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Awakened Convos: Delegate Lashrecse Aird Chats on Being One of the Youngest Elected Delegates

H.O.R.  This Is House of Ramirez and with me I have Delegate Lashrecse Aird. Please go ahead and introduce yourself, I see that you are doing big things. Some of our audience may not be familiar with you, so can you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

Delegate Aird: Thank you so much for having me. I am excited and I am looking forward to the conversation. I am in Virginia, about 30 minutes south of Richmond, serving in the Virginia House of Delegates. I am excited because I am a young Black woman, a mother…a sister, no different than anybody else, I just happen to have the privilege of taking a risk 5 years ago, running for elected office and once I was elected, I became the youngest woman ever elected in The House of Delegates. I am fortunate that I can work towards passing laws, electing our judges, and just trying to advocate for people who need it the most

H.O.R.  That is awesome. You are the hope, you are the dream for woman with children, regular women out here just pushing to do better in order to help our communities. You are that hope, you are that dream…if you can do it, then we can do it too! Congratulations to you for being the youngest one! 

Delegate Aird: It’s funny because when I first ran in 2015, all of the older leaders would say, I think that I have ties or socks older than you and I’m thinking oh wow, that is great. It was like you are too young and you should not be trying to do this, and I am living proof that is absolutely not the truth.

H.O.R. Exactly! We have to understand that we cannot live according to what society thinks or the small boxes that they try to put us in, we have to live outside of those boxes, because we can do big things, we can do more and you are living proof. 

Delegate Aird: Thank you for that. I think actually that I am one example of many. More and more, if we look at what is happening around us, we are seeing young Black and Brown leaders find their voice, find their place and they are bringing about the change that we need. So there are a lot of us out here thinking that we are tired looking for “it” in somebody else, we are going to look for it in ourselves to make it happen on our own.

H.O.R.  That is true and now is the time, our generation is picking up the torch that our ancestors…who are like we are a little tired, we started this and you all need to go ahead and finish it and we are like, alright…let’s do it!

Delegate Aird: If you look at so many great female leaders, civil rights leaders and giants and the age that they were around the time that they started to do this work, it is clearly our time, the baton is in our hands and so it is beyond time for us to show up and prove what our generation is going to offer. 

H.O.R.  Tell me, who have been some of your inspirations and mentors that you draw from to bring about change because you are a trailblazer?

Delegate Aird:  You know it is interesting because I believe that other women have been around me since the very beginning that I can recall as early as elementary, middle school and high school days and other women who were pouring into me but at the time it felt like, oh this is so cliché…you can do anything that you want, and you know that we have all heard these different sayings. But there have always been women who have attempted to show me the way and provide me with opportunity and that is why I strongly believe that we are as strong as our network is, because if you are not at the table yet, to have someone who is… that will vouch for you and who will open the door for you, that makes all of the difference and then I would say to be honest, my peers. 

To have other leaders around me, you have heard the phrase, iron sharpens iron (reference to Proverbs 27:17. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another), the Black and Brown leaders who are around me, we work together, we bounce ideas off each other and we use each other for support during very difficult times because you know that this work is not easy and to have other people around you who are traveling the road with you, they oftentimes are very helpful. Lastly, I would say that the other thing that I have learned is even if there is someone that you love and aspire to be and you do not know them, you can still pick up habits and watch their mannerisms and observe their leadership from afar and embrace some of those same tactics and strategies on your own. Some of my mentors do not even know that they are my mentor from a distance (they both laugh) they have helped me to be the very best, but I would definitely say that other women have helped to get me here. 

H.O.R.  That is wonderful and it is true, and I tell this to everyone, we do not pay attention to who is around us and who is mentoring us at a young age until we become adults and then we realize that they were pouring into me at a very young age, they cared and we have had elders in our lives that sometimes we have not recognized it until later, there are times that we have been able to see it earlier on but sometimes we do not realize it until we become adults…we’re peeping game now (Delegate Aird mentions that we need to take a little time to develop but once it clicks and you gte it, it is absolutely helpful). 

