President Donald Trump (I despise having to call him that) forced me to run for office.
I’ve always wanted to run for office and formally serve my community, but I receive confirmation on a daily if not hourly basis that I made the right decision to do it now.
On January 11, 2017, I sat in my living room and watched President Obama deliver his farewell speech. I watched with the same emotional high as I had on election night in 2008 when America voted for change and brand new history. Only 9 days later, January 20, 2017, I watched the Inauguration of President Donald J. Trump with a completely different set of emotions, most commonly referred to as despair, fear, anger and flat-out deep concern for what America was about to become.
All my concerns have come true in a little over 100 days. The concerns have names. They’re called Trump, Priebus, Bannon, Sessions, Comey, Kushner, DeVos, Putin, Constitutional Rights and the list goes on and on.
Like so many, I wept for many nights at the thought of the Obama’s handing the imaginary keys to the White House over to the Trumps. I even thought, maybe, just maybe, the Electoral College would not cast their votes for him or maybe many of his cleverly masked business relationships would unveil itself to his detriment or maybe he would just quit. It’s clear he doesn’t want the job.
I’d been in the White House in the last eight years more times than I could count. That blessing flowed from me being a part of the media and having opportunities to attend seminars, celebrations and even a private meeting with President Obama on his birthday in August 2014. To say that was one of the highlights of my life, is an understatement. Right now, I don’t want to even eat a hot dog on Pennsylvania Avenue; it somehow feels too close for comfort or that I could be mistaken for one of those rare African-American White House staffers. Instead, I’m fundraising, phone-banking, canvassing, debating and getting ready.
You see, Donald Trump forced me to run for office!
So, in January 2017, when I found myself wondering if I would have healthcare in the next 60 days, or if my child who is in college would have student loan money available for her at an HBCU, or if my 104 year-old immigrant Mexican grandmother understood the “wall” debate, I nestled down on my sofa in Atlanta and decided Hillary Clinton’s loss was a win for women everywhere.
That’s when I decided to run for public office.
You see, Donald Trump forced me to run for office but President Obama prepared me and Secretary Hillary Clinton gave me the road map. I decided my best opportunity to effect change was in my local area, exactly where President Obama started in Chicago and Clinton in Arkansas.
I don’t have Trump money. I don’t have Obama money. I don’t have Clinton money. But I do have information, education, resources and a lot of confidence and courage. You need all those things to run for office. You also need money. That is the reason why so many women don’t do it. I will not let that stop me. I became completely fueled up during the Women’s March in Atlanta on January 21, 2017, a spiritual global experience that was planned, created, and produced to enormous success by women.
The next morning on January 22, I caught an early morning flight to Washington, D.C. where in an auditorium at D.C.’s Grand Hyatt Hotel, I attended Emily’s List candidate training program, which would better equip me to run for public office. It was a sold-out event and along with 500 other women, I was trained and motivated and as ready as I was ever going to be. I met Emily’s List president Stephanie Schriock and she wished me good luck. I conversed with women from all around the country of diverse backgrounds and aspirations and we listened, trained, hugged and vowed to stay in touch to support, both with volunteer hours and financial donations. We shared one thing in common, we all wanted to make a difference in these uncertain times. We all planned to run for office…soon.
VoteRunLead reported that in January and February 2017, more than 2,300 women have signed up to take its online course, and the organization’s seminars have registered thousands of women for training. Emily’s List, She Should Run, Emerge America and hundreds of other training organizations have seen a significant increase in the amount of women signing up for campaign training courses.
The United States has an abysmal record on women in politics, with women only holding about 20 percent of all national-level seats. The local numbers are not much better. Women just don’t run at the same rate as men, however, when they do, they are elected and re-elected at nearly the same rate as their male counterparts.
I won’t even begin to discuss the numbers related to African-American women being elected nationally and locally because it’s so low it can be discouraging for my sisters. Currently, in the 114th Congress, there is one African-American female in the United States Senate — Senator Kamala Harris of California. Before her, only one other after the ratification in 1920 of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution — Senator Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois having served from 1993-1999.
Two Fingers, that’s it.
Down the hall in the House of Representatives, the current 114th Congress has a record 46 African-American Representatives or Delegates, with 20 of them being African-American women. Slowly, we are getting there. The numbers at the highest levels are not good, so where can we service-minded female community warriors effect change? Just open your front door, that’s what I’m doing.
The City of Atlanta has enjoyed enormous growth over the last 30 years but still shares the same concerns as many cities do across the nation relating to affordable housing, transportation, economic development, public safety and education. That’s why I’m running for a seat on the Atlanta City Council in District #1, where I can represent the interests of my neighbors, one neighborhood at a time.
You see, Donald Trump forced me to run for office. I can’t change him, but I can change what I’m doing.
Yes, I can.
Thus, I am.
Also featured on www.essence.com.