Run, Rena, run


A girlfriend sent me an e-mail last week and I was blown away.  Attached to the message was a press release heralding an historic opportunity. And I’m invited to attend its kick-off event. Intrigued? I was too. You see, a woman who has surmounted agonizing events, a mother and community organizer announced her run for State Representative office in her St. Paul district of 65A. Rena Moran could potentially win the first seat to be held by an African American woman in the Minnesota legislature representing the capitol city.

Chills kissed my spine as my brain seized on the fact that I KNOW her. We met on a frigid January morning at the State capitol a couple of years ago. We and many others had volunteered to deliver the Organizing Apprenticeship Project’s legislative report cards to house and senate members. She was directing a cadre of teens and adults on where to go, what to say and how to present themselves. She was a commanding force of efficiency and warmth. 

I’ve attended seminars lead by Moran. In 2007-08, Take Action Minnesota reached out to persons with disability, members of under represented portions of society in an effort to inspire and engage people to get involved in the upcoming elections. She trained me along with students from the University of MN, elderly whites, middle-aged blacks, Latinas and Somalis comprised an impressive assortment of trainees. 

State and Federal voter law rolled off Moran’s tongue like a preacher’s summon. I wanted to emulate her. And if I could have, I would’ve rinsed and repeated with the day’s lesson on accessible government. By the end of the evening, the 15 or so persons assembled were then prepared to be election judges. Armed with reference guides, contact phone numbers for more help we left that evening filled to the brim with people power.

That election season, our paths crossed everywhere. At rallies, summer socials, Moran’s commitment to the community shone. And I begrudged her ease with dense plans of action to usurp exclusionary voter rules. I witnessed her lead the charge to get ex-offenders their voting rights back. And she did it. Election officials in Ramsey County responded and improvements on how people’s rights are restored after incarceration have improved. Arcanely written reinstatement letters once sent to ex-offenders are now written in frank, clear prose. And Moran had a hand in it.

Last week, Moran stated, “I know the importance of the services that government, non profits and the faith community provide. I also know the importance of helping people to help themselves.” With her in Early Childhood Education, she has more than 15 years of experience in shepherding curious minds.  But it’s her personal story that I wish to tell, because it’s one of triumph.

“[It’s] … one of overcoming one challenge after another,” Moran states. “I came to Minnesota from Chicago ten years ago.  My children and I lived in a shelter in Minneapolis… Today, my family and I are proud homeowners on Aurora Avenue.

“I know the necessity of family involvement and strong community partnerships in raising our children.  It takes a village. My work has prepared me to be … [65A’s] next legislator.   I am experienced in bringing people together in multiracial coalitions to work with our government systems.”

Moran serves as a Parent Leader Coordinator for her community and strives to empower a diverse group of parents across the state to ensure child welfare policies work to protect children and keep families whole. She also serves on the Board for Summit/U Planning Council, as chair of the Community Improvement and Safety Committee, and on the Boards of Model Cities and the Minnesota Women’s Political Caucus.

“Whether it is advocating for housing (she founded the “Save our Homes” campaign in St. Paul to combat the exponential foreclosure rate her neighborhood was facing)  and other public investments to help sustain our families and communities, organizing with the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation, or with my current job at Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota, I understand the importance of community leadership. “

Today’s the day. And I’ve gotta’ wash behind my ears and pray that I can lead my brood to behave as we take part in ‘herstory.’ My shero’s open house is at her house where she’ll pledge to continue her work to build a better community; one that’s self-sustaining and and works for all. If elected, Rena Moran would be the second African American woman ever sent to the Minnesota Legislature (Neva Walker was the first, representing Senate District 61 in Minneapolis). And I’m (tearing up) SO proud to introduce her to my children this afternoon. My girls can meet a legend in the making.

Run Rena, Run!