Exactly and we cannot take that for granted. So are there any other people that you consider to be mentors besides who you have mentioned, your parents or a specific person that you have been coaching with or bouncing ideas off of that you would like to mention?

Delegate Aird:  I would give credit to the woman who was really instrumental in getting me to elected office because she actually was a former elected official in the seat that I serve in now and when we I was in college, I remember her speaking at an event during a president’s forum and she said, anybody who would love to come and intern with me, my door is open and offered us the opportunity, I happened to be the only person who took her up on it and that was really the beginning of my journey even though I did not know it at the time, her name was Senator Rosalyn Dance and prior to being a Senator, she was a House Member, which is what I am and she laid down the path for me to travel, introducing me, helping me to understand the process, helping me to learn the district that I serve, I represent about 80, 000 people, and I can clearly say that without her believing in me and without that leadership early on in my life, I could be in a very different place and would have taken a very different path. So, I would give her specifically a lot of credit in helping me to get here today. 

H.O.R.  That is beautiful and when we see that there is someone there that actually sees that potential in you and who is willing to pour that time and that knowledge…you know, they have to be very patient with us, we do not know the ropes and they do and it is just beautiful to see that, it happens to all of us and we’re just blessed that you are in the position that you are in because like you mentioned, you are representing all of us, you may be located in the Virginia area, but  you represent all of us and that is beautiful. 

Delegate Aird: I think that is right and I believe that I have a responsibility. Oftentimes, women, especially young women really doubt our full capacity and our full potential because we do not always see those examples up close and personal, sometimes they are a distant figure that we see on tv or in the news, but we do not always have those examples right in front of us. So, it takes someone to usually tell us that you can do this and let me tell you why. Men, most of the time, they do not doubt (laugher) they do not care if they have the capacity or not, they do it if they feel like they want to do it.

When it comes to elected office, women have so many competing priorities and obligations, even as young women, you need that extra encouragement and support and now I feel that I have a responsibility to not just lift myself up but to look to my left, look to my right to see who is coming along with me and how can I help you get there because so many did that for me. 

H.O.R.  It is true that we face a higher challenge as females but then being Black and Brown women just adds to it. There is no barrier that is placed in front of us that we cannot overcome or go around or find a way through it. 

Have there been any challenges along the way because it is true that we do need everybody that we have in our corner to keep on pushing and as women, strong women, Black and Brown women, we can do what we want to do. There is no limit to what we can do. The system is not set up for us to be in the position that you are in, and you have broken through barriers, so have there been any challenges along the way?

Delegate Aird:  I appreciate that, there were certainly a number of challenges and I would say that they appear on a spectrum, some from early elected office happened to be growing pains, though they were a little different than what they are now. Early on, ageism was absolutely a thing, in addition to being Black and a woman. Frequently, you are surrounded by older leaders, especially in elected office. Many of those leaders would assume that because you are younger, that somehow you know less.

 Well interestingly enough, my life is one of hardship, adverse circumstances in being an older sibling that took on a lot of responsibilities because my mother had me when she was 16, my father was just retiring from the Navy, but they were very young parents and that comes with it’s own set of challenges. So, my life experience informs my decision making, it informs my advocacy but none of that is taken into account when you get into elected office and you are surrounded by these individuals who think that you are young, let me teach you something. 

So, that was a very real challenge early on and I think that it is true regardless of whether you are in elected office or any other profession, when you are young, it is just assumed that you know less. As a result, you have to be really strategic and deliberate about how you build your own brand. You have be deliberate about gaining that respect and that trust, but I will say that the good news is that once you do it, it is done and that is why I feel like I am okay now. Early on that was a real challenge but today that is not the challenge. Today the challenge is feeling like a broken record on issues that are impacting Black and Brown communities. 

Since the very beginning, I am carrying my own life’s experiences with me saying, I know these things are a problem because I live them and here, we are still trying to put laws in place that help people that are experiencing these difficulties and hardships and when you are in the minority, not just figuratively but literally in your thinking, it is very difficult to stay encouraged. You have to speak life into yourself to continue that fight because so many people are depending on it. But this is a real challenge. Lastly, I would say that just as a mom of 2 young boys and a wife, basically your elected office and your personal life is like work life Jenga, whichever you can keep from falling from day to day, trying to continue to prioritize yourself and your own needs, your family’s needs it is a true balancing act. 

