Growing up in segregated Mississippi, Gloria Stamps-Smith learned the importance of helping out members of your community. “I didn't grow up in a place or time where you could just take care of your family. Family meant community,” she said. Those values have stuck with Stamps-Smith throughout her life, and she continues to exemplify them here in Hennepin County.
Stamps-Smith, an attorney at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, is the chair of the HCBA Diversity and Inclusion committee. Promoting diversity has always been important to Stamps-Smith. “It is important to me that we value each other’s uniqueness. By engaging with each other, we earn an appreciation of our differences,” she said.
Stamps-Smith also gives her time to a number of other organizations. She is a past president of the Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers. She also mentors law students, and advocates for women of color in the judiciary through her work with the Infinity Project. In addition, Stamps-Smith also spends countless hours volunteering in schools and in her church.
Her motivation to give back comes from thinking about the future. “The things that drive me are my children and my legacy. It's important to me that my children and young people, particularly African-American young people, see that there is value in giving back,” she said.
Mentoring law students is a particular point of pride for Stamps-Smith. She beams while talking about seeing her mentees become successful lawyers, helping out a young lawyer hang their shingle, or speaking with a young woman who also attended a historically black college. (Stamps-Smith attended Jackson State University in Mississippi.)
She especially enjoys working with young people because she believes it’s imperative for her as a successful, professional woman of color, to be seen in the community. "It's important that you're out there so young people can see that there are folks like them who can do everything they aspire to,” she said.
While she has many avenues to give back through, Stamps-Smith chose to become more active in the HCBA about seven years ago. She described the HCBA as an “umbrella” organization that has brought many different organizations together. “You learn more about people by getting to know people. By isolating yourself, you don’t give yourself an opportunity to see new ideas or expand beyond your bubble. I’m become very active and have gotten to know some really great people,” she said.
In a legal world where attorneys always seem to be short on time, Stamps-Smith has advice on giving back. “You don't have to cast the net too far across the metro in order to find something that's important. They just have to look at themselves and where their value points lie and give back to that organization and that group,” she said.
Stamps-Smith believes that giving back helps the entire legal community, "It's not just for you, it's for everybody else. It's for community. We all have an obligation. I strongly believe in the adage that service is a rent you pay for being part of this earth…You can just sit there and be a member if you want, but in order to be a true member you have to be engaged and you have to be willing to serve.”