Bay Area Women Leading Behind the Scenes in Politics

L to R, from top- Treva Reid, Brigitte Cook, Iris Merriouns, Nyeisha DeWitt, Katherine Jolly, Pamela Calloway, Shereda Nosakhare, Maïsha Everhart, Julie M. Waters, and Aisha Brown. Photo by Ashley Chambers

L to R, from top- Treva Reid, Brigitte Cook, Iris Merriouns, Nyeisha DeWitt, Katherine Jolly, Pamela Calloway, Shereda Nosakhare, Maïsha Everhart, Julie M. Waters, and Aisha Brown. Photo by Ashley Chambers

The face of leadership is changing. More African American women are being represented in the political arena. They manage communications for state leaders, represent politicians in the State Assembly, and play a big role in policy decisions made by elected officials, on the local, state, and federal level.

 

In a recent interview with The Post, Bay Area women leading in government shared what their motivations are.

“My biggest motivation has been learning about how to create a better community for my family, friends and the constituents that I serve,” said Aisha Brown, Senior Legislative Aide with Board of Supervisor Keith Carson’s office.

“Knowing that I can impact change at the policy level and community level is a great benefit of being in politics. Also, empowering people to be a part of a movement for change and not to accept less than greatness is the motivation to continue on in the work that I do,” Brown added.

As Senior Advisor to Mayor Jean Quan, Maisha Everhart said her biggest motivation “has been to serve my community and to expand opportunities for women and people of color.”

“Embedded in our unique experiences are useful tools that prepare us to make the best policy decisions and recommendations and be the strongest advocates for social justice and change,” said Nyeisha DeWitt, senior field representative for Assemblymember Rob Bonta.

She continued, “It is my responsibility and civic duty to show young women who have also dropped out of high school or been abused, and single mothers on welfare, that their perceived circumstantial failure is not tantamount to eternal inadequacy.”

With a passion for advocacy and activism, Treva Reid, Senior Field Representative for Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, said she wants “to see more women participating and leading in the political process, discussions and decisions that impact their families and our community.”

Julie Waters, Senior Field Representative with Assemblymember Skinner, shared, “Far too often, I am in political meetings where I am the only African American present and/or the only woman present. I find this to be incredibly disheartening and have made it my personal goal to ensure that people who look like us are elected and stay elected.”

Pamela Calloway, District Director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee, said she is motivated by the opportunity to serve.

“My college years in the late 70’s, early 80’s were a time when public service was a noble calling. That service may be within the political system or outside the system, but the responsibility to use one’s gifts, skills and training in the service of others was expected and respected,” said Calloway.

Katherine Jolly, Deputy District Director for Congresswoman Barbara Lee, shared that “being able to work on policies that impact the most vulnerable in our community, especially families and children,” motivates her in the work that she does.

For other young women and girls, Jolly inspires them to “Dream big, work hard, do not take no for an answer, and do not limit yourself to others expectations of you.”

“More women should be in politics,” said Iris Merriouns, Chief of Staff for Vice Mayor Larry Reid. “If you look at the numbers of women in the legislature, we’re not there, so you get an imbalanced view.”

She continued, “We need to teach the population without a voice how to effectively navigate our systems and to be civically engaged.”

“Being in a position to directly impact the lives of people, particularly those who are under-represented,” is what motivates Brigitte Cook, Community Liaison for Councilmember Lynette McElhaney.

“It allows me to bring my experience and perspective as a African American woman, raised in the inner city by a single mother, first-generation college student, to the critical work of looking at policies that will impact all Oaklanders,” she said.

Shereda Nosakhare, Policy Analyst for Councilmember Libby Schaaf, said, “Beyond being a Policy Analyst in City Hall, some of the most rewarding work I have done is to use the skills I have learned in this job as a community activist and organizer. The average Oaklander does not feel their government is responsive to their problems but every day I get a chance to change that.”

She added, “I want nothing more than to see my community thrive, succeed and become more prosperous.”

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