Andrea Jenkins makes history as first Black Trans person to run a city council in US

Andrea Jenkins became the first Black Trans American to lead a city council after almost three decades in politics.

Midshot of Andrea Jenkins, the first Black Trans city council leader in the US
Image: Via Twitter @CapitalPrideDC

Andrea Jenkins is a triple-threat: a poet, performance artist and politician, and now she’s become a trailblazer as the first Black Trans person to run a city council in the United States.

“Poetry and politics have had a very close connection,” Jenkins said to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “As one of my favourite poets and mentors, Amiri Baraka, said, ‘Poets are the legislators of the world.’”

Born into what she has described as a “low-income, working-class community”, Jenkins was inspired by her circumstances to take great steps forward on behalf of the Trans and Black communities. Thus began her career in local government almost thirty years ago.

Jenkins studied at the University of Minnesota before becoming an aide to Robert Lilligren, a gay Native American Minneapolis City Council member, for 13 years. From there, in an effort to take bigger steps and implement bigger change, she pursued a degree from graduate school which taught her to “build community through policymaking”.

In 2017, Jenkins was elected to the city council, three years before the murder of George Floyd.

“(I was) so crushingly, emotionally wounded,” Jenkins recalled. “Four hundred years of racism flooded my mind and imagination: lynchings, the wholesale murders of entire communities, unjust Jim Crow laws that impacted America. Some people think racism (is) just calling you the ‘n-word’. No, it has been legally injected into our politics.”

The Minneapolis City Council declared racism a public health crisis in response, Gay Times reports, and she felt it was time for her to aim higher.

“Because (racism) literally impacts each and every one of us; it brings down our national gross domestic product,” she said. “Racism is literally impacting people’s physical health.”

She went on to say, “I really hope that my (role in) public life provides some inspiration for others to see Trans and gender-non-conforming people in a more positive light.”

“Every poem is a love poem,” Jenkins added, ever the poet. “And I think we have to inject more love and poetry into our public discourse.”

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