Twelve women of color gathered at an Ayada Leads event October 20, co-sponsored with Vote Run Lead, to talk about why they are running for office and what they hope to accomplish in the political system.
It was an evening partly to honor Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, who is stepping down this year after 16 years as a pioneering Latina Minnesota senator, and the legacy of her as a role model to the many women of color candidates running this year.
One young woman in the audience admitted to the group that she has only voted once — specifically for Rep. Ilhan Omar, because she has not felt reflected in politics. The conversation sparked by that question urged that it is only when we vote to change the reflection at the table — and run for office, and support candidates that speak our values — that we get the politics we need to make life easier, not harder. The tendency has been to elect the same types of perspectives, that reflect what many voters think politics looks like — generally white and male — which is why we need more white voters to reconsider why that does not serve all in the community, and we need more non-voters who are people of color to step into a ballot box.
Unspoken, though heard at other political events this season, is that there is a fear-focus on scarcity by some politicians — that having diverse points of view in decision-making will somehow take “away” abundance from the dominant class. There are also dominant narratives that public policy is responsible for ‘giving money away’ to people of color. In reality, more white people receive welfare assistance — mostly food subsidies — especially children, elderly, and those with disabilities.
The woman at the Ayada Leads event made clear that they are running to represent the needs of more people than are met now, especially around public safety for all, health care, economic development, affordable housing, and more.
Here are a few excerpts from the Born to Lead event.
We are working on transforming the science of politics. And when we get there, and when we do that, this world is going to be very, very different. And that is because you are there to run, you are there to do what people thought was impossible. I am so proud to be here with you, celebrating you. And I cannot wait to celebrate all of your victories.
(running for Sen. Torres Ray’s vacated Senate seat; would be first Black woman in Minnesota Senate, likely alongside fellow Senate candidate Clare Oumou Verbeten)
As you can imagine, running for Senator Torres Ray’s seat is big shoes to fill. One of the reasons why I decided to run is because I have seen women in our communities, women of color, Black women, Latina women, choose to step aside and not run for office. I have seen women who were so capable of doing that work, so experienced, but said ‘I am missing XYZ for my resume. I don’t know if I can do it.’ Truthfully, if they were men, they would just do it, right? So I am running because I know that — with all of us here — we are able to inspire people, because I have been inspired by so many of you, like Senator Torres Ray, and many others who have been a part of my story.
Above all, I want to be part of a government that shows up for people, that ensures that everybody has health care, no matter where you live, that should not be tied to your job, [especially after] three years of a long pandemic. Politics should be about making our lives easier and not harder. We deserve health care, we deserve public safety, we deserve a job that actually pays a living wage.
I am about changing policy and creating new policy. That is my goal. The pride to look at this table. And all of these women right here are their daughters, coming with the strength of [our ancestors]. So the beauty outweighs the pits, because we have been dealing with being the only one — the only brown in the class, the only woman rapping on the stage. With all of this, always the only one. We are the ones to make sure it becomes easier.
It is encouraging to see this group of ladies. You do know what is at stake this November? We are about to elect the first Black woman to the Senate. There is a lot to do and it is going to take all of us coming together and supporting one another to get in there. Yes, I didn’t make it past the primaries. But you better believe I am out there every single day supporting great candidates, because it is not just about one race. It is about all of us coming together.
Back row: Susie Strom, Husniyah Dent Bradley, María Isa Pérez-Hedges, Shantel Cook, moderator Wintana Melekin, Samantha Sencer-Mura, Indred Alexander, Zaynab Mohamed, Clare Oumou Verbeten, Liz Lee, Huldah Hiltsley. Front row: Farhio Khalif, Senator Patricia Torres Ray, Ayada Leads director Habon Abdulle, Irene Fernando