Article 2(1)(e)). Finally, Article 11 of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (“CEDAW”) also provides that State parties shall “take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment,” including ensuring that women receive equal pay for equal work.
To ensure that these norms are implemented at the local level, activists can educate community members about the barriers that have prevented certain groups from having access to opportunities. In addition, trainings on implicit bias should be conducted so that people will know how to check their assumptions before making critical decisions such as who gets hired for a position and who gets stopped by police. Community members and stakeholders can also testify at government hearings to encourage the passage of supportive legislation. In addition, human rights practitioners – whether working individually or collaboratively – can devise litigation strategies to keep issues of equality at the forefront of their work.
On October 21, 2015, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Achieve Pay Equity bill into law, further strengthening New York’s pay equity law that prohibits employers from discriminating in the payment of wages on the basis of sex. This new law enshrines the principles of CEDAW’s Article 11, and makes it relevant in the lives of women who are teachers, doctors, lawyers, and social workers in local communities. When victories such as this one are accomplished, it is important to relay their importance to all stakeholders so that those fighting for change can take stock in the progress we’ve made in the overall journey toward achieving equality for all in our society.
 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Dec. 16, 1966, 999 U.N.T.S. 171 (available at https://treaties.un.org/pages/showdetails.aspx?objid=0800000280004bf5 and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.aspx)
 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Mar. 7, 1966, 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (available at https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-2&chapter=4&clang=_en and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cerd.aspx)
 Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 U.N.T.S. 13 (available at https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-8&chapter=4&clang=_en and https://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/cedaw.aspx)
 New York State Division of Human Rights, Protecting and Furthering Equality in New York State, https://www.ny.gov, https://dhr.ny.gov/furthering-equality (last visited Nov. 12, 2021)
by Sabrina Acloque
Yes, I am a New Kids fan. I’ve been one since I was eight years old. I was a de facto fan because my older cousins were fans. I eventually outgrew my childhood love affair with the New Kids (now called NKOTB), but for some reason, when quarantine hit, New Kids fever hit me out of nowhere. It first started with the melody and chorus of “Let’s Try It Again” running through my mind. I started hearing that song in my head every night before going to bed in March. So, one day, I decided to lean in to that. I started looking up their Youtube videos, and did that for days on end (don’t judge).
I started looking up all their old hits, and then wanted to learn more about their background. Who, actually, were they? What I remember from my childhood is that they were these White, urban? suburban? kids who sang R&B music. When I was young, I remember feeling intrigued the minute I saw the video for “Please Don’t Go Girl” II (the one with Joey singing lead in the music studio-ish place). Joey was my guy. Those baby blue eyes singing so soulfully just got me every time. And Jordan because of his falsetto. To me, the New Kids were cool, hip, young, fun-loving, good-looking and talented. What was there not to like? I had New Kids on the Block pajamas too, which made me feel like I knew them because I grew up with them.
Fast forward to April 2020, the beginning of quarantine in Massachusetts. I learned more about who this man, Maurice Starr was, who is credited as being the one who put these boys together in a band. It was great to know that they were pushed by a man who had a great vision for their success. The fact that this Black man had a vision to make urban children stars is really moving to me, and the irony is not lost that he made these White children stars at a time when the powers that be believed so much in the inferiority of Blacks that they wanted to keep their White children separate from them in school. And now look at what Black culture gave to the New Kids. Look at what Black culture gave to White America, in fact: a successful boy band with its legions of fans and international fame.
Reading up about NKOTB’s background and history, and watching their older videos also made me realize, even more, the power of what having a mentor can mean for young people. Look at what can happen when young people find adults who can shape them for a future they never thought they’d have, and, in turn, teach youth to want more out of life and to go after what is theirs. Isn’t that amazing?
That’s why places such as the Dorchester Youth Collaborative, where some of the New Kids hung out before their fame, should be funded and supported more. How many other super stars are waiting to be discovered and molded from our neighborhoods?
As a New Kids fan, I appreciate the fact that they know and honor their roots and pay homage to their cultural influences. I appreciate the fact that they pushed against stereotypes about what urban is supposed to look like, and the fact that they sang and continue to sing really good ballads that can put me to sleep every night.
Here are some oldies for your fun-loving pleasure:
Please Don’t Go Girl (1988)
Step by Step (Live) (1990)
and one of my newer favorites:
Side note: isn’t it funny how all of them are still going after the same girl in their videos? ;-)
Want more New Kids info? Check out these additional articles and videos about them below. Yes, this is what I did in my free quarantine time (don’t judge!)
