“That’s where I live, at the intersection of L.G.B.T. politics and racial injustice. It’s front and center of my everyday.”
Andrea Jenkins -- A writer, performance artist, poet and most notably, the first black, transgender woman to be elected to public office in the United States. Her influence as a L.G.B.T. activist and racial justice warrior could not be more needed, as she currently serves the City of Minneapolis. Since the heinous murder of George Floyd, she has made daily visits to his place of death, mourning the loss by doing what she knows: inspiring and initiating change.
Before she got here, Andrea Jenkins was born in Chicago on May 10, 1961. Moving to Minneapolis after high school graduation, she attended the University of Minnesota, eventually earning her bachelor's degree from Metropolitan State University. In 2001, she began her political career as a staffer for Robert Lilligran and worked closely with transgender issues in her community. In 2005, she became an aide for Elizabeth Glidden, earning the Bush Fellowship dedicated to transgender issues which established a Transgender Issues Work Group by 2014. Another notable contribution during her years as an aide is the Transgender Oral History Project, which expanded a collection of trans narratives by recording oral histories. She won her own City Council seat during the December 2016 election, earning 73% of the vote in Minneapolis.
While evidence shows these horrific acts we see committed against black and transgender people are a result of systemic, intentional roots of America, Andrea is taking advantage of the situation to inspire an era of change. Capitalizing on this violence finally being recognized, she is working with her community politically and emotionally. She is currently pushing for change to dismantle the police department, but is also taking into account the direct needs of her citizens. She has worked with small business owners to help with COVID recovery, while also making plans to create a center for racial healing, where the beautiful protest artwork can be preserved.
“It lets me know that victory does come out of struggle, but it’s a continuous struggle. We are still fighting for L.G.B.T. rights. We are still fighting for women’s rights. We are still fighting for voters’ rights. And we will continue to fight for equity and for human rights for black and brown people. But we are making progress. We are making changes. We are making history. And so it leaves me with some optimism, too.”
We are in a somber place as a nation, but Andrea reminds of the hope we should have. Change is coming. Remember that these glaring social justice issues we fight for, whether it is racial injustice, L.G.B.T. violence or women’s rights, are all connected. You cannot fight for one without fighting for the other. As we progress through Pride month, challenge yourself to be more like Andrea, working with a lens of intersectionality in this journey to equality.
By Madison Henley