H.O.R.  I believe it. You are definitely encouraging to all of us, mothers out here like you said, building our brand. I can see how initially that was a challenge but not anymore. You have overcome that and just because we are younger does not mean that we are less informed. I can see that the real thing that we need to get to our audience, our communities and everyone else is stressing the issue of voting, stressing the issue of being informed…read, look into things, be up to date on the things that are being passed into law without our knowledge. A lot of laws are being passed and people are not aware of them. 

Delegate Aird: I think that you bring up a really good point. I did not mention this as a challenge, but it is true. If I have to convince you every single year why your vote matters, decades after we fought to get the opportunity to vote, how am I ever going to teach you about how to work this system? Voting should be the bare minimum and if we ever want to bring about real systemic change, it takes strategy, it takes understanding the way that power works, and we are not going to get there if I have to focus on the bare minimum over and over and over again, and I know that it is not a popular thing to say but it is the truth! 

At this juncture in 2020, Black and Brown people should know the power that they have…they really have so much power. We should be able to demand anything that we want at this time but in order to demand, you have to show up. When we do not show up, the people who should be hearing our demands, do not feel an obligation to listen because how are you going to hold me accountable, what are you going to do? They do depend on that vote but if you are not voting, then you are completely ignored.

 So, I think if nothing more in 2020, people are beginning to feel the sense of urgency in voting but again, I would say that voting is basic, let’s talk about once we get the current occupant out of the White House, what are our demands going to be to hold the people that we put in accountable and how are we going to stay engaged and stay involved in that process and in order for me to teach you what that system looks like, I cannot spend 5 minutes talking to you about why voting matters. 

H.O.R.  That’s right, exactly…we have to knock out base one so that we can get to base 10. (Delegate Aird reaffirms, so let’s all agree that I need you to vote). Exactly, thank you for that and you also touched on the fact that you are a young mother of 2 children, a wife and that is beautiful. I am a mother of 3 boys (Delegate Aird responds by saying, you are busy, so you know). Yes, I understand so when you were talking, I could relate to that and to see a young woman that is in the position that you are in, you have a whole family, you understand where we come from because you are doing it too! You are with us! So, if you are actually doing this, then there is no way that we can sit here and say…oh I am not going to vote or I am not going to offer any input or any ideas or who we should put in place. There is no excuse. 

Delegate Aird:  I really hope that is the case. I think that one of the things that continues to surprise me after 5 years is how much people are surprised when they call my office and ask for help and they think, wow…you really helped me, that is my job, that is the job of your elected officials, we are here for you and if you do not ask, you will not get, if you do not demand, you will not get… and so this idea that elected officials are some how on a pedestal and maybe they should do this or maybe they should not do that for you. No, that is not the way that this system works. Voters are the boss! You come to me and tell me what you need out of this job. I need for us to fully embrace and fully understand how that relationship is supposed to work.

H.O.R.  A lot of people do not know, our youth do not know. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to talk to you right now and like you mentioned, closed mouths do not get fed. So if you do not ask, how are you going to receive? You have to ask first, and we have a great representative here to help us. We have them everywhere. 

Delegate Aird:  There really are so many and they are just like me, eager to “put you on” to game but not if we are STILL talking about the basics. 

H.O.R.  Exactly but hopefully, everything changes like you mentioned, 2020 is the year of awakening, of change, the year that we all are in tune, as we can clearly see it is a little funky…there is a lot of weird things going on (laughter)

Delegate Aird: So much…2020 has shown us so much hardship, so much pain, which is what makes this election year that much more critical. I know that every year, every elected official says, oh this is the most important election of your lifetime…no, it really is! I am not just saying it. 

H.O.R.  Thank you for letting us know, thank you for explaining that to us. It is very important that our readers and our viewers that are tuning in to this interview, that they have the opportunity to become informed and if you already know, just teach somebody else who does not know. It is important that we pour into our youth.

