Putting My Experience
There is an East African proverb that I use and refer to often – “Work with the clay while it is still wet.” Though simple in presentation, this proverb is a constant reminder for me to work with a sense of urgency, especially where people – their lives, their livelihoods, their health, and their aspirations - are involved. I am fortunate that there were people – family, teachers, mentors, and community members- who worked with me, who molded me and who taught me the importance of serving.
In 1996 I was honored, as a junior at Little Rock Central High School to be the youngest person to carry the Olympic torch through Little Rock on its way to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA. I was honored to be recognized for my volunteerism and work with children at the Advocates for Battered Women shelter, which was then located in the heart of District 34. It was affirming for me since, only a few years earlier my mother, my brothers and I were residents at that same shelter. It was there I received and, thus, felt a calling to give – especially to those who live with their backs against the wall, the least and the last – and primary among them children, our greatest heritage.
I had the privilege to continue to serve throughout college –co-founding and working with programs to mentor children. And, for 2 consecutive summers, while in college I worked at District 34’s Dunbar Garden with teen aged students learning a lot myself about how empowering it is to have an intimate knowledge of how our food is sourced. I worked 2 consecutive Union Summers with the AFL-CIO in both Philadelphia and the Mississippi Delta.
When I taught school I was doing so as a 4th generation school teacher. When I preach, I do so as a 4th generation preacher. When I work with the various community programs, projects and organizations I do so while standing on the shoulders of the family members and mentors who molded me while the clay was still wet!
I pull from a deep well of experience and knowledge. To date I am privileged to learn from, to have worked with and to still work for:
Grassroots Arkansas - I’m committed to the work of Grassroots Arkansas as an affiliate member. Since the still unexplained and unjustified takeover of the Little Rock Public Schools 5 years ago I have been at the forefront of the organizing and protests efforts to stem the overreach of the appointed State Board of Education and to bring to bear energy and resources to sustain what is a long road to equity and people power in our district.
Arkansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty (ACADP) – when our governor scheduled back-to-back-to-back executions in 2017 I was at the forefront of the protest and of the efforts to organize against these planned executions in particular and the Death Penalty in general. Shortly thereafter I joined the board of ACADP and hold that execution at the hand of the state is not only immoral, it is expensive and ineffective and it is not within the interest of the state to continue executing citizens.
Arkansas Public Policy Panel (APPP) – I encountered the APPP when I brought students to the state capitol to participate in its Citizens First Congress. From there I began to work in earnest with the Panel as an advisor and eventually as a board member helping to shape its agenda and efforts around racial equity, voting rights, and education.
Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) – As an executive board member at AACF I work to shape the policy agenda of the state’s policy organization of record. The work of AACF has shaped and informed my personal work in its attention to childhood hunger in our state and health coverage for children and working families.
Seeds of Liberation – A small community based organization, Seeds of Liberation concentrates solely on dismantling systems that seek to permanently imprison and not to rehabilitate people. I brought to this board years of work teaching re-entry classes at 3 prison units throughout our state.
Mosaic Templars Cultural Center and Friends of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center – As the chair of the MTCC advisory board I have the distinct privilege of working with its staff to ensure the continuity of the MTCC and a tangible memory of Arkansas’s Black history. As a board member of MTCC’s friends group I’m able work toward sustaining the work and mission of MTCC via awareness-raising and fundraising.
I’ve learned much and experienced much. I’ve learned that work works and that experience matters. The depth of my experience, including work as a people’s advocate testifying on several occasions and at various committees in our state legislature, has prepared me to begin working immediately for the people of District 34!