I love stories; my father was a master storyteller and I have always strived to foster that skill. I have discovered that every time I meet a new person, I default to introducing myself by telling a story that I have told a thousand times. I have practiced it, rehearsed it, and repeated it so many times that it feels more like a myth than reality. It goes something like this:
I was born and raised in Alaska. Cool, right? (Literally). Have I told you the time that I was chased by a grizzly bear? When I was about 15 or 16, I was relaxing on the shores of Eagle River (after which the town I lived in was named). I rode my bike to the spot down a steep hill and lit a fire to cook some hot dogs. It was a cool, sunny summer day on a rocky riverside. All of a sudden, I turned my head to look across the river and I saw a fully grown 700-pound grizzly bear lumbering in my direction from across the river (at this point I usually point across the room to something 30 feet away and describe the width of the river). I froze and stared in her direction (as one does when faced with a grizzly bear) and realized that she was coming toward me; she started swimming across the river. Needless to say, I turned and ran up the hill as fast as I could and did not look back. I went back to the scene to pick up my bike a couple of hours later, and, of course, the bear had eaten my hot dogs. At least she got a good meal out of it!
I come from a place of relative privilege: I grew up in a middle class household, had access to quality education and landed a great policy job doing work that I love after earning my master’s degree in economics.
Until recently, I struggled internally with that privilege; specifically, I could not wrap my mind around how I could truly represent or support the interests of people of color and other vulnerable populations that I care about deeply. A few months ago, I heard a suggestion that changed my perspective. A grassroots organizer and leader of a local non-profit forwarding the mission of transgender people of color suggested that I turn down my privilege, listen, and then focus my privilege to fight racism and classism at every point that I can.
There are approximately 7.5 billion people who live on this earth, all with their own stories to tell. I hear them every day while I knock doors for political campaigns or talk to new people I meet in my daily life. I listen to every word. I am here to share those stories; I am here to do the work that is informed by those stories. I am here because the League believes in the strength, resilience and dignity of every human being. I am here to fight for the policy changes that need to happen to make racial equity a reality and that will make Michigan a great place to live for every person.
In graduate school, I was told that most social and economic policy can be affected through the tax code. Tax structures, when built centered on race and class equity can lift millions out of poverty, reduce structural racism, and make a better world for the people who live around us. I have a passion for taxation, so have no fear—I will advocate for a progressive tax system that will lift us up. All that I ask in return is that you continue to share your stories with me and fight for the societal changes that drive your passion.