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She’s Running: Sandra Sepulveda Could Be The First Latina On The Nashville Metro Council

Anne Tenkhoff

She’s Running is a FIERCE series highlighting Latinas running for office in local, state and federal elections.

Growing up, Sandra Sepulveda wasn’t dreaming about becoming the first woman president or introducing legislation as a state lawmaker. When she studied political science in college, she wasn’t visualizing herself campaigning for elected office. But this year, looking around her community and seeing how much it had been ignored, she did the previously-unimaginable: put her hat in the ring for Nashville Metro Council.

“I’ve been here for 20 years. I’m invested in this community. I’m running because of my neighbors. They’re my people,” the 25-year-old first-time candidate told FIERCE.

Born in Riverside, Calif. and raised in Nashville, Sepulveda spent most of her life in the district she wants to represent. She studied at its public schools, shopped at its supermarkets and dined at its mom-and-pop establishments. She also spent days without running water or light, didn’t have access to a local library and saw the struggle it was to get around without a reliable vehicle.

As a majority-minority district, the Mexican-American contender’s side of Nashville isn’t what’s portrayed in popular media. Here, there are no parks, no libraries and no community centers, despite its low-income residents needing these services and resources.

This is why she’s running.

We chatted with Sepulveda about making the difficult decision to run for office, what she hopes to do for her district, what serving her community would mean for her, the need for young voices and fresh ideas in politics and much more.

FIERCE: Why did you decide to run for Nashville Metro Council?

Sandra Sepulveda: I never thought I was going to run for office. That was never in my plan. But I started looking at my community, and I felt like we have been ignored for so long. My part of Nashville is a very diverse district; it’s a majority-minority district, and if you look at other parts of the city, they have more resources than we do. We are the only one that doesn’t have a community center, library or park. There also aren’t many sidewalks. There are a lot of people that live below the poverty line. I couldn’t sit back. I wanted someone who understood where the district was and who the people are, someone who could really represent them. That’s something that is important to me. I’ve been here for 20 years. I’m invested in this community. I’m running because of my neighbors. They’re my people.

FIERCE: I know that your priorities are tackling infrastructure, transit, public safety and education. Why are these issues currently crucial to your district?

Sandra Sepulveda: Like I said, a lot of people in my district live below the poverty line and rely on public transportation. I’ve been knocking on doors, and I’ve learned that people can’t get to stops safely because there are no sidewalks. They run the possibility of getting run over while walking to bus stops. That being said, we don’t have that many bus stops or bus shelters here. People who do use public transportation have to walk on the edge of the road to get there and don’t even have a bus shelter if it’s raining. We need simple things like this: sidewalks, bus shelters, more bus routes. It doesn’t even have to be that hard. A little could change a lot for us here.

FIERCE: During a talk you gave at a recent event, you said “there’s a voice in District 30 that has been ignored for far too long” and that you want to “amplify this voice.” How do you intend on doing this on metro council?

Sandra Sepulveda: What that would mean is I would have more town hall meetings to hear what the people want and need at this point. I would require a lot of input on them. Our district needs different things than others, so I would sit down with them regularly, just as I have been now that I’m running. I’ve been giving out my cell phone number in case people have questions or concerns. It’s putting the community first.

FIERCE: In that same talk, you said that District 30 is the only one in Nashville that doesn’t have a community center, library or public park. That’s astounding. What does a community lose when it does not have these local services?

Sandra Sepulveda: It’s something that boggles my mind. Kids are coming back from school and they don’t have access to the Internet, so they have to drive to a library in another district to do research on a computer for homework. Parents have to do the same to apply for jobs. We need a community center, where the community can meet, for kids to have a safe place to play. We don’t have a park. A lot of the kids are riding bikes on the street, because there’s no sidewalk. They risk something dangerous happening to them just for wanting to play. Some are lucky and have backyards, but not all do. What about the kids who live in apartments? We need these resources.

