When asked how her bachelor’s degree in Theatre from Michigan State University led to her current career as a judge, alumna Rebekah Coleman replied, “the courtroom is my stage.” Now, as the first Black judge and first woman to hold the position in Harper Woods, Coleman is shining on that stage.
“Becoming the first Black judge and woman to hold this position really has opened a door and it’s showing the young children and young girls that we have this chance, and we can do it,” Coleman said. “Now, the children see this Black woman who is sitting in this position and they know it’s a possibility. They know that we have a chance. We are out here. We are qualified, and we can do it.”
As a judge, Coleman plans to cultivate community programs that better address drug treatment, mental health, and literacy.
“What I’ve noticed in my practice is that, a lot of times, the contributing factors to crimes are drug use and lack of literacy skills,” Coleman said. “We were not necessarily addressing those in the ways that we needed to, so I hope to develop different programs to help the community.”
Becoming the first Black judge and woman to hold this position really has opened a door and it’s showing the young children and young girls that we have this chance, and we can do it.
Growing up, the courtroom was like a second home to Coleman, whose parents both pursued careers in law. As a child, Coleman’s parents often took her to courts, where she learned from their work ethic firsthand.
“I learned more about the work ethic from that experience than anything else,” Coleman said. “Knowing how hard my parents worked to develop a practice really stands out to me and that really did help me in my own career.”
From childhood to adulthood, Coleman’s parents stood as an example for what she could achieve, and in a full-circle moment, Coleman’s father, who also is a judge, swore her in as Michigan’s 32A District Court Judge on December 28, 2020.
“Having my father swear me in was amazing,” Coleman said. “I think he may have been the only other person who was more excited than me.”
After graduating from MSU with a degree in Theatre in 2007, Coleman attended Wayne State University’s Law School. And after earning her Law degree, she opened up her own private practice and earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Detroit Mercy. Her time working within her own private practice gave Coleman the knowledge she needed to get to where she is today.
I’ve also been able to hone in on what my purpose is, and I believe it is to help and uplift people and to help them become a better person.
“With being in private practice, it can become overwhelming because you’re constantly on the go, and so I have learned how to manage my time and my work and life balance,” Coleman said. “I’ve also been able to hone in on what my purpose is, and I believe it is to help and uplift people and to help them become a better person.”
Now, as Michigan’s 32A District Court judge, Coleman looks forward to this next phase in her career.“I always encourage people to go after their dreams,” she said. “If one door closes, there’s always another and you will never know if you don’t try.”
Written by Annie Dubois