A photo of Ketanji Brown Jackson's daughter Leila went viral. It was captured by a Black woman: 'It made me feel a sense of pride.'
One of the most touching moments of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson's confirmation hearing was captured by Sarahbeth Maney, a Black photojournalist from Oakland, Calif.
The photo features a deliberately out-of-focus Jackson smiling joyously during her confirmation as her daughter, 17-year-old Leila Jackson, looked on from behind, brimming with what can only be described as pride and adoration.
Maney says her perspective as a Black woman and proud daughter led her to capture the sentimental moment in American history.
"I try to photograph what I feel, and not what I see," Maney, 26, tells Yahoo Life.
Maney, who is a fellow for the New York Times, shared the photo to Twitter with the caption, "Being the first often means you have to be the best–and the bravest."
Being the first often means you have to be the best — and the bravest. 📸 @sbmaneyphoto for @nytimes pic.twitter.com/DSZiawlnDd
— Sarahbeth Maney (@sbmaneyphoto) March 24, 2022
Maney, who is also the first Black photography fellow for New York Times, knew she would be covering a historic moment but could not imagine the reach her photo would have, stating that she initially wasn't going to post the picture on Twitter.
"I wasn't going to tweet because I posted it on Instagram, and someone took it from Instagram and put it on Twitter and so I was like, 'okay', and I tweeted it out, put my credit on it and like, immediately, it was like, just a thunderstorm of likes and retweets and comments," she says. "I was really not expecting it at all."
A re-share of the photo by Maya Harris, sister of Vice President Kamala Harris — photographed by Maney in the past — launched the moment into viral territory.
"I think it really started when Maya Harris shared the photo… it's been such a whirlwind experience these past, like 24 hours," she says of the flood of likes and shares she has received. As of Friday afternoon, the photo (in which Brown Jackson's husband, Patrick Jackson, is seen behind her, at left) had racked up nearly 10,000 retweets and almost 90,000 likes on Maney's Twitter and over 70,000 likes on Instagram.
Maya Harris's post has so far received over 20,000 retweets and nearly 300,000 likes.
"This is everything," reads the caption.
This is everything.❤️ pic.twitter.com/VX1knS0KN0
— Maya Harris (@mayaharris_) March 24, 2022
Many users shared the uplifting and emotional response the photo sparked with Maney directly.
"I saw a lot of people commenting that they burst into tears when they saw the photo," Maney says.
Philanthropists and activists alike shared what the image meant to them via Twitter.
"Inspiring," wrote Melinda Gates.
— Melinda French Gates (@melindagates) March 24, 2022
"This look of love & pride from # KetanjiBrownJackson's daughter…This is all of us. Our "joy" that @CoryBooker said they can't steal…This is it! This is so many girls and women today and tomorrow, and after her confirmation, who will see themselves as Justices," wrote activist and former NYC mayoral candidate Maya Wiley.
This look of love & pride from #KetanjiBrownJackson’s daughter…THIS is all of us. Our “joy” that @CoryBooker said they can’t steal…This is it! This is so many girls and women today and tomorrow, and after her confirmation, who will see themselves as Justices! https://t.co/gM0odJCg0O
— Maya Wiley (@mayawiley) March 24, 2022
Other users saw the photo as a goalpost for the inspiration they hope to be for their daughters.
"THIS is how I want my daughter to look at me someday," wrote one user.
"One day, I hope to have my daughter look at me the way KBJ's does right here. Being the first doesn't mean the last," wrote another.
Maney was immensely touched by all of the support she received for her photo, sharing that she "spent a lot of time crying," following the post and was especially honored to have her photo re-shared by Martin Luther King Jr.'s daughter, Bernice King.
"I think that the one that made me the most emotional was seeing Martin Luther King's youngest daughter tweet it out, that was like a very high honor," she says.
King retweeted Maney's photo adding the caption, "What a powerful, needed photo."
What a powerful, needed photo, @sbmaneyphoto. 👏🏾 https://t.co/vDfJ7GCkjA
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) March 24, 2022
Maney's experience in press rooms parallels Jackson's future on the Supreme Court: countless professional hours spent being one of the few Black women in the room.
However, Maney used what could be an isolating reality to connect to a moment that would go on to touch the hearts of supporters everywhere.
"My coverage is informed by my perspective. Being able to be around other Black photographers is very important for people to see, because we're able to provide a cultural nuance of something that has not, historically, been documented by us [Black people]," she says.
This is not the first time Jackson's daughter has shown heartwarming support for her mother.
In 2016, Leila, who was only 11 at the time, wrote then-president Barack Obama a letter imploring him to select her mother to replace Judge Antonin Scalia, who had recently passed.
Six years later, Leila has gotten her wish, and Maney feels lucky to have captured a moment that will live with the Jackson family long past the timescales of internet virality.
"I felt like I was being both seen and heard in the room and that's why I made that picture of Leila looking at Judge Jackson, because it made me feel a sense of pride as a Black woman to see her admiration for her mom."
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