FIERCE: As a working-class woman, Latina and young person, what do you think these identities, and the perspectives and experiences that come with them, can bring to Nashville Metro Council that is new or needed?

Sandra Sepulveda: I didn’t have a lot of money growing up, that’s a fact. Sometimes, I’d come home and the water or light would be shut off because my family couldn’t pay it on time. A lot of people in Nashville are struggling, hardworking people. I know what that’s like. I know where they’re coming from. I would be able to represent them. With the cost of living going way up in Nashville, some people are getting left behind, and I want to make sure that doesn’t happen. As a Latina, I’d also be the first Hispanic woman elected to the metro council. There’s a man, but I’d be the first woman. Our community is growing so quickly here in Nashville. We are opening so many businesses and becoming such a big part of Nashville. I think it would be great to have more people that could represent them, and I want to be able to do that.

FIERCE: Of course, you are much more than your identities. You are the operations director for the Tennessee Democratic Party and studied history and political science in college. How do you think these experiences and the skills you’ve gained through them prepared you for this office?

Sandra Sepulveda: Back in college, I interned for two political campaigns. I know what the field work of it looks like, how to run a campaign. In my last semester of college, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life when someone from that internship, from that campaign, called me and asked if I wanted to work at the party after I graduated. I immediately jumped on it. I’ve been here for almost four years. I’ve done a lot of the day to day making sure the office is running smoothly. Now, I’m also doing the fundraising work. I look at the budget and work with the executive director.  I look at fundraising goals and plan actions for income. I’m not completely new to many of these things. I might be 25, but I’ve been doing this for a couple years. Also, we have to make sure we are training the next leaders, to include them. I hope that people wouldn’t be counting me out because of my age. There’s a willingness to learn and listen from young people.

FIERCE: It’s often said that the biggest and most effective change is done locally. What are you prepared to do or work on locally to combat the policy and rhetoric coming out of the White House?

Sandra Sepulveda: A lot of what I’d be doing on the council is more local, but there is one thing the current federal government is doing that affects the people of Nashville that I could help. The Trump administration’s voucher plan would hurt us. Our public schools aren’t getting the funding they deserve. I went to metro public school here from kindergarten to high school. I remember a time where multiple classrooms shared one book. We didn’t have funding. It’s stuff like that that I want to make sure someone is paying attention to. I lived that firsthand and know what it’s like to not have many resources for you in public schools. Teachers work so hard, and they need to be compensated the way they deserve. I feel many metro public employees are not getting the attention they need and deserve. So that’s one thing that would affect us on a local level being pushed at the federal level.

FIERCE: You’ve lived in District 30 in Southeast Nashville for 20 years. You were raised here, went to public school here, worked here. What would it mean to you to represent the city and people who helped make Sandra Sepulveda?

Sandra Sepulveda: Oh man! It means a lot to me. I grew up here, and it would mean so much to give back to the community that made me the person I am. I want to make sure I do right by them. I know a lot of people say what you want to hear. That’s not me. I want to make sure I put them before anything else. This is not about me. At the end of the day, it’s about them and that they’re taken care of. Come August 1, my mom, who is an immigrant and came here when she was 14 years old, is going to walk into the voting booth and see my name, our last name. That’s something I never thought of, something she never thought would happen. So I want to make sure I do right by her and the people of District 30. It’s big, really big, and I’m trying not to cry right now.

FIERCE: Wow, yeah, I feel that! As a first-time candidate, I think you can offer a lot to young Latinas who aspire to run for office. Do you have a message for Latinas with political dreams but perhaps see those as unfeasible?

Sandra Sepulveda: Get involved, get involved right now. We need so much help in politics. We need volunteers, people who know the issues and are passionate about the issues. We need all the hands we can get right now. If there are any young people that look at me and see themselves, the best thing to do is get involved. Start right now. Don’t wait. You can’t wait.