NKOTB on Their Cultural Influences and the Effect of Busing on Their Careers
More Jordan Info :-)
by Sabrina Acloque
What does it mean to be Black in America? It means being angry, tired and scared. It means being proud but not boastful, walking the fine line between loving your heritage and hoping that it doesn’t draw too much attention so that you are made to feel other. It means, by default, being Other. It means trying to fit in. It means fighting against racism, all the while hoping that its subtle messages of inferiority don’t take hold in your heart.
It means reconciling with the fact that you come from a legacy of people who’ve always worked harder than they’ve ever been given credit for. It means keeping your eye on the prize, while every day struggling to survive. It means wanting to leave behind something for your children with the hopes that they’ll have it easier, but every day being reminded that the past is always present. It means being mother, father, worker and soul warrior. It means believing in something bigger, even if that faith does not materialize in time to save us now. It means hoping, praying, fighting, organizing and calling upon all the ancestors in our bloodline to keep going, moving, striving and changing until we achieve what is meant to be wholly ours: freedom.
RIP #BreonnaTaylor #AhmaudArbery #GeorgeFloyd #AllTheFallen
You will not be forgotten.
by Sabrina Acloque
No one who is successful has ever made it to the top alone. Most people who have achieved some level of success or recognition have been able to do so because of a support network that was there to help them achieve their goals. Just think about Beyoncé, whose work ethic I truly admire. She had her mother who made outfits for Destiny’s Child, and her father who left his job to become her group’s manager. Obviously, Beyoncé has worked very hard to get to where she is. But it also can’t go without saying that her parents, and probably countless others, have worked equally hard to help her get to where she is today through their support.
I can’t sing like Beyoncé (or probably dance, even), but I have worked my tail off to get to where I am. However, I also know that for the countless exams that I stayed up studying for going back to high school, I had the emotional support of my family to help me get through them, as well as their home-cooked Haitian meals that kept me nourished.
During my adolescence, I had the luxury to only think about school and was never expected to work by my family. While we were not rich, my family’s ethos was that whatever financial pressure they may have been facing, was not my concern as a student. It’s not lost on me that many people grow up without having this same privilege. So, I am thankful that I was fortunate to have a family that put education first, and that was willing to make sacrifices so that I could have whatever I needed to succeed as a student.
While my family structure was my foundation, I also have friends and mentors to thank for bringing many opportunities that I never knew existed to my attention. In high school, a very good friend of mine encouraged me to apply for a public service fellowship that has significantly contributed to my life trajectory. I remember getting information about the fellowship from my high school career counselor, but was totally going to dismiss it for reasons that I don’t even recall – maybe I didn’t think I’d get it? Maybe I didn’t feel like doing the work to apply for it? But because of my friend’s encouragement (and also because of my career counselor’s), I applied, got accepted, and ended up working for a federal district court judge in Boston during the summer after my junior year – which absolutely couldn’t have been a better setup for a high school student with dreams of going to law school.
Not only have I stayed in touch with this judge since I interned for her, but she was the one who swore me into the Federal Bar after I took and passed the bar exam ten years later. I had my very own private ceremony in her courtroom, equipped with a stenographer, my family, and a US Attorney (who, coincidentally, also graduated from my undergraduate alma mater, Cornell) who moved for my admission to the Federal Bar. Thus, from when I was a high school junior to becoming a newly minted attorney, that judge and the fellowship have been part of my full-circle experience into becoming a member of the Bar and officer of the Court. In addition, because I participated in the fellowship during high school, I also had the distinct privilege of working on Capitol Hill as a college intern, which, as you can imagine, was all kinds of exciting for being 19 in D.C. Today, I serve on the Board of Directors for the fellowship, and I help recruit high school students to apply by sharing with them the impact that the fellowship has made on me.
So, I write this to say thank you to everyone who has helped me along the way, namely, my family, my friends and my mentors. You have always looked out for me and have pushed me to take advantage of great opportunities, even when I was oblivious to the benefits I would eventually reap from them. If you’ve ever had people in your life who have pushed you to greater heights, remember to thank them and to let them know how much their encouragement has meant to you. You can do no wrong by surrounding yourself with like-minded people who have high goals, and who also want to see you succeed. I have no doubt that these same people will be the ones there for you in your greatest time of need.
by Sabrina Acloque
Be who you are
Speak for others who fear to speak their truths
Know that you are great and amazing
Stop doubting yourself
You got this
You always did
Now act like you do
by Sabrina Acloque
They say that luck is what happens when opportunity meets preparation, right? Or is it that opportunity is a combination of luck and preparation?
