Last year Aramis Ayala‘s name made headlines after she was pulled over by two Orlando police officers who struggled to explain why they pulled her over.
What made Ayala’s case so prominent is that she was not just a civilian whose traffic stop was covered by the news, she is currently the Ninth Judicial Circuit’s State Attorney–Florida’s only Black state attorney.
Months later, Ayala faced much scrutiny by Florida governor Rick Scott after he decided to remove 23 cases from under Ayala’s jurisdiction, arguing that Ayala acted negligently by not seeking the death penalty for specific murder cases.
What ensued was a legal battle that spanned three months between Scott and Ayala, after she sued the governor over the re-allocated cases. In September 2017, Ayala dropped her lawsuit against Scott. But Scott’s reassignment reflected the patriarchy’s assumption that women, especially women of color, are ill-equipped to handle their respective positions.
The Orange-Osceola State Attorney has been an outspoken advocate for cash-bail form, a practice which preys on the disadvantaged, specifically men and women color.
Ayala shows that members of the legal community have an important role in reforming the criminal justice system, one that no doubt leaves communities of color crushed by constant injustices.
Do you have a personal mission statement or mantra that you live by?
There are 3 things that keep me moving. 2 scriptures and 1 philosophical.
- To keep me accountable – “To whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48)
- To inspire me I live to hear this after my last breath – “Job well done good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)
- As a caution to keep me grounded – “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.”- Friedrich Nietzsche
Self-talk is important, what story/stories do you tell yourself about your life?
I always remind myself that I have a purpose and a calling for which I will be held accountable. I remind myself that I was given a second chance at life and will live everyday to be the best me.
How did the current political climate impact your approach to politics?
The current political climate reminds me that justice must be fought for and won over and over. I refuse to leave a legacy for my children that is limited to my social media pages. This time will be marked in history, therefore the work we do matters. Change happens in the trenches, not on televisions and computer screens.
Was there a moment in your journey you felt like giving up? What would you say to a woman going through that right now?
I am still on the journey, but if that time ever came it is important to remember to ask yourself, if not you then who? We all have work to do and when we look back (I have no doubt) we all will wish had done more. When you refuse to make giving up an option you will stay in the game. Whether you stay in the game or give up you are answering to someone–the negative voices or even yourself. I choose to answer to He who created me.
What is your definition of success?
Success must be distinguished from moments of achievement. We all have moments our achievements are recognized and celebrated, but success is not determined until particular seasons of life are over. The ultimate success is the legacy outlined in our obituary.
What do you hope to have accomplished in your career/ life by this time next year?
Next year this time I hope to have read more research and studies related to criminal justice systems and continue to realign my goals based upon data. It is also an important goal to remain humane and civil in all I say and do. I believe humanity is infections. I want to spread it.
Who and what inspires you to keep going?
My relationship with God keeps me going. The best way to honor him is with my life.
What’s your biggest fear being in the public eye with a definitive political stance?
I have already faced death. I fear nothing on this earth.
How do you take care of yourself/unwind in such a highly charged environment?
I love spending time with my husband and out two girls. I spend time in the gym. I enjoy cooking. There’s also nothing like just plain old girlfriend time! I value my family and friends.
Describe your perfect Sunday:
-Where are you?
-What are you eating that day?
-What music are you listening to?
-Who are you with?
Church with my family followed by Sunday dinner. While I am cooking I am probably listening to Marvin Sapp, William McDowell, Anthony Brown or Vashawn Mitchell… Later a little India Arie, Charlie Wilson and Jaheim! My husband is resting peacefully watching a game while the girls are playing outside and I hear the pleasant sound of child laughter.
As a woman in this political workplace, how do you balance it all?
Balance requires a lot of support. My husband is my ROCK. I also have a village. I have friends from 20 and 30 years ago who remain close. I have other close friends, family and sitters whose shoulders I stand on. I am blessed