“I know what it’s like to be marginalized. My family, a working family, barely survived the recession. I know what it’s like to experience racism. I’ve experienced sexism. So, who stands up for us? Who speaks up for us?”
Sammi Brown is a young woman of color raised in West Virginia. And she has a firm understanding of the traditional power structures that have governed the state and its people for many decades.
And, Sammi says, it’s a structure that has marginalized too many citizens for far too long.
So she is going to do something about it. Sammi is going to run for office. In 2016, Sammi will run for the House of Delegates seat of her home district, the 65th, in Jefferson County.
“I don’t look or sound like anyone else in WV politics. I’m young, I’m interracial, and I don’t come from money,” Sammi says. “It’s a sad truth, but I’m everything that’s just not there at the moment.”
Sammi is one of many aspiring political candidates that will take part in the West Virginia Candidate Training Academy’s Candidate Training Series this November and December.
For more information on the Candidate Training Series visit ocofwv.org/DoSomethingGreat.
These non-partisan trainings aim to help everyday citizens who are interested in running for office by providing lessons on things like how to make a stump speech, tips for fundraising, and how to create a campaign strategy.
Sammi says these events provide a unique opportunity to get in a room with other people – often with differing perspectives – who are passionate about progress in their communities.
“It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat, a Republican, or whatever. Improving our communities is going to take a lot of work, and the people who want to do that from the position of elected office are going to be under a lot of scrutiny. It’s really important that we are encouraging of people willing to take that step.”
While working her way through school, and an MBA at Shepherd University, Sammi was also behind the scenes for a Top 40 radio station in D.C.
“Politics wasn’t on my radar. I interned for a popular morning show. That’s where I thought I was headed: Pop music and production work.”
But after experimenting with a move to the bigger radio market in Los Angeles, Sammi says she had the kind of soul-epiphany that comes to many young people inspired to do bigger things.
“I wanted to help people, and I didn’t quite feel like I was making the kind of impact that I’d been looking for. I just wasn’t doing the most that I could be doing with my life.”
And so she responded to a call to return home to do community organizing work around advocating for working families.
“My mother had been in the labor movement. She’s the hardest working person I know. I guess I was just delaying following in her footsteps,” she says.
That work, for the Unity Table in partnership with the AFL-CIO, was an eye-opening experience. Sammi says it was those long days slogging the pavement and knocking on doors that solidified in her the belief that too many West Virginians did not have a representative voice in government.
“I was really in the trenches,” she says. “I had people yelling at me in doorways. This isn’t easy work. But then, I really got to understand what it was that my community was missing. Voters weren’t apathetic. Voters had lost faith in leadership.”
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘well, you can either be discouraged and quit, or you can go and try and do something about it.’”
Sammi says there is an urgent need for people in elected office to find a way to make citizens feel like this government is their government – that what’s happening in Charleston is reflective of their concerns and hopes.
“Otherwise, the average person just isn’t going to believe in government anymore. Most 18 to 35-year-olds are completely disenfranchised by government. And that’s only going to get worse, without honest and transparent conversation. That’s my motivator, really. I want to be a part of that conversation.”
This post is not an endorsement of this, or any candidate. These trainings are rigorously non-partisan, and the West Virginia Candidate Training Academy aims to attract aspiring candidates of all political and social persuasions.
Learn more about the Candidate Training Series at www.ocofwv.org/DoSomethingGreat