Fighter/Compassionate/Connector/Black/Coach

“There will always be a better tomorrow. “

These are the words that were consistently proclaimed by my father. Despite being sentenced at the age of 32 and spending 27 total years in prison, he never once gave up hope. My father’s sentence was commuted this past year by President Obama. He said that what had got him through being incarcerated for 27 years is that he always believed in a better tomorrow. In the back of my mind, I always thought my father could have the opportunity of being released, but when “45” was elected, I didn’t think it would happen in time. In September, I quit my job and decided to spend more time lobbying on his behalf.

People were upset that Hillary Clinton lost for a variety of reasons. I wasn’t hurt that a democrat lost or even a  female candidate lost, but what hurt the most was that could’ve been my dad’s last chance to gaining his life back. I really was coming to grips with fact that my dad might die in jail.. Three days before the inauguration of “45”, I got a call from my aunt and she said my dad was getting out. I remember having my daughter with me at my house and losing all sense of composure, because my emotions took over. He is now in Ohio, a published author and drug addiction caseworker. He speaks around the country at colleges sharing his story. He is not wasting time and is making every moment count by fulfilling his purpose.

After my father was let out, I began to think about what led to his release.I came to the conclusion that is took the right policies and the right public servants to make that a reality.

It took public servants and advocates who truly believe that they are here to serve the public, on all sides. These individuals had to have compassion.  Compassionate people that understand that behind laws and statutes that understand that the political process was an avenue to affect change. It also took people to understand that mistakes should not condemn you for a lifetime of hurt. My father was 32 when he was sentenced and he didn’t get out of prison until I reached the age of 32. I don’t believe in coincidences, but that things happen for a reason. This has led me to the decision to run for political office. . I want to advocate for people that don’t have anyone willing for speak up them. Some people don’t have fighters and that’s where I, where we, need to step up.

Fighter

I am a fighter. I have many memories of when I was younger of getting into a lot of fights.  I had to fight my way out of situations  because I was “too smart,looked differently, dressed differently, or from a different neighborhood”. I was taught to be fearless, never back down, and stand for what you believe in. Now, fast forward to my adulthood and I still embody this trait of being a fighter, minus the physical altercations. For the people I care for, I am willing to fight for their existence and success.. I want to fight for what’s right and for people that can’t fight for themselves.

I got that “fight” from my mother. My mother became a single parent when I was 5, once my father was sentenced. She lost the love of her life, her provider, her partner. My mother didn’t really have an extensive education and she was forced to figure it out on her own. She would work multiple jobs, one of which was being a waitress, just so that she could put a roof over our heads. She wanted better for me and my siblings and she fought for that. She put me in advanced classes, band, Boy Scouts, and fought tooth and nail for my little sister to get the support she needed  because she had a reading disability. She fought for our successes and to keep barriers from limiting our lives.

My Awakening

I grew up in the “hood”, but don’t call it the hood.  The place I grew up is a distressed neighborhood. Distressed by the lack of resources, foreclosures, lack of quality grocers, poverty,and city investment.  Unfortunately, violence is consequence of this destabilization. I never looked at it as people were bad. I understood there were systems that caused disruption of a neighborhood. Trauma induced by race, class, and poverty. I saw all of this swirling around me and when I was kid, unsure of how to process.  

In my first two years in high school, there were a string of young murders in Toledo. A kid was murdered in a robbery over some shoes and another due to being a brother of a gang member. Senseless neighborhood violence, but I needed to make sense of it all. I was concerned, devastated, and tired. I was tutoring kids and they were learning a ton and I knew that the sky was the limit for them while at the same time the harsh realities of being victims of systems that are not designed for their success. I needed a way to help, to amplify my impact.

My junior year in high school I began to volunteer for Jack Ford, who was in the running for mayor and albeit the first Black mayor of Toledo. He had a youth centered platform and he put an emphasis on listening to the people, especially around issues that were hurting us. When I talked to him, he talked about all stuff that I had witnessed myself swirling around the neighborhood. I wanted to learn more deeply about all that was happening in our community and from him, learn the necessary tools and solutions for real change. I worked on his mayoral campaign and in his office. As his mentee, he taught me a lot of things. We aren’t  just fighting daily battles of getting home and not being picked on or killed, we are fighting a broken system that must be mended, but mended as a community at large.

Connector

This is when I realized that I must use my passion, courage, and talents to do some good in the world. I begin to work on growing skills that could help me make an impact.  I have the ability to draw commonalities for people that assume that they have a lot of differences between them.Whether it was hitting the streets to work alongside families and organizers in Detroit, or connecting my athletes of mixed races and socioeconomic backgrounds to be a united team, my goal has been to bring people together.

I am currently working in the United States Senate. I am seeing first-hand how the policies that affect millions are made. When I see who is at the table in D.C and who is at the table when I go back home to Toledo, I see few people that look like me at the table. Throughout the country, people are divisive and reactionary, but no one is dreaming. No one is dreaming for the kids that are have amazing goals, nor are they dreaming for the kids that stopped dreaming because of life’s burden.

I know that this will not be an easy journey, but I believe in liberation. I won’t quit, nor be held back by doubts. I will change my community. I know the process will be hard and I might not win, but even in failing I will learn and get better. I will keep trying, no matter what, because people depend on it. I have a lot to look forward to and I know that I will learn more about myself and grow from it. That growth will allow me to positively impact the system and change lives.

 

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