The icon and legendary civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. became a visible spokesman and champion for voter rights and equity amongst Black and Brown Americans during the civil rights movement. The civil rights icon’s legacy is undoubtedly felt today, as America continues to steer toward a brighter future filled with justice and liberty for all.
While the country has made significant strides in the fight for equality, over the last year, the U.S. Senate has struggled to pass critical laws that would protect the voting rights of communities of color, and that would provide Black and Brown Americans access to capital to create and innovate thriving businesses.
The future is hopeful, with several Black elected officials disrupting state and local house divisions with steadfast policies and their pledge to support legislation that honors the freedom fighter’s prominent legacy.
The 28-year-old politician currently serves as the State Representative for District 83 in Alabama’s House of Representatives. According to his website, Gray says he’s “passionate about elevating his community” through “principles of community empowerment and engagement.”
The young changemaker, who is currently studying to obtain his Executive Master’s in Business Administration at Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, has fought to bring multiple policies forward with initiatives based in House Public Safety, Homeland Security, and Health.
In 2021, Gray sponsored legislation that “lifted the 28-year ban on yoga in Alabama’s K-12 public schools,” his career page notes. The Visionary Award recipient also has backed laws supporting state-level funding for Small Business Innovation Research and Small Technology Transfer Research.
Last year, Gray was honored as the Legislator of the Year by Alabama’s NAACP chapter.
Vivian Flowers is a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. She is the executive director for the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus and director of recruitment for diversity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The Democrat has been a long-time member of The Aging, Children, and Youth, Legislative and Military Affairs Committee, which fights for legislation supporting military veterans, the elderly, and the future of Arkansas’s youth. In 2019, Flowers backed AR SB4, which extended the statute of limitation for civil actions placed upon individuals impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and other public health emergencies.
Jamie Scott serves alongside Flowers in the Arkansas House of Representatives, representing the 37th District, including parts of Pulaski County. Scott is serving her second term in the Arkansas House and serves on several committees, including the House Judiciary Committee and the House City, County & Local Affairs Committee.
Scott challenged attendees to dream together during her keynote address at the University of Central Arkansas annual MLK Prayer Breakfast.
“Dreams do not stand in isolation,” Scott said. “Dreams require us to believe and work in courageous collaboration together…Dreams require us to face the difficulties as they are presented today and then face them again tomorrow. In order to turn our dreams for humanity equality into reality, we must act, we must do, we must stand, we must speak up and not dream lying down.”
Park Cannon serves in Georgia’s House of Representatives under District 58. The policy shifter has made significant strides in the Peach State with laws in women’s health and as a member of the Ethics Committee, governing the moral and ethical issues relating to individuals and groups involved in government functions throughout Georgia.
Cannon recently reflected on the impact that Dr. King had on her work as a legislative leader.
“Here in Dr. King’s birth state of Georgia, we understand the significance of supporting young leaders who are publicly political, and now more than ever we need legislative synergy in the South where the economic decline of Black people is apparent everywhere – from grocery stores to savings accounts,” Cannon shared in a statement. “As young Black legislators, we are reclaiming our time and uplifting the issues of working families, workers who have lost their job at no fault of their own, and those who are heading into the workforce for the first time,” she continued .” We are young and proud of the resiliency of our communities but seek structural change. That’s what the Poor People’s campaign was about— we are recommitting ourselves to teaching others about it and putting it into practice.”
The Kentucky Rep of District 41 is currently running for election in the U.S House. Scott, a Black Legislative Caucus member of the state, has already made a few big moves ahead of her campaign. Scott supported to amend KY HB68, an act that would extend the prison sentences of individuals who have committed hate crimes. She’s also fought to legalize the personal use of cannabis and to extend voting hours during election season. After the racial justice uprisings in the summer of 2020, Scott pre-filed a bill later known as Breonna’s Law that would ban all no-knock warrants within the state in honor of Breonna Taylor.
The Missouri House Representative is a two-term elected official who has been serving the people of the “The Bullion State” state since 2018. Manlove is passionate about addressing the critical issues that impact her district, from criminal justice to education. Manlove has worked alongside leaders to fund schools, jobs, and educational programs throughout Missouri.
The North Carolina Rep has been steadfast in her pursuit to implement changes within education and financial assistance for educational programs in her mighty district of Durham. Murdock was also a key supporter of North Carolina’s “Crown Act,” prohibiting discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture.
Pittman, who is a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is one of the youngest state-elected officials in Oklahoma. According to her website, “she is a sixth-generation Oklahoman, who is an American political leader and community activist. “Pittman made history as the first female millennial elected to serve in the Oklahoma 57th State Legislature.
The star politician has made influential policy moves in public health and across state and federal redistricting.
Deon Tedder is a Democratic member of the South Carolina House of Representatives District 109. The politician currently serves under the Medical, Military, Public, and Municipal Affairs Committee and the Invitations and the Memorial Resolutions Committee.
The Tennessee House Representative has become a prominent voice in the state’s local government committee. As a member of the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, Lamar made huge leaps for women’s reproductive rights. The visionary leader worked to implement legislation that would provide an equitable, resilient, healthy, and prosperous future for women across the state of Tennessee. Lamar is also a member of Emerge Tennessee program, the state’s premier organization that recruits, trains, and provides a robust network to Democratic women who want to run for office.
“As the representative for Memphis, TN, my hometown and the death place of Dr. King, I see first hand the systemic inequalities that plague the Black community and the loss of hope every day,” Lamar shared in a recent statement. “Historically, the South was the breeding ground for racism and the civil rights movement, and we see some of the largest economic, health, education and criminal justice disparities among Black people and families.”
She continued to explain her commitment to justice.
“It’s my obligation as a young Black legislator to continue the fight to end systemic racism, to fight for economic equity and justice, and defend civil rights,” she added. “That is why I will work alongside other Black legislators in the South to increase jobs and access to capital, build strong schools, healthy families, and safe communities which are catalysts to giving Black and underserved communities a pathway to equity – honoring the work and legacy of Dr. King.”