Graham, the first Black male student at Ransom Everglades, has been a member of the Florida Bar for 38 years and served for 24 years as a County Judge for the State of Florida. He has spent his career working with Miami’s diverse population to balance the social, cultural and political dynamics of the community while seeking equitable outcomes. Beatty is a tenure-track law professor at Barry University School of Law who worked in litigation at the largest law firms in Florida until shifting her career to education in 2014. She founded the Martin Luther King Elementary School Mentorship Program and was the first Black recipient of the Cushman School Alumni of the Year award.
Both are members of the Ransom Everglades Anti-Racism Task Force, with Beatty as a co-chair, and contributed to the task force’s final report, which is available on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion page of the school’s website.
“We are incredibly fortunate to welcome Judge Graham back to our campus and bring Ms. Beatty more fully into our daily DEI efforts,” Head of School Penny Townsend said in June. “They will bring extraordinary talent, experience and energy to one of our school’s highest institutional priorities and will continue to help ensure all members of our community feel included and heard.”
What inspired you to work in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion?
WG: As a country, we have witnessed tremendous strides, and I have great pride for this country. However, the distribution of wealth and health remains lopsided. Lifestyles will likely never be equal, but those differences should be based upon differences in skill, effort, determination and commitment, not race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or national origin. I believe there is innate goodness in mankind; we must continue to nurture that goodness.
VB: When I left litigation to become an educator, I made a promise that I would commit my research to improving the academic outcomes of Black children. That’s impossible without understanding the critical role DEI plays in fostering a nurturing educational experience. My inspiration for this work has always been the same, equipping each child with the resources needed to reap all of the benefits from a loving, accepting and exacting education.
What career achievement are you most proud of?
WG: Maneuvering the politics of being appointed by the governor to the county bench at 38 years old and defending that seat in a county-wide election approximately 20 years later.
VB: This role as DEI Consultant has been one of my most proud career achievements. The opportunity is unique and exciting and allows me a level of creativity that makes this moment in time exceptional.
Who was your most influential teacher/adult at RE?
WG: Michael Stokes was the most influential. Mike chaired the history department. He taught me world history in ninth grade and economics in 12th grade. Over the years, he coached me in JV soccer, varsity football, track and basketball. He also served as athletic director and, at the drop of a hat, he could switch to bus driver. He was the epitome of being an academic leader as well as someone who would willingly do any job required for the success of the institution. A scholar and gentleman, Mike remains a role model for us all.
VB: I would say it’s a tie between Mrs. Caroline Lewis and Mr. David Clark. Neither was ever my teacher. But I interacted with them every day. They both had a special relationship with every child, but they particularly knew the children of color on campus, and they sometimes served as a “translator” between us and the administration.
What was your most memorable academic experience?
WG: I slowly came to realize that history is taught from the perspective of the victor or the dominant faction. I realized that when we tell a story, it is important to present multiple perspectives if we are to learn from the past.
VB: My senior year at Spelman College, my macroeconomics professor basically forced me to submit my final thesis to an economics competition that Spelman was hosting. She worked with me to submit my paper and helped prep me for presenting my findings. I actually won the competition! It was the first time I felt like an intellectual. I don’t think I ever loved a teacher more.
Which historical figure would you most like to have dinner with?
WG: Ralph Ellison, author of The Invisible Man. One perspective he presents is that of existentialism, particularly that of Black Americans. It is a common discussion in Black America, the phenomenon of being ignored, of not being truly considered as decisions are made.
VB: Jesus Christ. The simple why is because He is my Lord and Savior. But also because his teachings, his philosophy, have withstood the test of time. What Jesus taught is still the cure to our societal ills, and I could frankly use some of His advice right now.
Who was your role model growing up, and why?
WG: Martin Luther King, because of his fervent belief in non-violence.
VB: My father (Robert G. Beatty, attorney and owner/publisher of South Florida Times). He was everything I wanted to be. My brothers still make fun of how following in his footsteps was the main reason I became an attorney.
You were raised in Miami; what made you choose to stay here?
WG: I have remained in Miami because I love it. Compared to many major cities, it is young. But it has grown rapidly over the past 50 years and has become a world recognized destination. We are a perfect petri dish for watching different groups of people thrive and excel.
VB: Miami is my home. I was born here, but I was also nurtured here. As a Dade County girl, I spent my childhood being loved on by Jamaican and Haitian aunties, Cuban tios, godfathers, big mamas, all of us living in this great salad bowl of culture. Miami is beautiful; I stay because there’s no other city like it.
What’s the best difficult decision you ever made?
WG: Scaling back my time as a young musician and focusing on school. While I loved playing the violin, I also wanted to play football! I did not see myself as the next Isaac Stern or Joshua Heifetz. So, I had to decide. However, music provided me with an early sense of discipline and commitment.
VB: The decision to ultimately leave law and pursue this vision of becoming an educator came to a head one day. I was on my way to Chicago to pursue a doctorate and I got a call from a recruiter offering me this amazing legal position downtown. The decision to walk away from my legal career, to go to a city where I knew no one and had no way of making money, all to follow a dream of who I wanted to be. It was hard. But it was the best decision I ever made.
What do you do when you are not working?
WG: I try to spend time with my children, doing anything that keeps their attention. I enjoy fishing, fresh water, brackish or salt.
VB: I’ve become a bit of a home body since COVID. But if I’m not home, I’m traveling.
What will make you smile, without fail?
WG: Any hug I get from a grandchild.
VB: Spending time with my family.
“My inspiration for this work has always been the same, equipping each child with the resources needed to reap all of the benefits from a loving, accepting and exacting education.”
– Victoria Beatty ’00