This Former ‘Teacher of the Year’ Wants to Be Connecticut’s First Black Democrat in Congress

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It absolutely plays into everything. Because while I see myself as someone who can be a representative of all people, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it would be important to so many people in my community. So many people in this state, and not just blacks, but for all people who want to show that we are a community that welcomes everyone.

I hear from people every day. They’re so inspired by what I’m doing. Young girls are saying, “I see myself in you.” And if I were able to pull this off, and we can bring that narrative to Connecticut — that no matter who you are and where you come from, that you have a message and a voice that’s important and you’re welcome here. I’ve seen how empowering that can be.

Your platform mentions fighting racism and sexism, issues that are so structural in American society. How does one do that from a seat in Congress?

I’m a person who, first of all, lives by example, and I always want to be modeling that behavior.

But I come from a profession that’s not about blame-placing. I don’t care who is responsible for the problem, let’s work toward solutions. And I’ve always been able to do that in a very respectful way. I get fired up about this — it’s not that hard to have a conversation when you commit to being respectful to everyone in the room.

I’m a black woman. I am unapologetically proud of who I am and where I come from. And I’m helping people understand that that, too, can be part of the narrative. But that’s not all I am. You know, I’m so many other things. So let’s talk about it.

Does the Democratic Party do enough to encourage minority candidates, or someone from an atypical background like teaching, to get more involved?

On one level, the party does encourage people to come out, and they’re sending a message that we need to step up and get involved. But on the other hand, when people do step up, we have to welcome them in … I’ve had people in the party who have said, “You don’t have the experience.”

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