The icon and legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. became a visible spokesman and advocate for voter rights and justice among black and brown Americans during the civil rights movement. The legacy of the civil rights icon is undoubtedly being felt today as America continues to move towards a brighter future filled with justice and freedom for all.
While the country has made significant strides in the fight for equality, the U.S. Senate has struggled over the past year to pass important legislation that would protect the voting rights of communities of color and give black and brown Americans access to capital to create and grow thriving businesses innovate.
The future is hopeful as several black elected officials disrupt state and local house divisions with staunch politics and their promise to support legislation honoring the freedom fighter’s prominent legacy.
The 28-year-old politician currently serves as the state representative for District 83 in the Alabama House of Representatives. According to his website, Gray says he is “passionate about strengthening his community” through “principles of community empowerment and engagement.”
The young changemaker, who is currently studying to receive his Executive Masters in Business Administration from Auburn University’s Raymond J. Harbert College of Business, has campaigned to align several policies with initiatives based on public safety, homeland security and the health of the advance house.
In 2021, Gray sponsored legislation that “repealed the 28-year ban on yoga in Alabama’s K-12 public schools,” according to his career page. The Visionary Award recipient has also sponsored legislation that supports government funding for small business innovation research and small business technology transfer research.
Last year, Gray was named Legislator of the Year by the Alabama NAACP chapter.
Vivian Flowers is a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives. She is Executive Director of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus and Director of Recruitment for Diversity at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
The Democrat is a longtime member of the Aging, Children and Youth, Legislation and Military Affairs Committee, which advocates legislation to support military veterans, the elderly and the future of Arkansas youth. In 2019, Flowers AR supported SB4, which extended the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against individuals affected by the coronavirus pandemic and other public health emergencies.
Jamie Scott serves in the Arkansas House of Representatives alongside Flowers, representing the 37th District, including portions of Pulaski County. Scott is serving her second term at 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 don’t stand in isolation,” Scott said. “Dreams require that we believe in bold collaboration and work together… To realize our dreams of human equality, we must act, we must act, we must stand, we must raise our voices, not dream while lying down .”
Park Cannon serves in the Georgia House of Representatives under District 58. The policy changer has made significant strides in the Peach State with women’s health legislation and as a member of the Ethics Committee, which governs the moral and ethical issues related to individuals and groups involved in government functions across Georgia.
Cannon recently reflected on the influence that Dr. King had on her work as a legislature.
“Here in Dr. King’s birth state of Georgia, we know the importance of supporting young leaders who are publicly political, and now more than ever we need legislative synergy in the South, where black economic decline is visible everywhere — from grocery stores to savings accounts,” shared Cannon in a statement with. “As young black legislators, we are reclaiming our time and lifting the heels of working families, workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and those who are entering the workforce for the first time,” she continued. We are young and proud of the resilience of our communities, but we strive for structural change. That is what the Poor People’s Campaign was all about – we recommit ourselves to educating others and putting it into practice.”
The Kentucky representative from District 41 is currently running for election to the US House of Representatives. Scott, a member of the state’s Black Legislative Caucus, made some big strides before her campaign. Scott supported amending KY HB68, a law that would extend the prison sentences of those who committed hate crimes. She has also fought to legalize personal use of cannabis and to increase voting times during election season. Following the racial justice riots of the summer of 2020, Scott filed a bill later known as Breonna’s Act that would ban all warrants within the state in honor of Breonna Taylor.
The Representative of the Missouri House of Representatives is a two-term officer who has served the people of The Bullion State since 2018. Manlove is passionate about addressing the critical issues affecting her district, from the criminal justice system to education. Manlove has worked with business leaders to fund schools, jobs, and educational programs across Missouri.
The North Carolina Representative has been relentless in her efforts to bring about educational changes and financial support for educational programs in her powerful Durham District. Murdock was also a key proponent of North Carolina’s Crown Act, which outlaws discrimination based on hairstyle and hair texture.
Pittman, who is a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, is one of Oklahoma’s youngest state elected officials. According to her website, “She is a sixth-generation Oklahoman, American political leader, and community activist. “Pittman made history as the first female millennial to be elected to Oklahoma’s 57th legislature.
The star politician has made influential policy moves in public health and redistribution at the federal and state levels.
Deon Tedder is a Democratic member of the House of Representatives from South Carolina, District 109. The politician currently serves on the Medical, Military, Public and Community Affairs Committee and the Invitations and Memorials Committee.
The representative of the Tennessee House of Representatives has become a prominent voice on the state’s local government committee. As a member of the Reproductive Freedom Leadership Council, Lamar made great strides for women’s reproductive rights. The visionary leader worked to implement laws that would provide women across the state of Tennessee with a just, resilient, healthy, and prosperous future. Lamar is also a member of the Emerge Tennessee program, the state’s premier organization that recruits, trains, and provides a robust network for Democratic women who want to run for office.
“Representing Memphis, TN, my hometown and the place where Dr. King, I see firsthand the systemic inequalities that plague the black community and the loss of hope every day,” Lamar said in a recent statement. “Historically, the South has been the breeding ground for racism and the civil rights movement, and we see some of the biggest economic, health, education and criminal justice disparities between black people and families.”
She went on to explain her commitment to justice.
“It is my duty as a young black lawmaker to continue the fight to end systemic racism, fight for economic justice and justice, and defend civil rights,” she added. “That’s why I will work with other black lawmakers in the South to create jobs and access to capital, build strong schools, healthy families and safe communities that are catalysts to give black and underserved communities a path to justice — to the Work honoring and legacy of Dr. Kings.”
#KeepKnocking: Park Cannon will not be charged for protesting Georgia’s voter-suppression law
Attica Scott, Kentucky legislator who introduced Breonna’s law, is running for Congress