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Today My Heart Hurts, And I Just Don't Have The Words

Yours truly is at a loss for words. Too many deaths of too many greats in too little time.

First we lost Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, civil rights leader and the plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme court case Shuttlesworth v. Birmingham, in which he challenged the city of Birmingham's absolute refusal to issue a parade permit for black protests. That he had the courage to fight "Bombingham" all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1963 speaks volumes.

Then we lost Steve Jobs. His admonition to live your own life and follow your intuition resonates with me because I know I'm on the wrong path.

The third and hardest blow for me is the loss of my former professor Derrick Bell. He literally took me by the hand as a cynical and unhappy law student and walked me around the offices of his faculty colleagues to convince me that I needed to apply for a federal judicial clerkship because it would be invaluable to my career. Of all the professors we spoke to on that sojourn down that dark and moldy-smelling faculty hallway, Professor Elizabeth Warren took time out of her day to convince me that Professor Bell was right, probably because of her respect for Professor Bell. But Professor Bell was so much more than a career advisor that to all of us black law students at Harvard, especially those like me who were first generation college grads and clueless. That he stood up for black women law professors by protesting the utter failure of Harvard Law School to hire and tenure a black woman law professor, to the point of leaving his post at Harvard Law, was a testament to how much he was willing to sacrifice for the generations coming behind him, generations that included me.

I remember when he came to Marcus Books in Oakland for a book signing for "Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism." I was three years or so out of Harvard Law, and although I was never one of his star students, he was happy to see me and insisted that I call him "Derrick." "No, Professor Bell," I replied, "You will always be Professor Bell to me." In my mind and in my heart, he would always be the master, the teacher, and I would ever be the student, his student. I respected him and all he had done too much to even dare to place myself on the same plane as him.

What makes this worse is that I was just telling my husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB), that I needed to catch up with Professor Bell and just thank him for all he did for me, for all of us black law students. To tell him that although I really haven't found happiness in the law, that I was still searching, but elsewhere.

Now it's too late.

My heart hurts and I just don't have the words today.

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