Read: She’s Running: Social Justice Leader Erika Almirón Is Ready To Represent Philadelphia’s Most Marginalized In Public Office

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The Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights Is For Women Like AOC’s Own Mami

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The Domestic Workers Bill Of Rights Is For Women Like AOC’s Own Mami

@domesticworkers / Twitter

After over a decade of lobbying, The National Domestic Workers Alliance’s (NDWA) work is on the verge of paying off. This week, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) introduced legislation that would establish the first-ever National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. 

The bill would effectively include domestic workers as worthy of the same rights as other American workers–including “paid overtime, safe and healthy working conditions, meal and rest breaks, earned sick time, and freedom for workplace harassment,” according to NDWA.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal is leading the charge to ensure this bill is passed into law.

Credit: @RepJayapal / Twitter

“Did you know most domestic workers are not covered by federal anti-discrimination and sexual harassment laws? Well we’re pushing back to change that,” tweets Rep. Jayapal. “My #DomesticWorkersBillofRights will give domestic workers the protections they deserve!”

The bill would grant basic worker’s rights to 2.5 million people in the U.S.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

Of those 2.5 million people, 91 percent are women, mostly women of color. Given that domestic workers aren’t required to be paid even minimum wage, and that their work doesn’t include benefits like health insurance, it’s important to make sure every worker earns a living wage. According to NDWA, 70 percent of domestic workers are paid less than $13 an hour.

The workers who do the heavy lifting in the shadows of our economy may finally be recognized as worthy of rights.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

NDWA has worked hard over the years to make it easier for domestic workers (home care workers, nannies and house cleaners). They even created a web app that would allow clients to contribute to a PTO and benefit fund for domestic workers. This bill would ensure that the government is advocating for every worker, so that domestic workers don’t have to fight so hard to advocate for themselves.

Members of the group broke off to meet with their representative.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

“We had a powerful meeting with @timkaine where our members in Virginia shared stories about abuse and exploitation in the workplace,” the organization tweeted. “Every single worker deserves to work safely and with dignity. Onward to a National #DomesticWorkersBillOfRights!”

The group met with AOC, who opened up about how the bill would help “little girls like [her].”

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

“My mom was a domestic worker,” she tells the group. “As a child I grew up reading books on the staircases of other people’s homes, and doing homework on other people’s dinner tables, because my mom was pursuing domestic work so that I could go on field trips and have a future.”

For AOC, this bill is about reparations for a group of people who often go unseen in this world.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

She praised the group for their advocacy, saying, “When you all are fighting for this, you’re fighting for little girls like me. You’re putting a shirt on a little girl like me’s back. I can’t tell you the reparations it has to see people who are used to being unseen and that’s what this bill does.”

The group also live-tweeted a conversation between several domestic workers and Rep. Jayapal.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

The stories were shocking. A nanny named Thaty shared her experience, saying that “being a nanny takes so much hard work. I don’t know many people who can handle caring for 5 kids under 5 years old! But our work is still considered unskilled. We need to bring our work out of the shadows — so everyone can know what we do and how hard we work.”

Jayapal touched on something deeper than granting legal rights–this issue is about overdue respect.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

So many families rely on domestic workers to come home to a clean home, safe and cared-for children, and more. They’re often not seen as employees but rather, “the help.”

But “The Help” encounter medical issues and injuries while on the job, without any legal protections.

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

Domestic workers are not included in federal protections for workers injured while on the job. So when Sylvia shared that she never fully recovered from a bad fall on the job, and though it impedes her ability to continue to work, she just has to grimace through it.

That same Sylvia is an inspiration. She told Rep. Jayapal that her experience “meeting workers who felt too vulnerable at work to raise their own voices forced me to be brave enough to raise my own voice, for me and for them. That’s why I’m part of the National Domestic Workers Alliance.”

We’re rooting for you!

Credit: @domesticworkers / Twitter

As Latinos, so many of our own moms, tías or abuelas have driven this industry that, frankly, serves as the backbone to our economy. They offer support to middle and upper-class families who have money but don’t have time, and their work supports our families. Time to give some respect.

