Robin Wonsley — How to be Badass Together

From an 11-part series recorded at the April 16, 2022, “Celebrating Badass Minnesota Women” event

Thanks to First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis for hosting the April 16, 2022, event on behalf of the 38th anniversary of Minnesota Women’s Press and its kickoff of Changemakers Alliance.

To become a supporting member of Changemakers Alliance and its conversations-to-CALLs-to-action, click here. Or send a contribution to Venmo @mnwomenspress.


I am Robin Wonsley and I have the honor of being Minneapolis’ first Black independent socialist city council member. It is such an honor to be able to speak alongside very single one of you and everyone in this room. I know the pressures we face waking up every single day as badass women to push for real and lasting change across the state and you do it so gracefully — y’all look good, too, you make it look good.

That is the common denominator that I see among all of us badass women, especially those in this room right now. We all share this deep, abiding passion for creating transformative change. I am not talking about the cute, superficial ribbon-cutting type of change either, that is cool, but I don’t think that is what we are doing here.

I am talking about the type of change that can lead to many sleepless nights, many long meetings, phone calls, spiritual questioning, and many bouts of intense fear and anxiety. I am talking about the type of change that strives to dismantle unjust and violent systems — the type of change that strikes fear in the hearts of the powerful. And, most importantly, the type of fear that allows all of us to make what is deemed impossible possible. That is the part that unites most badass women, especially those who look to make the big and scary and transformative changes in this world.

I can say that I am a walking testament of this, like so many of you we have heard throughout the past hour. One of the very first campaigns I worked on in Minneapolis was the $15 minimum wage campaign. For years we heard that we could never get $15. We were told by elected leaders and business owners that taking on poverty wages would actually expedite the collapse of civilization. Legit. Because all the businesses would then flee away from that same civilization, I guess.

Instead of listening to the naysayers, we grew our multi-racial working-class coalition. We kept organizing. We kept disrupting. We kept hosting long-ass meetings and losing many hours of sleep. We eventually won and made Minneapolis the first midwestern city to pass $15 in 2017.

Since then, I have continued to see ordinary people of all backgrounds do the impossible, no matter how hard the circumstances. I saw it with the water protectors last summer who took on the Enbridge line three pipeline. I saw it with Black Lives Matter in their fights for justice for Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, George Floyd, Dante Wright, Winston Smith, and Amir Locke. It is so sad that we even have to keep naming these folks. I saw during the historic uprising following George Floyd’s murder that sparked a global uprising across this world. I saw with our educators who led a historic three-week strike just a few weeks ago. And I am seeing it now with our local housing justice movement who are fighting for the impossible rent control policy here in Minneapolis. And shout out to those who are in Saint Paul — you got it before us. Thank y’all. Keep it moving. And I see it every day with my constituents who are boldly organizing for a Minneapolis green new deal.

It is because of ordinary people — their movements, their intolerance of the status quo, and the commitment to making the impossible possible that I get to serve this city as the first Black independent democratic socialist. Something that just five months ago was also deemed impossible.

Since I am an organizer, I got some to-do’s for y’all, which I know will not upset many of y’all, because I know badass women love clear directives just as much as we love tight-ass speeches.

My charge to you this afternoon is to simply chase the impossible. Seek out those who are also doing the same. This is relatively easy because the Women’s Press and the Changemakers Alliance literally just gathered a bunch of us doing this work in the same room together.

I charge you to introduce yourself to the women that spoke here, the women that are in the crowd, those of you [watching at home]. Reach out to these women and ask them two questions: what are your passions, and what is it that you are looking to change. If their answers cause you to pause and think, ‘I don’t think that is possible,’ I want you to immediately set up a meeting with them. I want you to donate. I want you to get their information and show up for them.

I want you to do this because making the impossible possible can never happen via one person, as Lucina mentioned, no matter how badass we may be. Change never came from one person. That real insomnia-inducing, transformative, scary type change that is necessary to change our communities, our cities, and our world for the better is going to require a brigade of badass people coming together to make it happen.

We are so fortunate, so fortunate, that the very people who are leading this hard but necessary work are in this same room together, in this same city together — the site of one of the most historic uprisings. We get to be here and lean into the brilliance and the talent that is in this space.

So, badass women, I now leave you with your to-do’s. You have some homework. I am  so grateful for the Women’s Press, the Changemakers Alliance, every single one of y’all for just allowing me to share space with you this afternoon. Let’s continue to do badass things together.