Excerpts of interview with State Representative Rena Moran, D-65A, on Conversations with Al McFarlane broadcast, September 23, 2014. More to follow featuring attorney Professor Nekima Levy-Pounds, and MLK Legacy Council advocate, Verlena Matey-Keke. You can listen to the interview online by following this link: http://www.kfai.org/conversationswithalmcfarlane
I’m concerned that there is a—what I call—a concerted effort to challenge and derail the interest of Black Minnesotans. And not just Black Minnesotans but Black people in the country. So I kind of tie a thread between what happened in Ferguson and what happened with Al Flowers being arrested by the Minneapolis police in South Minneapolis.
What’s happening is this tremendous pressure being placed against legacy institutions that serve our community and against people that we elect to serve us. I am asking State Representation Rena Moran, who represents District 65A in St. Paul, to explore this dilemma. What’s the mandate for you Rena? What do the people who elected you expect you to do on their behalf?
Rep. Rena Moran
I represent District 65 in St. Paul. First elected in 2011, I served two terms and I now am running for a third term to really represent the voices of my District, which is a very diverse District. A third is Caucasian, a third is Hmong, and a third is African-American. And there are others including Somali, Latinos and Native American.
And as a legislator who has been elected to represent the constituents of my district, it is really important to me that I do that in the best way possible. In a large way, that means to really represent those who have been disenfranchised, those who have been left out of the process, a community where policies have not always been fair and equitable.
I believe it’s really, really important to the constituents I represent at the Capitol, to bring those voices to the Capitol around those high disparities that we find in our community. And to do that in a way that is not always represented by other legislators, who do not know or have not lived the journeys of so many of the people in the community.
Sometimes it’s not always a clear-cut job. It’s important to say that this is community of people who love their families, love their community and want the best for themselves and their community. But in a lot of ways—and I will say this as a policy maker—policies do not always seem to support them in the best way possible. So for me the work that I do is really trying to bridge that gap between the community and the Capitol and the Capitol back into the community. To make those connections that help my Members of the House see the needs of the community in a way that makes it clear that we’re not asking for anything different from any of Districts that they’re there to represent. But I bring those voices that call for policy and decisions to be more fair and equitable. And what that looks like for other legislators may not be how I see it. And most of the time it isn’t.
If you don’t mind me giving a short example, along with my legislators from Minneapolis, Senator Bobby Champion and Senator Jeff Hayden, we have some core principles that focus our work on justice and fairness and equity for the Black community because that has not always been done. So we are three of a body of 134 who are working so hard to bring that to the forefront. And again, that may not look the same for everybody which is why resources are not always coming into our communities.
Representative Moran, here’s what I fear: Right now the three of you are the entire caucus of African-Americans in the State of Minnesota Legislature. That’s appalling because there ought to be at least five to 10 more members in the House, and perhaps 2 additional members in the Senate.
And I believe that the three of you have been principled champions of brining resources to our community. I think you do that the same way other legislators do for their communities.
But I feel that the success that you all are having makes you all targets because the history is, the norm is, that Black communities do not get served. And when you insist that our community issues, concerns, institutions get the legislative resources they need, then the supremacists and liberal paternalists question why are you doing things differently? Am I wrong in that analysis?
No, your analysis is right on point. That happens so often. Traditionally we look at policies and funding. Neither really reaches out into our communities and consequently, we don’t get those resources. And so we bring a perspective to the table about what that could look like and should look like and we get some push back. We get push back questioning why our community should we get funding. We have to push a little bit harder and say: the policies that are being created are disproportionately impacting our community. We must insist that recipients of funding should reflect the makeup of our community. The push back is this historical notion that “what we’re doing, we’re doing for all and we don’t need to make exceptions.”
But I tell you as a legislator, I see it done every single day. I see the Iron Range push for the Iron Range. I see them do it in the rural community all the time.
And nobody questions that.
Nobody questions that.
And we expect them to do that.
We expect it and funding is allocated to those areas.
But if you push for Black people and if Bobby Champion and Jeff Hayden push for Black people in the Minnesota Legislature, the white press wants to question why. They are calling it “strong-arming.”
It’s always like this. I was looking at the news this morning and one of the news channels was talking about women. And I said to myself they portraying this elderly Black woman in a negative light rather than celebrating our ability to show that we care or have passion, or just simply saying, no different from anyone else, we need our fair share.
We have to bring our voices to the table. We have to look at what that looks like, which is could definitely be different from how other people see it. But must look through the lenses of a policymaker knowing that when we are allocating, dealing with millions and millions of dollars, that that needs of our community must be addressed and resources, funding must come into our community as well.