Kellyanne Conway Asked A Jewish Reporter What His Ethnicity Was And Critics Are Now Calling Her Anti-Semetic

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Kellyanne Conway Asked A Jewish Reporter What His Ethnicity Was And Critics Are Now Calling Her Anti-Semetic

Does the Trump administration ever take a break from being downright harmful and problematic? Apparently not. On Tuesday, Kelly Conway asked a reporter about his ethnicity outside of the White House after the reporter asked a question about Trump’s racist tweets last weekend aimed toward AOC and three other congresswomen of color. 

Now, critics and users online are calling out the counselor to the president for a question that many do not truly know what to make of.

In an attempt to defend Trump’s racist remarks, she ended up saying something problematic herself and dug herself into an even bigger hole. 

“Following up on the previous question, if the President was not telling these four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?,” asked White House reporter Andrew Feinberg.

To which WH counselor Kellyanne Conway asked, “What’s your ethnicity?” 

Feinberg responds, “Um, why is that relevant?” Then Conway goes on to tell the reporter and the cameras, “My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.” The reporter tells Conway that his ethnicity is not relevant to the question he asked. 

Following his racist tweets from the weekend, Trump tweeted on Tuesday that his tweets were “NOT racist” and that he does “not have a racist bone” in his body. To which AOC responded in another tweet, “You’re right, Mr. President – you don’t have a racist bone in your body. You have a racist mind in your head, and a racist heart in your chest.” 

According to People, Trump also told reporters that the backlash he received from his racist tweets “doesn’t concern me, because many people agree with me. All I’m saying is if they want to leave, they can leave now.”

Instead of answering the reporter’s original question yesterday, Conway felt evidently provoked and reacted defensively by going on a tirade.

–Wich at this point, isn’t unusual or surprising from the Trump administration. 

“He’s put out all of tweets and he made himself available…,” Conway told the reporter. “He’s tired. A lot of us are sick and tired of this country –– of America coming last… to people who swore an oath of office. Sick and tired of our military being denigrated. Sick and tired of the Customs and Border Protection people I was with, who are overwhelmingly Hispanic by the way being … criticized.” 

The rest of (sane) America, however, is also sick and tired of Trump, Conway, and the rest of the Trump administration’s foolish behavior, racism, and bigotry. 

Feinberg spoke to CNN‘s Don Lemon to discuss the incident. “I was thinking that this is bizarre, I’ve been a journalist in Washington for about 10 years and I’ve never had any government official speak to me that way or ask such an inappropriate question.”  

Unfortunately, the White House reporter isn’t the only person who has felt this way during the Trump administration –– following his racist tweets aimed at four congresswomen of color, saying, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came… you can’t leave fast enough.” 

Lemon replied to Feinberg’s comment and said, “It seemed that she proved exactly what the critics of the president were saying by asking you that question, am I wrong?” To which the reporter responds that this isn’t the first time Conway has asked him an “inappropriate” or “irrelevant” question in response to one of his questions. 

CNN Editor-at-large Chris Cillizza also put it perfectly: “That Conway actually uttered the words “what’s your ethnicity” to a reporter — and refused to drop her line of inquiry –– amid an ongoing racial firestorm sparked by Trump’s own willingness to tell non-white members of Congress to go back where you came from is stunning, even coming, as it did, from an administration that has repeatedly shown there simply is no bottom.” 

Since asking the reporter, “What’s your ethnicity?” Conway addressed it in a tweet saying, “This was meant with no disrespect. We are all from somewhere else ‘originally.’ I asked the question to answer the question and volunteered my own ethnicity… Like many, I am proud of my ethnicity, love the USA, and grateful to God to be an American.” 

People also took to social media to rightfully criticize Conway and the irrelevant and inappropriate question she asked the White House reporter.  

Folks on social media also shared their own personal instances when someone has asked coded questions about someone’s nationality and/or ethnicity. However, all while expressing that although these are often questions asked by anyone but a government official –– especially one working for the White House. 

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