From growing up housing insecure and not being able to afford preventative medication to enlisting in the Navy to complete my degree, my story is not unique to working-class people. I grew up in a community that was set up to fail by design. I am not just another politician or political operative; I’m a daughter of Dallas — running to represent the community I grew up in and the people I love.
This is my grandmother— Ms.Olivia Ford. She always found a way to make something out of nothing. Growing up, our fridge was near empty, yet each night she made sure my belly was full. My mom, sister, and I would turn on the T.V. and sing along with Mariah Carey, harmonizing with the sizzling sound of hot oil from Ms. Olivia's kitchen. I imagine she would have been a chef in another life, but she settled as a lunch lady.
My mother and grandmother told me many stories of what growing up in Dallas used to be like, they played in the park and could even venture around town. That wasn't the same for me. In the 90s, the crack epidemic had our neighbors rarely ever leaving home. Despite the fear, there was a strong sense of community. My family barely had enough for ourselves, but if my grandmother knew someone needed food, she would bring them something. Once, a neighbor offered to braid my hair for free. She knew picture day was coming, and my family couldn't afford to get my hair done. My neighbor was looking out for me — that compassion and understanding are inherent to Dallas.
My mother worked full-time, yet she was paid so little she couldn't afford to keep the lights on at home. As a child, I had severe asthma attacks. Almost every night, I remember my mother had to carry me down the street to the fire station just to power on my nebulizer. The medication I needed to treat my asthma cost $20, but my mother couldn't afford it, and because of that, my lung collapsed at the age of 7 years old.
My mother always stressed the importance of getting an education as a means to escape poverty. I attended E.B. Comstock Middle School. Each day, my classmates and I went through metal detectors, and we watched many of our friends get handcuffed and taken to truancy court. We weren't seen as students; we were seen as future inmates. I admit I was fortunate. In high school, I was a part of a college-bound program at SMU. College never seemed like a reality, but the thought someone had planned in 4 years I would get a diploma and head to college was liberating. To this day, I think of the friends I left behind. What if someone took the time to uplift them? They had just as much potential, if not more, than me, but society failed to see it.
I got accepted to seven HBCUs. "This is it; this is going to change my life," I thought to myself. I was wrong. Not long after accepting my offer to Grambling State University, I couldn't afford to pay the tuition and had to drop out. I was determined to get a degree, so I got a job at Blockbuster and enrolled in community college. It seemed things were turning around, but then I lost my job.
In Dallas, when things get tough, the only thing we can do is work harder. Survival was not an option, so I enlisted in the Navy. For five years, I worked as a Navy medic while making sure to pursue my bachelor's degree. I counseled service members ailing with the mental tolls of war, sexual harassment and sexual violence, and substance abuse. After completing my military contract, I decided to pursue my Master of Public Administration while working as a legislative aide in the Virginia State Legislature. Working in public policy, I saw how corporate money worked to influence policies that destroy Black and Brown communities across the nation. I didn't leave Dallas to make this world worse for another little Black girl. So as soon as I completed my master's, I returned to Dallas.
Returning home, I was astonished to see things were exactly the same as they were when I left, if not worse. I started working as an affordable housing administrator to deliver life-sustaining resources, such as rental assistance, adequate nutrition, and healthcare, to families and individuals. Additionally, I began volunteering at various food pantries. As the holidays came around, I organized toy and coat drives for my community because I was once that little girl with no presents under the tree and holes in her coat.
It's hard to see my community in pain. We are suffering; we are hungry; we are scared, and no one seems to care. Charity can only do so much. TX-30 needs policies that are designed for our success. That starts with new leadership that sees our humanness and understands our struggles.
That is why I am running to represent TX-30 in the U.S. House of Representatives.