So, let me ask you, you worked on the legislation to pass Breonna’s Law, which is about the No Knock Warrants, tell me about that, how was that experience for you? That is big, it is major and this whole case…it could have been our cousin, our sister, it could have been our auntie, our moms and you know, that was somebody’s family member, she is a part of us because we can see what our communities go through, our Black and Brown communities go through every single day with this, so it is important that this was passed. How was that experience for you?

Delegate Aird:  I really appreciate this question and I think that you are absolutely right. I feel heavy even just thinking about it. I feel such a deep connection to the purpose of the legislation and I honestly have to first pause and say, if it were not for protestors, if it were not for advocates, many states like Virginia would not even be in a position to have this conversation and because of it, we are now able to not only just have a conversation about it but as a lawmaker that feels such a heavy connection to its purpose, not just for myself but for the community that I represent, we are actually allowing this to change the system in Virginia. Early on, when I introduced the bill, which is the first stage of it becoming a law is, police, law enforcement, police chiefs, sheriffs, they were adamantly opposed and what was interesting is, many of them would admittedly state in Virginia, that they rarely use No Knock Warrants but they still did not want it to be eliminated as a tool that they would have. 

So, after further research, what I know is even if you are rarely using it, its use is still detrimental to Black and Brown communities. Because oftentimes, it is used to in highly policed urban communities. It is used in search of marijuana and/or associations with drugs. What is very clear is that no matter whether it is law enforcement or the individuals on the premises, the element of surprise is less important when you compare the risk of violence actually occurring at the element of surprise and so, it is just one of those things where it is dangerous all around. It is dangerous for law enforcement; it is dangerous for the individual who the search is being used on and it is just not a tool that should be considered.

When we go back in history and look at No Knock Warrants during a period of being tough on crime and cracking down on drugs, even then it was controversial. It was not one of these laws that was put in place where everyone said, this is great, we should do this and so we are able to take a really tragic situation by the way, we still want justice for Breonna Taylor, right? (H.O.R. confirms that we do). We want to take a tragedy and leverage it to save more lives and to make a difference in Black and Brown communities. This honestly, is still making its way through the general assembly, it has just passed the first hurdle in The House of Delegates. It has to go over to the Senate before it will become full law, but law enforcement is still fighting because they do not want to see this happen, but we are not going to give up and we are going to keep pushing because our communities depend on it.

H.O.R.  Yes and it is important that we continue to encourage the community to stay informed about this like you said, it passed the first phase but for it to become an actual law it has to pass in the Senate but law enforcement is fighting vigorously against its passing and becoming law. They want it easy; they have had it so easy and they want to keep it that way so that they can move the way that they want to. It is not safe for the individual that is being targeted, for law enforcement, so you are not only thinking about our Black and Brown communities, you are also considering the safety of law enforcement, you are taking into account the whole spectrum including the community itself. 

Can you imagine if you just go and barge into someone’s house and a stray bullet hits a neighbor, it is a problem for everyone. The fact that they are fighting it, tells us a lot. It is waking us up.

Delegate Aird:  It reminds me of why the relationship between advocates, activists, protestors, and law makers is so important. I mean look, you had The March on Washington just recently which was a renewed focus on all of these things but if you listen to almost every speech closely, that change that we desire, that pain that we are seeing in the streets, that all leads to laws changing. If it were not for them, the law makers like myself and other young Black leaders, we could not do this work and so the relationship is intrinsically linked. I may not be the one that is out there on the bullhorn, but I still need you to be out there doing that work so that I can do the other work on this end, which will actually bring about the change that we need. 

H.O.R.  It is a full circle, we are doing this together, it is teamwork. If we are not all doing our part, if we are not all united, if we are not all coming together for the cause, this cannot work. As you mentioned, we do our job out here but you are also doing your job on your end, which is important.

Tell me about some of the pros and cons that you have experienced  in your career?

Delegate Aird:  I think that there is a lot of sacrifice in regard to time, especially in the office that I am in and the re-election is every 2 years. So, it often feels like you are forever running for office. Campaigning is a complete drain from a time standpoint, and we serve in a part time legislature, that means that I still have another full-time job. I am working to balance the lively obligations that exist as well. But I think that I would reiterate the greatest challenge is oftentimes, I can see clearly what the needs are in my community, but I am one vote in my body of 100, so there are 99 other people that need to be convinced that what I am trying to accomplish for Black and Brown communities is equally important to them and the people that they represent. 

