We had the good fortune of connecting with Melba Pearson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Melba, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
No risk, no reward – that’s how I perceive life. Many times, people see taking a risk as a bad thing. You should not be reckless – but must be willing to take a calculated risk. Risks push us out of our comfort zone. Look at any major decision — weigh out the pros and the cons. If it makes sense and feels right – go for it! Folks have approached me after I announced my run for Miami-Dade State Attorney last year with “what if you lose? Isn’t it a big risk?”. I would always respond “but what if I win?”. Although I did not win the office, I know my campaign, while a risk for me personally, brought to the forefront critical issues that so many communities had been concerned about. To me, elevating the discussion is a win — for the people.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
My career definitely had a lot of twists and turns. I moved to Miami from NYC to become a prosecutor. What was supposed to be a three year plan to return to New York became an over two decade journey. It included leaving prosecution after failing the bar exam, working in PR and events when South Beach nightlife was at its height, later passing the bar exam and working my way up as a prosecutor to supervising and handling murder cases. I took a leap of faith and joined the ACLU of Florida as their Deputy Director at the beginning of the last presidential administration. Three years later, I took another massive leap to run for office. None of it was easy, but the challenges made each victory even sweeter. I’ve learned to let go of fear to the best of my ability. The universe always has a way of providing for you if you approach things with a desire to do the right thing and serve others. Currently, I’m enjoying being able to push for prosecutorial reform through the use of data in my role as Director of Policy and Programs at FIU’s Center for the Administration of Justice.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow – definitely start in my backyard of South Beach! Brunch at Oliver’s on West Avenue, take a long leisurely walk to Sunset Harbor, and later hit Sushi Garage or Diya. If shopping is on the agenda, a stroll down Lincoln Road is a must! We’d have to do a tour of Historic Overtown, with stops at the Historic Black Police Precinct (from when the police department in Miami was segregated), and Black owned businesses Red Rooster, Lil Greenhouse Grill, and Tomorrowland Miami. Lastly, there will need to be beach time on mid-beach — a bit quieter — and at least one sunset at Smith and Wollensky at the back bar, watching the cruise ships head out to sea. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
This is dedicated to all of the grassroots activists, who fight for the people — whether it be for climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, social justice issues, access to health care or any other issue that impacts marginalized communities. It’s a thankless job at times. You may be doing this in your spare time on top of your work and family responsibilities. You are seen, heard and appreciated!!
Other: Learn more about our work at FIU at www.prosecutorialperformanceindicators.org