I ran for Binghamton City Council (4th District) in 2007 at the age of 26. I had worked in the district for many years as a community organizer. The district had significant issues in regards to poverty, blight, neighborhood safety, limited or no access to fresh and healthy foods, debilitated roads and parks, and other community development challenges despite being a major gateway into New York City and at the intersection of multiple modes of transportation. My campaign, too, had its challenges. Historically the district had low voter turnout, in a non-mayoral election you would see less than 10% of voters at the polls. I was also running against the party favored candidate, who was also the sitting City Council President! I had concerns about running due to the amount of money I would have to raise; there weren’t other public officials in the Southern Tier of NY who looked like me. I was young and a woman-of-color. I had experience working on other local, state, and federal political campaigns and so I decided that my campaign had to be grassroots. I wanted to bring the voices but also provide a seat at the table for the residents who historically were left out of government and policy development. I intentionally spent time with non-primary voters, registered hundreds of new voters, and involved residents in my campaign that lived in the district, throughout the city, and in surrounding communities. I ran a primary and general election against the City Council President and won. We had a 24% voter turnout and I was able to make history in a community that I was born, raised, educated, and active in. I became the youngest and first African American on City Council in the City’s nearly 200 year history! I connected with VoteRunLead in 2008 and became inspired by the many other women who just like me wanted to make a difference in their communities, but didn't fit into the status quo associated with public office. I gained more insight into the intricacies of running for public office, but also gained a national network, a “family” filled with women that were taking charge and supporting each other every step of the way. One of the things that has meant a lot to me is the work that I have done around improving access to fresh and healthy foods that is improving not only my district’s health but the entire city and increasing opportunities for community development. I truly believe in the saying “add women and change everything”; it is critically important to improving our communities. However, it’s not simply enough to add women; we have to elevate their voices and the voices of all those who are historically marginalized by our society for it is only then that we can change everything.
Posted: July 08, 2014