My story is not unlike many others. And while I never thought political advocacy would become a part of my journey, my life has really brought me to this point in a way that is truly remarkable. I was born and raised the eldest of eight children in the small town of Nash, Texas. As is typical with the title of “eldest”, I was often tasked with caring for my younger siblings, cousins, and children in the neighborhood. The spirit of servitude came naturally to me and was a gift that brought me a great sense of pride and joy. In high school, I could often be found serving others and working to improve our school community. Looking back, this was a foundation for my life trajectory; this deeply-rooted desire to better my surroundings and truly care for the needs of others has undoubtedly led to my 30+ years of grassroots work and community mobilization in Kansas City.
As a newly married couple, my husband and I purchased an old abandoned house from auction we intended to fix from the ground up, selling it later as a “flip”. We saw a need in the community - a number of homes that were abandoned, blight afflicting the community, and a need for beautification efforts that would bring residents a sense of pride in where we lived. We believed that starting a “buy-and-flip” effort could create positive change in our new neighborhood. Little did we know that this effort would be far more extensive than we had originally planned, that our “flip project” would become our lifelong home, and our lives there would become a testament to the power of hope and transformational change.
A delay in renovation plans led to our “temporary” stay at the home we originally intended to flip and sell. Within five years, we had grown to a family of six - one girl and three boys were added to the mix. Living in Ivanhoe Neighborhood had truly opened our eyes to the plight of the people in the area. Drug-houses on nearly every block and multiple drug-houses on ours; prostitution and gang violence a common occurrence; cracked sidewalks, streets in disrepair, and dumped trash on nearly every corner. We vowed to make a difference. We knew it would take work to organize community members behind an effort to revitalize the neighborhood into a place where they felt comfortable living. We were young, we were passionate, and we were committed. So, we dug in our heels and got to work. My husband and I reached out to our church and then to our neighbors, walking door-to-door and mobilizing nearly one-hundred block contacts in the formation of “block clubs”. The newly formed relationships were integral to the success of our efforts to change the community on the grassroots level. Residents were invested, and that gained the attention of other change-makers who we needed - the police department and other city leaders. https://grist.org/justice/this-kansas-city-neighborhood-wrote-the-blueprint-for-transforming-a-community/
In partnership with my husband and other community stakeholders, we were able transform Ivanhoe -- once ranked by KCPD as the neighborhood with the highest crime rate in Kansas City -- from a blighted to a thriving neighborhood. https://www.kshb.com/news/safe-kc/kansas-city-police-credit-couple-for-their-work-in-ivanhoe-neighborhood . Our work, along with the efforts of dedicated residents in the community, volunteer groups, state/city representatives, police officers, and other stakeholders led to the closing of almost 700 hundred drug houses - and the establishment of the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council as a non-profit and later as a Community Development Corporation.
Throughout my tenure at the Ivanhoe Neighborhood Council, I have stayed true to my love of community organizing, serving as a board officer, outreach specialist, and prevention program specialist. I have chaired various committees and am currently employed as the Managing Director of Outreach and Engagement.
My advocacy extends to small business and entrepreneurship, as well. The skills my husband and I used in the late 80’s to renovate our home gave us the business acumen to start our first business, the Young Construction Co. in 1991. Our small residential-remodeling and home repair company has completed over 500 projects in a span of twenty years. My love for gardening has led to our more recent business venture, Young Family Farm. https://www.facebook.com/youngfamilyfarmkc/
Spanning a quarter of an acre of land, the urban farm grows crops using organic, environmentally-friendly practices. Initially formed as an attempt to bring the comforts of my southern roots to the urban core, the farm business has become a way to provide healthy food alternatives for family, friends, and neighbors - as well as quality produce for local farmers markets.
And now, I have stumbled upon a new opportunity - one that allows me to continue my advocacy efforts from the State Capitol as Missouri’s Democratic Representative for the 22nd District. I am eager to embark on this new path and would love your support (and your vote). For more than 30 years, I have mobilized neighborhood residents and worked with community-based partners to secure resources for the under-served. I believe the depth and breadth of experience in grassroots advocacy and organizing give me an edge and makes me the most qualified candidate. I know the heartbeat of the urban community, and I am dedicated to advocating for the needs of all residents.
I will work to pass legislation that will help build healthy individuals, families, communities, and prevent crime. I will work for legislation that supports labor unions, better schools, affordable housing, and access to good health care. I will fight to move Missouri forward and continue building a better place for residents to live - from the ground up.