The Bahamas | Lobbyist at Florida State Capitol and Attorney at Becker & Poliakoff
“Treat yourself as a professional who happens to be a minority rather than a minority who happens to be a professional.” Yolanda Cash Jackson
A member of national legal firm Becker & Poliakoff’s management committee, Yolanda Cash Jackson works with policy-makers as an attorney and lobbyist in South Florida and at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. The Bahamian-American will chair the Miami-Dade Beacon Council starting in 2022, is a co-founder of the National Black Lobbyist Association, has been a member of numerous prestigious boards and has multiple awards and recognitions for her work.
Based on her direct efforts, Florida became the first state to honor an African-American woman — civil rights leader and educator, Mary McLeod Bethune — in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. In 2020, Yolanda Cash Jackson created the HBCU Pathway to Law fund — the University of Florida law school’s largest endowed fund — to grant full scholarships to at least five HBCU graduates annually.
Yolanda Cash Jackson gravitated to law because:
I wanted to be in a field where I could affect change and be my own boss at the same time.
Some of the biggest challenges faced:
The “isms,” whether it be race or sex or fear or stereotypes. Going into this field, that was challenging at first. I think also challenging is the imposter syndrome. Coming from being the first in my family to attend law school, graduate from law school and then to work at the oldest firm in Florida as the first African-American female, imposter syndrome was real.
What was your first job and how did you rise in the ranks?
My first job was a gift wrapper at Jordan Marsh and I was also on The Jordan Marsh team board in 1973.
What is your greatest career strength?
Knowing how to connect the dots, which in my business of intersectionality between government, law and community is absolutely necessary. We have a very diverse community and you need to understand how different communities interact with government, lobbyists, advocates and even elected officials. It’s important to be culturally competent to be able to connect the right people at the right place at the right time.
What would you like to see change within the Caribbean or the diaspora?
I am my family’s historian. I’ve spent probably the last 15 years on and off reconnecting with the family that left the Caribbean in the early 1900s. That has to change. We cannot lose the very thing that drove our ancestors to come to this country. The pride, the culture, the moral fiber, the strength, the history. We cannot allow that to be diminished, it is so important to the continued success of what they came for in the first place and that was to build a better life to provide opportunity that they didn’t have in the islands.
What does the word family mean to you?
It’s my support system, my source of pride and strength. It’s my understanding of who I am. Particularly COVID, we got even closer to family. In my travels, I have met with cousins from all the way from California to Canada. So, family has completed a circle that I never ever thought would be complete.
What is your favorite Caribbean tradition?
What is your favorite traditional childhood meal from your home country?
The meal that my grandmother used to prepare like every Friday: stewed conch with pigeon peas and rice. My second favorite is boiled fish, grits and Johnny cake.
What was your upbringing like and how has that influenced who you are today?
I did not realize until I got older the influence of the Bahamian culture on my upbringing. Family was very, very important. I am still very family-oriented. I’m the one who cooks on Sunday, my weekends are built around church.
What would people you know find surprising about you?
I would say that I really enjoy cooking and I can cook.
Advice for the next generation?
Be true to yourself.