HerStory 2021: Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor, or Sonia from the Block, as our colorway that honors her is called, is the third woman, the first (and currently only) woman of color, and the first Latina to serve on the United States Supreme Court, having been nominated by Barack Obama in 2009. She grew up in the Bronx, in Puerto Rican neighborhoods, and self-identifies as Nuyorican (a portmanteau of New York and Puerto Rican, referring to members of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York City). After initially dreaming of becoming a detective like her hero Nancy Drew, at 10 years old, Sotomayor changed gears and zeroed in on a future in law, inspired by Perry Mason.

Sotomayor received a full scholarship to Princeton, and her acceptance into the Ivy League school was assisted by affirmative action, in which she believes deeply. She has spoken up about the inherent biases in many standardized tests that make it harder for people from disadvantaged communities to thrive; affirmative action levels the playing field and gives opportunities to those with fewer advantages. During her time at Princeton, she advocated for the University to engage in more fair and inclusive hiring practices, and her work resulted in the first Latinx faculty members being hired, and more voice given to organizations centered around people of color, in particular Latinx folks. She became interested and invested in Critical Race Theory, which, unlike the culture war now raging would have you believe, is a body of legal scholarship that examines social, cultural, and legal issues primarily as they relate to race and racism in the United States. She closed out her college career by winning a top prize for undergraduates that honored both her work at school and her advocacy and volunteerism.

After law school, Sotomayor worked for a spell in the prosecutor’s office in NYC, and vigorously prosecuted violent crime. She deepened her commitment to community involvement as well, fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised in her post-prosecutorial career first as a lawyer and then as a judge. As she rose through the judicial ranks, she became known as a strict but fair jurist. She’s also the judge who saved baseball in the mid-1990s (her injunction against the MLB effectively restarted the stalled season). Her first case as a Supreme Court justice was Citizen’s United, and she argued against the rights of corporations in matters of campaign finance.

Time and again, Sonia from the Block has argued in favor of equity and fairness, handing down rulings with a strong but balanced hand, and advancing the causes of justice and equity. She’s a role model for all young women, in particular young women of color, as they navigate a world in which they might just need to advocate for the changes that will allow them to thrive. As we all navigate this very difficult world, may we all remember that fighting for what is right is never wrong, and may we all look to Justice Sotomayor for inspiration and guidance. Our Sonia from the Block colorway was inspired by the Puerto Rican street art in Sotomayor’s beloved Bronx, the colors and visual textures that reflect and inform the culture of the Nuyoricans that live there.