OPINION: Legal analyst Midwin Charles was one of only few Black female attorneys on television — making her passing that much more felt
We lost a great Black woman’s voice this week with the death of longtime MSNBC legal analyst (and former Court TV analyst), political pundit, attorney Midwin Charles.
I have known Midwin for years. We only appeared on TV once together and I walked away so impressed with her legal mind, her prose, and her powerful way of breaking down facts. It also didn’t hurt that we were both alums of American University Washington College of Law. I always loved her name: Midwin. It’s one of those hallmark names like “Toni,” “Oprah,” or “Whitney.”
We would often lament how few of us as Black female lawyers were paid contributors on the cable networks and that our brand of brilliance always seemed to be value-less, and the voices of our white peers valued.
There are about a dozen of us Black female attorneys who appear on the three major cable networks regularly. We all root for each other, follow each other and lift one another up. Midwin was an exceptionally gifted attorney and founder of her own law firm. She was a proud Haitian woman who did so much for her community. She worked tirelessly to make sure that people in underserved communities had legal representation and anything else she could offer. She wanted to make sure people in the Haitian community got the vaccine, and that women had the help they needed financially, emotionally and physically as COVID-19 hit Black women disproportionately harder than any other demographic.
What makes this loss so hard to take for me, is that it is a life unfinished. I could not sleep on Tuesday night as news broke across the wires, on social media and in our professional sister circles. I was restless. Upset. Sad. Because her last post on March 19 on her Instagram account said simply: “I am not feeling well.” And by March 23, her tweets and everything else had fallen silent. That is when I knew something was awry. I had hoped she was simply resting, on vacation or just taking a social media break. Sadly, we now know that was not the case.
Midwin had so much more left in her to do. So much more light to shine. We often talked about the burdens of being a Black female in our time. So many of us are unmarried by our 40s. Childless, not by choice. And we endure. We serve. We love. And we are fierce defenders of justice, racial equity, gender equity and making sure we as Black women have a seat at the table with everyone else.
We do not yet know for sure what her cause of death is but I know on many of our Twitter rants, we talked about healthcare, the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs like an “epipen.” She was a woman on her own (yes with family and friends) but running her own law firm, being a social justice warrior, and like far too many of us, always having to fight the microaggressions and day-to-day struggles of being Black and female in America. She carried the silent weight that we all carry. We smile through our sorrows. We carry when we so need to “cast” off the things that burden us so uniquely as strong, professional, entrepreneurial Black women.
I wanted to write this piece in Midwin’s honor and memory because I want to remind my fellow Black women out there to slow down. To practice some self-care. To get the COVID vaccine, and to take care of yourself. Find spaces that welcome you, love you and applaud you, and most of all, support you. Make sure that in this race called life that you remember to live some life, sisters. It is so important that we as Black women help one another, uplift one another and be there for one another in whatever we are going through.
Midwin was someone I really liked and admired, because she had the same gene I do — the “how can I help you?” and “what do you need?” which is like a reflex for women like us. We give and we give and we give some more.
In the final analysis, we will all die. None of us knows the day or hour. Or how we will leave this earth. But we will all die. As an attorney myself, I had my will and estate planning done years ago. I update it every few years so that, should I die as a younger woman, and predecease my parents, one sibling, etc., I have everything in order. My nieces will get all I have and they will get a lot. But more than things, money and homes, I have left letters, made a video, left journals, books, and I hope most of all that I have left them a legacy of love. Because at the end of the day that is what it all comes down to. Love. It is the only thing we can take with us.
I have so much more I plan to do in my life, should God grant me that grace. And I know that Midwin had so much more left to give the world too. For me, like many of you, her death was yet again a reminder of what I posted on Tuesday night: “I’ve been taking some time off for#selfcare and re-ordering my life. The news tonight of @MidwinCharles is just another reminder of how short this life is. And you better do what you are called to do. Gifted to do. Purposed to do. While you still have the breath of life in you.”
Sophia A. Nelson is a contributing editor for theGrio.
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