Where were you born and raised?
Raised in Nash, Texas but born in a hospital on the state line in Texarkana, Arkansas.
What is your occupation?
Legislator, small business owner.
What is your favorite childhood memory?
Going to my grandmother's house on the weekends. On Fridays, she often had her friends over to play cards or dominoes. On Saturdays, we usually went fishing or "going into town" to buy a few things that she needed.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is the nation's opportunity to remember not only the accomplishments, but the challenges of our most celebrated as well as our unsung black heroes and sheroes.
What do you believe is the most important issue currently facing the Black community?
Systemic inequalities that affect these key areas: wealth, employment, housing, education, healthcare.
When did you realize you were Black in America and what has that meant for your life?
There were several experiences that made me realize what it meant to be Black in America, Black in Texas. It was in first grade in the 1960s. I'll never forget it because it was my very first week in school. There were very few children who looked like me in the school, much less in my class. The white children all stared at me as if I was a fictional creature from a horror movie that had suddenly come to life. Some of them made negative comments about my hair and my skin. In fact, some of them were afraid to touch me because they thought that my skin color would "rub off" on them. To them, being black was "bad." My teacher treated me differently than my white classmates. She would often call me "gal" and very often would deduct points from my homework that she didn't deduct from my classmates. So, I realized then that I had to work harder than my classmates to maintain a good grade. Also, going to the local convenient store was eye opening. The employees (almost without fail) would follow me or my family around the store while the white customers were left unattended. As a child, I realized that being Black in America or being Black in Texas apparently posed a threat for many people who didn't look like me. I also realized that this was not the case with everyone, one of my very best friends ended up being someone who didn't look like me!
Who or what is your biggest inspiration to push for change?
My children. When I was a young bride, I couldn't imagine bringing Black children into the world without giving them the content and context of my Black experience and tools that I think they needed to succeed.
How have you supported or contributed to the local Black community?
For more than 30 years, I have worked to mobilize neighborhood and community residents and have worked with community-based partners to secure resources for under served areas. I've created, developed and implemented numerous programs for children, youth and seniors in an effort to contribute to the local Black community. I am also co-owner of a Black owned business, Young Family Farm, where we grow pesticide free crops on a quarter acre of land in the urban core. Our family business became a way to provide healthy food alternatives to not only my family, but area residents and the greater community.