Southfield woman makes Michigan history

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published February 22, 2023

 Justice Kyra Harris Bolden is making history with her recent appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Justice Kyra Harris Bolden is making history with her recent appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


“There are seven people making very important decisions for Michiganders sitting at that table.”

Kyra Harris Bolden , Michigan Supreme Court Justice

SOUTHFIELD — As Black History Month comes to a close, Southfield resident Justice Kyra Harris Bolden has made Michigan history with her appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court, succeeding Justice Bridget McCormack.

As the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court, Bolden said that it is an honor to serve Michigan.

“It brings up very strong emotions, because I see the way that little boys and girls look at me, and it’s very overwhelming. It is very exciting, but I also feel a little bit of sadness that this barrier hasn’t been broken before 2023. On some level, I think, it’s unacceptable not to have had a Black woman or even a woman of color on the Michigan Supreme Court. But I’m glad we’re here and making this progress.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Bolden’s appointment in November 2022, and in January 2023, Bolden took the oath, becoming one of the seven justices serving on the Michigan Supreme Court.

In Whitmer’s address, she articulated that the need for Bolden’s viewpoint was long overdue.

“A state representative from Southfield, former law clerk and litigator, Kyra is passionate about the law and will be the first Black woman ever to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out. Kyra is committed to fighting for justice for generations, and I know she will serve Michigan admirably, building a brighter future for her newborn daughter and all our kids.”

Bolden said she is hopeful that her daughter will grow up believing in the justice system.

“I hope that she will be happy and healthy and feel safe in her community with a great quality of life. And I do believe our justice system is a part of that. If you’re continuously discriminated against, not heard or seen, or worried about your safety, those are all part of the justice system.”

This appointment is even more historic considering Bolden’s family history. Though it was never really on her radar to pursue law, while she was working towards her psychology degree at Grand Valley State University, her grandmother shared a gut-wrenching story. Bolden learned of the tragic lynching of her great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Bond, in Tennessee in 1939. A lynch mob brutally beat and castrated him before staking him to the ground of the river. The coroner deemed the murder an accidental drowning, allowing his murderers to walk free. This story haunted Bolden, and she knew that she wanted to make a positive impact on the justice system. A documentary was made on this injustice, called “Accidental Drowning.”

With almost two months under her belt, Bolden states that she’s still learning the job, and one of her goals is to remain involved in the community.

“From being a state representative, I know how important it is for people to see you. With this historic appointment, it’s important for children to see me so they know what they can achieve and what’s possible. I want to make sure I’m in places where people maybe have never met a Supreme Court justice.”

Bolden stated that she wouldn’t be able to do her job without the help of her mother looking after her daughter while she’s working.

“Work-life balance doesn’t exist, only support. And I’m so thankful for the support of my family that has allowed me to pursue this.”

Bolden and her husband are both lifelong residents of Southfield. Bolden’s mother, her biggest inspiration and to whom she attributes her work ethic, was part of the Southfield education community.

“There’s a lot that I love about Southfield, which is why I chose to stay here. I love the fact that Southfield is so diverse.”

With the city’s large Jewish and Chaldean populations, Bolden remembers singing Hanukkah songs right along with Christmas carols.

“I grew up learning from different cultures, perspectives and experiences, which helps me today in my job to understand the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds.” Bolden added that she also loves the diversity of landscapes in Southfield, with suburban communities, corporate areas and rural spaces that showcase the land’s natural beauty.

Bolden said she does not take her job lightly and realizes that many people are affected by her actions.

“There are seven people making very important decisions for Michiganders sitting at that table, and understanding the weight of how your decision is going to impact a person or the entire state is a different level of care, concern and thoughtfulness you have to have,” she said.