When a lot of advocates come to me, they are already talking to an ally, they are talking to someone who is on their side. So, convincing many advocates to put their pressure in this instance on Republicans and even Democrats in some examples that are not representative of Black and Brown communities and who do not have a life experience to understand the needs, that is often a challenge and one of the obstacles in really effectively bringing about change and making some of these ideas into actual law. 

The one thing that I have not talked about is money and this political environment and this goes for people who are already in elected office, for anyone who wants to get into elected office, money is still a major factor in being successful. If I wanted to get my message out with digital advertising or with campaign mailers and to have the staff to keep my constituents aware, it all requires money. If I want to run a campaign and be successful being elected to office, which is something that I have do to basically every year and a half, that requires money.

We represent communities that are not as affluent and so where is this money coming from? I think that is a challenge within itself that we do not spend a lot of time talking about. Many of the older leaders that are in elected office, they are at a stage in their careers where they have worked, maybe they are retired and have pensions and they are also independently wealthy. That is a very different dynamic than what young leader’s financial position is as they are trying to make it up the ladder and so that is absolutely a real challenge and barrier.

H.O.R.  Exactly and I am glad that you brought that up. It is very important that we also understand that we not only need to support you by also voting for the bills that are being passed or that are attempting to be passed to help our own but to think about where does the funding come from, we also need to support you in that way and not just you but everyone around us, every state has representatives and we need to be aware of who is out there fighting for our needs as a community and we need to pour our financial support into them too. 

Delegate Aird:  I think that I would add at every level of government, so I am at the state level but you have lower level representatives, your Mayor, your city Councilors, and then you have representatives on the next level from me, your Governors, Lieutenant Governors, Attorney Generals, we have an obligation to pay attention to not just our Presidential candidates but literally those leaders who are on the ballots who actually impact you on a daily basis.

If you are worried about your streets, streetlights…those are your local Government Representatives, knowing the difference, knowing who to go to for what and then paying attention to what they are doing because they all have very different impacts that you may feel and sometimes that you do not feel in your daily life.

H.O.R.  That is true, thank you for that. So, do you have any advice for anyone that is aspiring to do what it is that you do or for our young entrepreneurs that are coming onto the scene, coming out of the small boxes that society has put them in, that would like to venture out into doing more?

Delegate Aird:  I would say a few things, I think that we could have an entire conversation about this. But the short version is, it is a grind, and you have to be willing to do the work. I can tell you every single day, I am trying to figure out how I can get it even more. It is constantly on my mind; it is a part of who I am, and I care a lot about it. If it is not your passion and you just think that you want to do it, spend some time with yourself to figure out why…figure out what value-add would you bring to your respective industry as an entrepreneur and especially as an elected official.

I would also say to do your homework. You have to know every element, as much as you can about this work before you decide that you want to jump in. Oftentimes, you might get people who see some of these positions as luxurious and notable and they think, oh I want that kind of attention, but this job has a lot of lives at stake, a lot of people who are depending on you and you cannot do that haphazardly. 

I feel pretty confident in saying that you should know yourself. In elected office, the quickest way to be compromised is to not know your values, to know what issues are you willing to die on your sword for, because that is how people can pick you off with money, pick you off with any type of tradeoff if you are vulnerable to not being sure about what you stand for. But from a logistical standpoint, if you really want to get to elected office, some of the very first things that I did was to get involved in campaigns, you cannot get here without campaigning, so get some campaign experience, see how that feels, see what that looks like and how it works. 

Get to know your community. What are the actual needs of the area that you want to represent? Who are the power brokers? There are always power brokers in every community when it comes to political office, whether that is school board, all the way up to state level. Another thing to consider is if people even want to see you in office, it should not be something that you just decide that you want to do on your own. People should actually believe in you and you have to have a team of people that are willing to help you get there. If you do those things, that lays a strong foundation. I would end by saying, every level of change does not have to be elected office.

