Local residents were emotional outside the Nebraska State Capitol as they remembered and honored the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Sept. 20.
The memorial included guest speakers and participants discussing how Ginsburg affected their lives.
“[Ruth Bader Ginsburg] was a woman of style and strength and substance,” said guest speaker Nancy Childs.
The memorial was hosted by Nebraskans For Peace, Stand In For Nebraska, Indivisible Nebraska, the Nebraska Progressive Legislative Study Group and “MORE,” the Movement in Omaha for Racial Equity, formerly known as Policy, Research and Innovation.
Maggie Ballard with Nebraskans For Peace said she felt that the emotions people were feeling after the passing of Ginsburg should be shared.
“I saw people in Washington D.C. on the news that were gathering to commemorate her legacy,” Ballard said. “I thought to myself ‘People should not have to do this separately. We should be able to come together in times like this.’”
Guest speaker Phyllis Stone said the legacy of Ginsburg should be celebrated.
“We can be very sad because a great woman has left us, but she hasn’t really left us,“ Stone said. “We can let it weigh us down. Or, we can celebrate this humongously great, strong woman. “
Ginsburg was the second woman ever to be appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, being nominated by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Ginsburg attended Columbia Law School before becoming a professor at Rutgers Law School and her alma mater. In 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). She was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia by President Jimmy Carter in 1980. Ginsburg was looked at as a cultural icon and a leader in the fight for women’s rights and gender equality among other topics. Her actions as a member of the Supreme Court led to Ginsburg being nicknamed “The Notorious R.B.G,” a play at the name of rapper The Notorious B.I.G.
Ginsburg died on Sept. 18 at the age of 87 due to complications from metastatic pancreatic cancer.
Lory Janelle Dance, associate professor of sociology and ethnic studies as well as the associate director of the Institute for Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, performed a call-and-response with the crowd with the words “What should we aspire to be? A fighter, like The Notorious R.B.G.”
Dance said she is inspired by Ginsburg going against the norms of her time.
“I’m really inspired when I hear Ruth Bader Ginsburg saying her mother instructed her to be a lady and to be independent,” Dance said. “You know, because sometimes, especially in her day, women were told they could be one or the other. And she decided that she would be both.”
The memorial also featured a speech and performance by community activist Leo Yankton, who sang a song in his native Lakota language. Yankton said that with Ginsburg gone, he fears what the future will bring for his religion’s rights.
“As of right now, I have the right to sing in Lakota out in public spaces,” Yankton said. “I’m a little bit worried, though, because now that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has gone, if they stack this court, they can take that right away from us again, and I don’t want to go back 50 years to when it was illegal for my tribal people to practice our religion out in the open.”
Angie Philips of the Nebraska Progressive Legislative Study Group said the death of Ginsburg felt personal. Philips said the legacy of Ginsburg should inspire people to continue to fight for the same principles Ginsburg fought for.
Philips concluded her speech with a call to action.
“What do you care about?” Philips said. “What are you willing to fight for, and how will you get others to join you?”