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Miami Proud: For trailblazing attorney Yolanda Cash Jackson, it's OK to be first, but never last

Yolanda Cash Jackson: Trailblazing attorney who is Miami Proud
Yolanda Cash Jackson: Trailblazing attorney who is Miami Proud 03:19

MIAMI - As the first Black woman to hold the position of chair of The Miami-Dade Beacon Council, the economic engine for the county, Yolanda Cash Jackson checks off another first on her list. 

The Miami native grew up in Liberty City, graduated from Miami Edison High and is a double graduate from the University of Florida for both her bachelor's degree and juris doctor.

In 1990 her first job as a clerk at a law firm in Miami, she was the only female Black lawyer.

Yolanda Cash Jackson
South Florida lawyer Yolanda Cash Jackson. CBS 4

A few firm moves later, she joined then Becker and Poliakoff (Becker Law), where she found her niche in lobbying. 

Gifted at accessing lawmakers and bringing them together, she grew successful in the government law practice group and is a firm shareholder. Among her many accolades, she was named Florida Trend Magazine's Floridian of the Year in 2022. 

Some of her proudest work has been representing private Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's).

"Ninety percent of those students are from families with an income of less than $50,000 a year, and there is a lot of talent," Cash Jackson said. Currently, HBCUs are getting about 30 million dollars to use for access retention and recruitment which is in the form of scholarships.

"I enjoy advocating on behalf of people who need to have a voice," Cash Jackson stated. She was mentored by late United States Congresswoman Carrie Meek and firm founder Alan Becker. 

Along with her educator parents, she credits them for shaping her for a career of firsts- like in 2019 as a commencement speaker for her law school alma mater.

"They never had a woman of color to speak before."

Determined and resourceful, Cash Jackson was instrumental in memorializing the founder of Bethune Cookman University - securing a groundbreaking presence for Mary McLeod Bethune in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall in 2022. 

This statue is of the first Black person selected by a state for this recognition.

For Cash Jackson this was a "life-changing" event, she even went to Italy where the statue was created to see it unveiled there. Though she credits the University and others for the accomplishment, her role is undeniable.

A champion for diversity, as the Beacon Council chair she aims to widen access to resources for all businesses, and support the new CEO in his role. 

Taking this role is something she says Alan Becker would have wanted her to do. She says it is important to highlight the ethnic 'tossed salad' rather than the 'melting pot' of people all over the county, a strength of the community, citing as an example her hairdresser's shop.

"In that salon, there is someone from Dominica, Ohio, Jamaica, Trinidad, Cuba all in the same salon… that IS Miami."

Community and roots mean everything, her hometown of Liberty City even honored her as its 2019 Liberty City Hero. 

The trailblazer, firm rainmaker, never forgets where she came from, and never misses a chance to inspire the next generation. She mentors, speaks on many panels and is widely known in business circles, and for civic leadership. How she describes herself, is humbly put.

"I'm James and Ada's daughter, that's what my church members and my friends call me," she says, adding "sharing my story may encourage some other little girl from Liberty City went to Charles Drew Elementary that had really picky hair, may inspire her to go to law school and give back to the community. That's important."

Cash Jackson says Congresswoman Meek was a major influence on her and that one of the things Meek taught her was "service is the price we pay for the space we occupy."

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