By Jasmen Rogers-Shaw
This is For Breonna Taylor…. and everyone whose names we’ll never know, lost at the whims of ineffective leadership.
Exactly, one month into our campaign we have made history. With fundraising totals that have exceeded similar elections, primarily received from a mass amount of community members making individual donations of less than $100, this is our written commitment to be steered by the people.
So what is it that we’re fighting for? Why this moment?
Simply… Co-governance – a partnership with the communities we serve that pilots our priorities. We’re building a platform that creates spaces for average people to guide their elected officials based on their experience and tangible needs. We believe that people are experts in their stories and know best how to address issues, and elected officials can provide the political framework and legislation to meet those needs.
As a first time candidate with deep roots as a community organizer, we find ourselves wholly responsible to the communities we serve and in relationship with. As a state legislator, we are clear that this responsibility exists both to our district and to the state. We are dedicated to taking our folks through a process of learning and visioning for a better Florida, and by doing so, we are committed to leaning into accountability.
We need legislators that are willing to hear the stories of families struggling to pay rent, people who are undocumented and navigating a laborious path to citizenship, youth demanding access to the full scope of healthcare, incarcerated mothers navigating a criminal justice system and child welfare system, small business owners extending beyond their means to stay afloat, trans folks fighting for services that affirm their humanity. But more than hear, how will we be conduits for change and accomplices in righting wrongs and co-creating just and fair policy.
As it stands, the government is too murky and complicated for the average Floridian to believe it has an impact on the ways they can earn money, live, breathe, love, and navigate from day-to-day. But imagine the possibilities in prioritizing people over profits by bailing out Black mamas instead of incarcerating them for petty crimes. Imagine how healthy our communities would be if elected officials took an interest in grocery stores with healthy food being easy to get to for everyone within their district. Imagine the strength of our economy if we invested equitably in public school education so that a child’s school resources weren’t determined by a zip code that they have no control over. Imagine what it must feel like to know that your minimum wage paycheck can cover all of your expenses with a little room to thrive. Imagine what creativity can be birthed when people live without fear of state violence.
This campaign is a springboard for that hope. In knowing that through intentional and accessible political education, we can welcome everyone into politics and governance, we believe that people will then rise to the occasion. People show up with urgency when they feel seen, heard, and experience the direct impact of their advocacy. When trust and transparency are restored, our work to convince people to take an active role in democracy gets lighter. What that means for us tangibly is a commitment to bill writing workshops and courses on the intricacies of politics and policy. We are committed to accessibility in the Capitol and wherever there is a need for clarity and transparency. We commit to being bold, uncompromising, and effective on behalf of our people.
As elected officials or candidates, how do we prioritize and replicate the work of places like Jackson, Mississippi where People’s Assemblies bring community folks into the work of changing their conditions in partnership with elected officials by consensus building. Throughout our state, the New Florida Majority has expanded on People’s Assemblies to monthly gathering places from Jacksonville to Miami, organizing people power to affect change in their local and state governments.
There is no question that elected leadership changes the outcomes for everyone, particularly the most vulnerable. Who we trust, who we defend, who we kill without impunity, who we allow to be killed; are at the whims of elected leadership and the culture that they pass down. Even if we can’t say for certain that Breonna Taylor would still be alive today, I am confident in our ability to seek restoration and some semblance of justice with leadership that is tuned in, open, and accountable to the needs of the people. This is why we’re running.
For such a time as this, we are committed to this work in this district and in the Capitol, win or loss, beyond an August primary election. Through our work, we will prove, in the immortal words of Ella Baker, “give light and people will find the way.”
This Op-Ed was written by Jasmen Rogers-Shaw, Candidate for Florida House District 95. For more information about her and her campaign visit www.JasmenForFlorida.com.
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