We have state agencies that are just as critical to our communities. The Department of Education, The Department of Health, Transportation, all of these things that especially impact Black and Brown communities and we do have enough Black and Brown leaders that want to go and do that work and that is really where the levers of power are, because even when I pass a law, at these state agencies, they are responsible for how that law is implemented. If we are not at the table there, there is a lot that can get by, a lot that can be delayed and that has a real day to day impact on us and so my new thing is encouraging people. let me see you go work there as well as in elected office, whether it is on the local or state level. Because we really need to be at the table there too.

H.O.R.  It is true and thank you for that because we need our communities to be involved in every aspect. The advice that you gave us about knowing ourselves, you have to know yourself and you mentioned that if you do not, you will be vulnerable to anything that the opposing parties throw at you to put you in their corner and now you are being manipulated into working against the cause. 

Delegate Aird:  We do not have any time for that because we are in a state of emergency. Our people are hurting, our people are suffering, and there are a lot of Black and Brown leaders that are doing a lot of great work but also to be clear, we have a lot of Black and Brown leaders that need to go and find something else to do with their time. If you are not here about this work and you are not here about helping people, I need you to move on and if you are not planning to be about this work, I need you to not to waste your time. 

H.O.R.   Or get out the way so that I can do it (they both laugh), But it is true, if you are in the way get out and if you are not with what I have going on, get out. So, nowadays, it is important to follow each other on social media, are you on any social media platforms? I saw your website, now that was impressive. If I need help, I can just click the button, you really are serious.

Delegate Aird:  That is my job. I do have my website which is, airdfordelegate.com and you can find out what I am doing from a political campaign side to legislatively. But I am also on Instagram @lashrecseaird and I am on Twitter @delegateaird and then I have 2 Facebook pages, one is a like page which is @airdfordelegate and @lashrecseaird but I am not able to accept anymore friends so please do not think that I am ignoring you but once you reach the limit, you are just not able to. I would love to have you on my like page because I can see those too and I manage all of my own platforms, so it is actually me. I might have someone to post something for me every now and again but for the most part, I do see your DM’s and I take it very seriously that if I am not the person that has the answer, I can go and find it. If you need some advice or help, people will tell you that they DM me and I do get back to you because I feel that we have to lift each other up and then if you come crazy, you will be left.

H.O.R.  No, you will get checked, that is what you need to do Lashrecse…you need to check somebody (The Delegate is laughing in the background) and if you do not have the time, then shoot them my way, I’ll check you in a minute.

Are there any shout outs that you would like to make?

Delegate Aird:  I actually thought about this and I would like to shout out everybody who showed up to The March on Washington recently. I want to shout out every activist, protestor, advocate…the people out there who are using their own personal time to do this work. I mean when I say that if it were not for them, we would not be in this moment, I truly mean that and so I feel that the shout out goes to them and the shout out goes to us because we are showing up like never before, we are not backing down. Look at the NBA players, the WNBA players, I mean in ways that we have never seen, we are being there for each other, we are living what we wanted to see in others, and what we are did not and we are forcing the change to come, so I think that is where the shout out needs to go. I am excited to see where we are headed, especially in November because all of my beautiful Black and Brown family is going to show up and vote. 

H.O.R.  I know that’s right, and it is very humbling…thank you, I appreciate that. You can tell that you are very passionate about it. 

Delegate Aird:  Thank you but then also the shout out goes to you because you were open to having this conversation, a lot of times people are like…oh I do not want to talk politics, I do not want to hear about voting but you were open enough to say let’s have the conversation and allow the folks on your platform to hear what I have to say and for that I am grateful. There are a lot of people who do the commentary out there and some of the time the people actually slaving doing the work would be like, hey, hey over here (she laughs). You are helping me to bring my lived experience to your platform, I am totally grateful.

H.O.R.  Thank you so much, that is humbling. Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. 

Delegate Aird:  Absolutely, I appreciate it and anytime that you want me back, I would be happy to. 

H.O.R.  I appreciate that, thank you.

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  • Leslie Ramirez, House of Ramirez

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