Personal Trainer and the Son of Biggie Smalls Pay Tribute to Notorious RBG

By Lauren Victoria Burke, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Though she was 87 and had battled cancer for many years, the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a big jolt to many. The well-respected jurist was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on September 27th after a week of tributes outside the U.S. Supreme Court Building and at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

On Friday, September 25, as Ginsburg lay in state in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol, a moment that would be viewed by millions on social media was created. Bryant Johnson, the trainer who led Ginsburg through her well-publicized workout routine, paid respects by performing three push-ups at her casket. The moment was captured on video by C-SPAN and was viewed by over 1.7 million people in two days.

Ginsburg ended up with a nickname that started a meme of her in a gold crown emulating an iconic photo from the last known photo shoot of the late rap and hip-hop star Notorious B.I.G. or Biggie Smalls (real name Christopher Wallace). The “King of New York” image was widely seen on magazine covers, murals and T-shirts.

Wallace was tragically killed in a drive-by shooting in 1997 at 24. He is considered one of the greatest rap artists of all time. The age of social media and Biggie Smalls rap handle collided in 2013 with a Tumblr account created by then-NYU Law student Shana Knizhnik. Knizhnik was inspired to name Ginsburg “Notorious RBG” after reading Ginsburg’s blistering dissent against the dismantling of the Voting Rights Act.

Biggie Smalls son, C.J. Wallace, recently commented on his father and Justice Ginsburg after news of her death on September 18.

“I think he would be honored to share the ‘Notorious’ title with her, and it’s up to us to honor their legacies by continuing to fight for equality and justice for all by voting and getting into good trouble,” Wallace, 23, said. “Brooklyn, New York, represents no fear, confidence, and speaking your truth, and my dad and Justice Ginsburg lived those words,” he added.

The late rapper and the late justice were from Brooklyn, New York: Biggie Smalls grew up near Bedford-Stuyvesant and Ginsburg in Sheepshead Bay.

Near the end of her dissent in the 2013 Shelby County v. Holder case, a decision that gutted Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and was set in to motion by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts, Ginsburg was blunt and to the point.

Ginsburg argued why the regional protections of the Voting Rights Act were still necessary. She wrote that, “throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

On September 26, President Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a former clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia, to the Supreme Court. An intense political battle over who will fill Ginsburg’s seat is certain.

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at and on twitter at @LVBurke

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