Just one year after its creation, the city of South Fulton in Georgia is making history. The city is believed to be the first in America to have a criminal justice system led entirely by black women, The Atlanta Voice first reported. But this shattering milestone wasn't planned, nor is it the result of a diversity experiment.
"This was not something that was pre-planned or prescribed," Chief Judge Tiffany Carter Sellers told CNN, stressing that race and gender did not come into consideration during the hiring and appointment process. "It came together very organically." Sellers cited the women's career experience, expertise, and community ties — many of them are locals — as the reason for their hiring.
According to The Atlanta Voice, South Fulton's Municipal Court launched in January after a panel of judges culled from neighboring communities selected Sellers to serve as the city's chief judge following the city's incorporation in May 2017. Sellers then hired Lakesiya Cofield as municipal court administrator and Ramona Howard as chief court clerk.
Attorney LaDawn "LBJ" Jones was later appointed city solicitor while Viveca Famber Powell was named the city's public defender. Tiffany Kinslow and Kerry Stephens round out South Fulton's Municipal Court in their position as court clerks, according to CNN.
South Fulton's mayor and city council appointed Sheila Rogers as the city's interim chief of police. With more than two decades of experience in law enforcement, Rogers joins an elite club of U.S. female police chiefs.
According to The Atlanta Voice, there is no recorded instance where black women have been appointed to lead every department in a U.S. city's criminal justice department. This is also believed to be the first time that women, of any color, have been appointed to fill a city's first set of criminal justice leadership roles, the paper reported.
But it seems the women weren't initially aware of how they were making history. Stephens told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the women hadn't even realized that every leadership role in South Fulton's criminal justice department had been filled by an African-American woman until they'd gathered together to meet with Jones for the first time. "I didn't notice until [Jones] said something," Stephens said, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "She walked in and said ‘Oh, my God! Look at all this black girl magic.'"
A photo of the team snapped by The Atlanta Voice quickly went viral in early June, stirring reactions of pride, inspiration, and empowerment in both South Fulton locals and strangers alike. According to Powell, at least one local has brought their daughter to the court in order to show her the women tasked with running it.
"I've seen a lot of posts on social media, and it's quite moving," Rogers told CNN. "I got chills."
South Fulton's interim chief of police went on to say she hoped people would "connect with what we look like" but then ultimately "go beyond" to learn what they do and realize that "they can do it, too."
According to CNN, the women are moved to be considered a source of inspiration and empowerment for others around the United States. "Where I grew up, black excellence is the norm," Jones, who grew up in South Fulton where the population is nearly 90 percent black, told CNN. "I grew up with everyone being entrepreneurs [and] all my teachers and principals or my elected officials looked like me. But I realized that the other people who do not know what this area of excellence looks like, they needed to see it, to believe it."