The Rev. Dale Dennis II of Hoyt Memorial C.M.E in Wilmington led a rally in Dover to advocate for more African American representation in Delaware’s courts. He said he is fighting for his young daughter.
“As a diverse state, we must begin to make sure that people can see themselves as the future and the right-now of America,” Dennis said.
He joined the Rev. Blaine Hackett of St. John Africa Methodist Church, the Rev. Alfred S. Parker Jr., president of Methodist Ministers’ Alliance, and several residents outside Legislative Hall as the Delaware Senate Executive Committee considered Paul Fioravanti Jr.’s nomination to the Court of Chancery Jan. 15.
Fioravanti’s nomination was later confirmed. He will replace Justice Tameeka Montgomery-Reeves who became the first African American judge on the state Supreme Court Jan. 3.
“Paul’s litigation experience and judgment will serve our state well on the Court of Chancery, our country’s premier venue for corporate litigation,” Gov. John Carney said in a statement. “I want to thank members of the Delaware Senate for considering and confirming his nomination.”
Hackett believes there needs to be a greater African American presence to speak up for the more than 60% of Delaware’s prison population that is black.
“Black folk, we are being pushed farther under the totem pole,” Hackett said. “We’re out here shedding our blood. We’re out here being beat and incarcerated at levels like no other race. And yet nobody is fighting our cause, championing our cause, very few.”
Four of the 34 justices who serve on the three highest courts in Delaware are people of color.
The rally came after civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton was denied the opportunity to testify about diversity in the state’s courts at the hearing. He has visited Delaware to talk about this over the past several months and wrote to law firm Skadden Arps, calling for elite firms to do their part in advancing people of color in the legal industry.
“To say that I am disappointed I was denied the opportunity to testify before the Delaware State Senate on the matter of [Mr. Fioravanti’s] confirmation would be an understatement,” Sharpton said in a separate statement released to Delaware Business Now. “Diversity transferred is not diversity created or advanced. Delaware must do better. Governor Carney and the State Legislature must do better. I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue further with them, and will not rest until we address this injustice.”
Representatives from Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware attended the rally and supported the leading pastors.
“It’s disappointing the Senate chose not to hear from Reverend Sharpton, whose moral credibility on issues of racial justice is beyond question, but today’s rally showed just how important this issue is to countless Delawareans,” said Chris Coffey, campaign manager for Citizens for a Pro-Business Delaware.
Dennis said this is a change that cannot wait.
“We must continue to make sure that when our children look at our courts, our children see people who look like them and remind them of what their future can be and allow them to know that they can overcome any obstacle and they can achieve anything in the great United States of America,” Dennis said. “But, it starts with us holding our feet to the fire to say that it is absolutely important for us to make sure that our courts are diverse. And it’s time for diversity now.”