Whichever one it is, I’ve reflected that so many opportunities have come my way just by showing up. I’ve been fantasizing for a while now about having my own consulting gig, through which I’d get called to give talks and presentations on a number of issues about which I can write ad nauseam. I’ve always imagined this to be a gig that I’d get once I no longer have as many responsibilities. But, as I’ve slowly come to figure out – over and over again – time (and opportunity) are not linear.
Usually, new opportunities happen in the context of other things happening in our lives. Today, I gave an introductory presentation to a group of students on the art form, Capoeira Angola, which I began practicing many years ago. This came about because I decided to attend a meeting on barriers to mental health equity in the Black community. I saw the flyer for the event a few months ago, and I asked permission from my supervisor to go. At the event, I met someone who sat right across the table from me and told me that he teaches mindfulness to young kids in the Cambridge public schools. We had been given a small group assignment to work on at the event, which was to come up with action items to address the systemic issues of inequality that were discussed during the presentation. I told him about my passion for Capoeira, my mindfulness art form of choice, and that was all it took for him to invite me to give a guest presentation to the students in his class.
Just yesterday, I was conversing with a colleague with whom I’ve been preparing to give a city-wide civil rights training, and was telling her about my personal interests outside of work. Based on our conversation, she asked me if I would like to speak to her group of young women of color about career pathways and even do a guest presentation on Capoeira Angola. Yes, I do. This is exactly the exposure I want. There is nothing more rewarding than being asked to speak about the things that bring you joy in your life, and Capoeira is one of them. Little by little, I’ve been getting the chance to incorporate my personal passions into my professional ones, and I now get to offer people a more complete picture of who I am, and the ways that the activities I’ve done have changed my life for the better.
Almost one year ago, I told myself that I wanted to immerse myself deeper into international law. At that time, I joined the American Bar Association's Section of International Law, and immediately saw an opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain for the Section’s annual conference. It was a spontaneous decision that I will always be happy I made. I went to the conference for the sole purpose of being around other international practitioners, and to absorb the latest updates in international law. At the end of the three-day conference, I was invited to speak at a conference of my own, in a part of the world that I never thought I’d see: Sydney, Australia (see my page on Sydney). It was a dream come true that only came true because I decided to show up to an event because I knew I’d be interested in it.
Many times, we want something so badly, that we are afraid of going after it out of fear that we’ll fail while trying. I am guilty of this almost every day. But I’ve learned that the change we want doesn’t have to be as drastic or as overwhelming as we both desire and fear it to be. Sometimes, it’ll just happen for us by showing up. By attending, by conversing, by networking, by telling people who we are and what we like. Sometimes, it’s as simple as that. So, if you are seeking that long-desired change, just go after it. Look to share spaces with people whom you admire and attend events that you like, and take the first step by showing up.
by Sabrina Acloque
I believe in the world in which I can be me and not fear what others think of me.
I believe in my beauty and excellence and in not making myself small.
I believe that others’ perception of me as a threat is all in their heads.
I believe that the only thing that matters is my business and not what someone else is doing.
I believe that I am mighty and powerful and that the world won’t know what hit it when I peak in my power.
Every step of each day is me walking towards my peak.
by Sabrina Acloque
Always working makes you feel as if you can’t enjoy life sometimes.
I have a full-time, and a part-time, and I’ve been working non-stop for the past few months. I’ve even had a few spurts of work-related travel, which, as a whole, has been great when looking back on it. But in the moments when I was packing to go on my trips, doing so felt like something else I needed to do, but didn’t have time for, in the constant time-crunch that has defined my life as of late.
I’ve been telling myself that when I’m no longer going through a hectic period, I’ll be able to enjoy all that I’ve done more.
But when is life not hectic? If it’s not work, it’s family: birthdays, holidays, and reunions; or friends: coming in to town for the week, inviting you to happy hours, networking socials, or fundraisers for good causes.
So, I’ve realized that it’s not about when it’s over, but it’s every day before you go to bed that you have to take a moment to wind down and take stock of your day. You can think about what made you productive or unproductive, and let your mind roam free of obligations for ten minutes. You can sit, drink tea, write, or read your favorite book (which I honestly haven’t done in a while). Or, you can look at pictures. But most of all, you can just let your mind wander. Inspiration always comes to me this way: when I’m not thinking or planning, but just vegging out or meditating.
The mind knows everything when it’s not overthinking.
This is obviously easier said than done. And if you’re like me, you’re always thinking about all the things that you’re not doing when you’re really stressed. But when you take a moment to find your breath, you give your mind and body just what they need: that little boost of energy to keep you going.