Empowering Women and Communities at the 28th Lloyd George Sealy Lecture

Empowering Women and Communities at the 28th Lloyd George Sealy Lecture

Empowering Women and Communities at the 28th Lloyd George Sealy Lecture

John Jay College’s Department of Africana Studies and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) hosted the 28th Lloyd George Sealy Lecture on March 7. Sealy was a distinguished member of the John Jay College faculty, and was the first African-American to graduate from the FBI national academy, and the first African-American Assistant Chief Inspector and Commander of the Brooklyn North Patrol Service Area for the NYPD. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Chair of the Africana Studies department, thanked NOBLE for its support and for co-sponsoring the event, “I’m proud and happy that the Africana Studies Department is hosting this event with NOBLE,” said Gordon-Nembhard. “This is our 28th Lloyd George Sealy lecture, one of the longest running events in John Jay, celebrating the life of our own Lloyd George Sealy and remembering his accomplishments as a teacher, scholar, and top-ranking police professional in the NYPD.”

Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Chair of the Africana Studies Department
Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Chair of the Africana Studies Department

The evening’s Master of Ceremonies, Gregory Thomas, senior executive, Law Enforcement Operations in the Office of the Kings County District Attorney, spoke of Sealy’s impact on John Jay, and the admiration many of Sealy’s colleagues and his students had for him. “It’s been told he was a student favorite, and a mentor and friend to his colleagues,” said Thomas. “His untimely death at the age of 68 was a loss to the entire John Jay College community and evidence of that loss and the mark that he left behind can be found in this yearly event and in the library that bears his name.”

The lecture was a powerful testament to Sealy’s spirit of determination and provided a reminder to those in attendance to uplift the communities they work in. “Lloyd George Sealy was the epitome of professionalism, both as a law enforcement professional and a scholar. He personified ambition, determination, and he lived his life as an example for us to emulate,” said Chief Judith R. Harrison ’18, a John Jay alumna and the first woman President of the New York City Chapter of NOBLE. “Google him and you’ll see photos of him walking and talking to the children and people in the neighborhood. He understood that cops and the community needed to work together.”  

Vera Bumpers delivers her keynote address
Vera Bumpers delivers her keynote address

“Victory is not for you to get comfortable, it’s not even about you. It’s about purpose. It’s about who are you preparing to come up behind you.” – Vera Bumpers, Chief of Police for the Houston METRO Transit Authority Police Department and National President of NOBLE

Uplifting Powerful Women
The evening’s theme, Perspective on Women in Public Safety, celebrated the impact women in law enforcement have on their communities. The keynote speaker and the night’s honoree was Vera Bumpers, Chief of Police for the Houston METRO Transit Authority Police Department and National President of NOBLE. Bumpers has been a powerful force in the law enforcement community and a fierce advocate for women and minorities throughout her distinguished career. She has broken numerous glass ceilings since joining the force almost 35 years ago—becoming the first African-American woman in the METRO Police Department, and the first woman to achieve the ranking positions of Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief, and Chief of METRO. “I tell people, you see my breakthrough but you don’t know what I’ve been through. It has not been easy,” said Bumpers. She told the audience of the struggles she faced on the way to the top. “You get tired of rocks being thrown at you. You get tired of knives coming for your back. You get tired of people trying to undermine and pull the rug from under you,” said Bumpers. “It’s tough because when you come to this profession, and when you come into a leadership role, you can read all the books you want, but nobody actually prepares you for what you’re going to come up against.”

(left to right) President Karol Mason, Chief Vera Bumpers, Chief Judith Harrison and Gregory Thomas during the award presentation
(left to right) President Karol Mason, Chief Vera Bumpers, Chief Judith Harrison and Gregory Thomas during the award presentation

“There’s still inequity and we see it. Not only in the area of our profession but we see it in our communities as well, and our community needs us to bridge that gap.” —Vera Bumpers, Chief of Police for the Houston METRO Transit Authority Police Department and National President of NOBLE

She also spoke of the mindset one must adopt when you reach the top and the responsibility one has when taking a seat at the leadership table, “You are at the table, so you have to ask yourself, ‘Am I just at the table just to be at the table, or am bringing something of value and saying something when I’m at the table?’ Because it’s more than just getting there. We have a responsibility to make an investment once we get there.” Part of that investment, explained Bumpers, includes shining a light on those around you and advocating for their promotions. She told the audience of an instance where a colleague asked her “Why are you always standing up for people?” She responded with, “Because no one else is.” Bumpers whole heartedly believes advocacy for your community is of paramount importance. “Victory is not for you to get comfortable, it’s not even about you. It’s about purpose. It’s about who are you preparing to come up behind you. Being number one means nothing if no one is next in line.” She continued, “I always say, more is caught than taught. People are always watching you so it’s important how you carry yourself, how you walk, making sure your crown is on straight. We want those who are watching us, those who are going to follow us, to bring it. We want them to bring their A game, to come at 100.” And then when they reach those heights, Bumpers said, it’s vital to support these leaders and pour back into their cups. “When I look at these women who are serving in major cities, I wonder, who is pouring energy back into them? Who is reminding them that they are valuable?” She continued, “Celebrate the victories. Celebrate these women who have ascended to the chief positions. Support them. Pray for them.”

President Mason gives her closing remarks
President Mason gives her closing remarks

Creating Powerful Communities
During her speech, Bumpers also stressed the importance of building bridges between communities and law enforcement officials—a theme that is a hallmark of Sealy’s legacy. “There’s still inequity and we see it. Not only in the arena of our profession but we see it in our communities as well, and our community needs us to bridge that gap. They need to know that we are there for them. We’re the voice for those that can’t speak and we have to always remember that,” said Bumpers.

“It takes all of our voices and perspectives. We reach better decisions when we’re all working together.” – Karol V. Mason, President of John Jay College

Delivering her closing remarks, President Mason noted how leaders like Chief Bumpers and Sealy help change lives. Highlighting the impact Lloyd George Sealy’s legacy has had on John Jay students, Mason said, “The representation we have of students coming out of John Jay, those who go into law enforcement and wear the uniform, and those who go into other careers that require them to interact with law enforcement, are better because of the legacy Lloyd created.” She also took the opportunity to thank NOBLE for their continued work with John Jay and their work in communities, particularly communities of color. Pointing to Chief Bumpers, Mason spoke of the greatness that women in law enforcement and the communities they work with can achieve together in order to reach our highest potential as a society. “I am particularly proud that we are acknowledging such powerful women, like Chief Bumpers, and the role women, particularly women of color, play in the success of an effective criminal justice system that people trust and want to partner with,” said Mason. “It takes all of our voices and perspectives. We reach better decisions when we’re all working together.”