The Brown Girls Guide to Politics is proud to partner with the State Innovation Exchange's (Six) Democracy Project and Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council to bring you a spotlight on six women of color legislators who are shaping progressive change in the states.
Today, we are spotlighting State Senator Stephanie Chang (MI).
What was the moment that made you fall in love with politics?
I didn't really have one specific moment - it was more of a cascading of experiences from high school to college. From learning about my identity and community's history as an Asian
American woman to becoming a student organizer working on issues affecting students of color on campus, the more I learned about the connection between my identity, social justice issues, and how everything intertwines with policy and politics, the more I got involved in politics.
What made you decide to run for office?
I had been working as a community organizer for about a decade before several friends, including now-Congresswoman, then-State Representative Rashida Tlaib, encouraged me to run for the State House. I was hesitant and took about six months to decide to run. After lots of reflection and talking with many friends and mentors and shadowing Rashida at the Capitol, I found that serving in the legislature would be a way to continue being an organizer -- I would just be organizing my colleagues and working on issues I may already have been working on! Running for office was a way to make change for my community in a different, impactful way.
Why does democracy and reproductive freedom matter to you as a state legislator?
Democracy and reproductive freedom, and so many social justice and equity issues, are so important to me because I value access and opportunity. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are seeing access to reproductive freedom and democracy limited.
What piece of reproductive freedom or democracy legislation are you most proud of advancing in your state?
I am proud of being part of several bill packages from the Michigan Progressive Women's Caucus. One example is a set of bills that would, if Roe v Wade is overturned, would help protect the right to an abortion -- because abortion is health care.
There are a lot of misconceptions about reproductive freedom. What is one of the biggest challenges you have faced as a champion of democracy and reproductive freedom and how did you overcome it?
I have served in the Democratic minority my entire time in office so far, and that has been a barrier to passing legislation related to reproductive freedom and democracy.
Why is it so critical, now more than ever, for women of color to get involved in politics and stand up for reproductive freedom and democracy?
Policy is only as good as the diversity and strength of the people involved in making it. Women of color bring important experiences, perspectives, and voices to any policy discussion but especially when it comes to reproductive freedom, maternal health care, and democracy.
Women of color are the most consistent voters. What should the government be doing better when it comes to centering the needs of women of color in policies?
We should look at every issue through a lens of equity and justice -- this would help ensure that we consider how a policy would impact women of color and other vulnerable populations. We should support the work of groups like Mothering Justice, which focuses on an agenda to support Black Mamas.
What advice do you have for those trying to enter into politics?
Bring your already-existing leadership, resilience, and passion to your work, and don't give up. You can do this!
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