In April 2023, two Democratic members of the Tennessee House of Representatives, Justin Pearson and Justin Jones, who are both Black, were expelled for supporting gun control protesters following the March 27 murder of three students and three staff members at a Nashville school.
However, their coworker Gloria Johnson, a 60-year-old white woman, kept her seat. Pearson and Jones were clearly booted out because of the hue of their skin.
Pearson and Jones, representing Districts 86 and 52, were reinstated a few days after the Tennessee GOP was chastised for the men’s expulsions.
“They tried to kill democracy. They tried to expel the people’s choice and the people’s vote. And they awakened a sleeping giant,” Pearson said in a speech after regaining his seat.
Who is Justin Pearson’s Wife? Oceana Gilliam
According to her bio on the Center for Court Innovation’s website, Oceana is currently a senior program manager for the Center for Court Innovation’s West Coast Initiative Team.
She, like her fiancé, is an advocate for change. “Oceana is committed to developing equitable programs that create healthier, thriving communities.” Oceana strives to commemorate her mother, family, community, and ancestors via her work,” her profile says.
Oceana was born and reared in South Central Los Angeles’ Crenshaw District. She earned a B.A. in political science and Russian from Beloit College and a Master of Public Policy from UCLA’s Luskin School of Public Affairs.
She designed and coordinated a program in 2020 that gave over 17,000 boxes of locally grown produce and food to South LA households to address food poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, to name just one of her many acts of change.
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Little is known about her connection with Pearson, but it’s evident she constantly has his back.
After Pearson supported gun control protesters before the expulsion, Mother Jones spoke with Oceana about her fiance’s future in the Tennessee House of Representatives. She said she expected him to get expelled based on what she’s observed during his time in the legislature.
Thanks to my beautiful fiancé for fighting with the people and working to make justice possible in Tennessee. It’s time to do something about gun violence and to fight for our communities that are suffering. We WILL Keep fighting!! https://t.co/LcGs8AT17V
— Justin J. Pearson (@Justinjpearson) April 6, 2023
“I haven’t seen them do anything democratic lately. I’ve seen Justin raise his hand during the welcoming and honoring parts of the session and not get called on. He’s constantly disrespected here,” she told the outlet in a video.
“It honestly hurts my heart,” she continued, “because he worked so hard to get here.”
Pearson retweeted her Mother Jones interview and said kind things about her: “Thanks to my beautiful fiancée for fighting with the people and working to make justice possible in Tennessee.” It is time to take action against gun violence and fight for our hurting communities. We WILL NOT GIVE UP!”