About Rena: Rena's Story |
Rena at the Legislature |
Education & Training |
Rena's Story - Click to Watch the Video
Rena's sense of community came from her large family and a neighborhood where people truly looked out for each other. The home she grew up in was a welcoming place for all the neighborhood kids. A strong family and sense of community are at the very core of who Rena is today.
Rena is the mother of seven children. The oldest, LaSheeka, is married with a son and daughter. The youngest, Silver, is now a freshman at The University of Mankato in Mankato, MN. As the mother of seven, Rena knows what it is to sacrifice for the greater good of her children.
Ten years ago, she moved to the Twin Cities in search of a better life for her kids. Homeless, she and her children stayed in a Minneapolis shelter for several months. It wasn't long before she and her family went from homeless to homeowners. She found her first job in Minnesota earning minimum wage at Camp Snoopy, then at the YMCA on University Avenue before moving on to work at a commodities trading firm in downtown Minneapolis for five years.
During this time, she began to get involved in social change work. A defining moment came when the city only paved half of her street, even though the entire street would be assessed for the cost. She started knocking on doors, organized her neighbors and began meeting with elected and city officials. Soon after, the city paved the rest of her street. An activist was born.
After five years, she left the comforts of her corporate job to become a Wellstone Organizing Fellow and embark on her new vocation of community organizing. She was quickly hired on by Urban Embassy, where she would go on to lead the efforts to engage the African-American community during the 2008 election.
Rena is a proven educator, organizer, and a leader. We need a Representative who will do more than just vote "the right way" at the capitol - we need someone like Rena who has proven her ability to unite diverse groups of people and opinions, and then have the passion and experience to fight the battles at the state capitol.
Rena was sworn into the House of Representative on Jan 4, 2011 as the First African American to represent St. Paul at the Capitol. She currently sits on three committees:
- Education Reform Committee
- Health and Human Services Reform Committee
- Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance Committee
In addition, Rena has been appointed to 3 committees by the Governor:
- Minnesota Task Force on Prematurity
- Council of Black Minnesotans
- Visible Child Work Group
She is currently running for re-election in the upcoming election on Nov. 6, 2012
Rena at the Legislature
Strengthening St. Paul Neighborhoods and Communities:
- Voted against expansion of the Castle Doctrine gun law, which allows individuals to execute deadly force should they feel threatened
- Chief authored bill to protect the property valuation for businesses along the Central Corridor Light Rail Line
- Advocated for the DFL jobs plan, which included initiatives designed to get Minnesotans working and improve workforce development
- Co-authored legislation to grant funding for a St. Paul Regional Ballpark in Lowertown
Easing Financial Burdens on Families:
- Co-authored the Child Care Affordability Act to help Minnesotans cover the costs of child care
- Co-Author of the “Healthy Minnesota Exchange” providing a consumer-based program to ease the cost and complexity of buying health insurance
- Co-authored bill to help responsible homeowners, underwater with their mortgage
Ensuring a World Class Education for All:
- Voted to pay back, in full, the $2.4 billion owed to our schools
- Voted against the largest cut to Higher Education in Minnesota history
- Co-authored legislation providing funding of all day Kindergarten
- Co-authored bill to fund integration revenue in order to increase student performance and equitable educational opportunities for all students in Minnesota
Standing up for the Equality of All:
- Voted in favor of asking the state’s millionaires to pay the same tax rate as working and middle class families
- Voted against the Anti-Marriage Amendment; Co-Authored bill to repeal this proposed amendment
- Voted against a constitutional amendment that would restrict voting rights for seniors, students, and Minnesotans without a photo-ID
- Advocated against proposed repeal of equal pay laws that ensure fair wages for women
Education & Training
- Bachelor's Degree in Early Childhood Education from Southern Illinois University
- Graduate of the public policy program with Community Action Partnership of Ramsey and Washington Counties
- Wellstone Organizing Fellow
- LISC housing policy graduate
- Public Policy Project graduate
- Organizing Apprentice Project Fellow
- Neighborhood Leadership Program participant with the Wilder Foundation
Current: Currently has served one term as the First African American Representative of St. Paul- District 65A. Parent Leader Coordinator with Prevent Child Abuse Minnesota.
Rena created and currently directs a statewide parent leadership team that ensures the "parent voice" is represented in the policies of the Minnesota Department of Human Services Child Safety and Permanency division.
Previous: Lead Organizer with Urban Embassy. The mission of Urban Embassy is to "engage, educate and empower the African American community politically in the non partisan arena." In 2008, Rena personally registered nearly 1,000 new voters, recruited a wide range of election judges from communities of color and developed dozens of new leaders equipped to take a message of hope and accountability out into their community. She was recognized with the "Emerging Leader" award for her efforts.
Rena has also worked in the early education field for over 15 years, including HeadStart, Respite Care for Children and Families affected with the HIV virus or AIDS, YMCA Childcare Center and other Private/Public settings.
Rena has life long experiences working with communities, connecting families, and empowering individuals. She is a community organizer who advocates for racial, social, economic justice and equity. The following gives a snap shot of some of her community work over the last several years:
- Board member of Summit/University Planning Council & Chair of the Community Improvement and Safety Committee of the Summit/U - Planning Council.
- Founder of the "Save Our Homes" campaign. Organized community meeting with over 150 community residents to ensure that existing homeowners.
- Elected member, Central Corridor Community Agreement Coordinating Committee (member of affordable housing committee).
- Board member of Model Cities. Mission: promote the physical, mental, spiritual, social, and economic well-being of individuals, families and communities who are under-served.
- Past Mission Coordinator at Camphor Memorial United Methodist Church.
- Organizer with the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation. Began as a resident leader, then became resident program coordinator of the Power of One Plus One Resident Leader Program. Also served as a core organizer of Summer of Peace.
- Founder of the Aurora-Grotto Block Club. Rena originally started knocking her neighbors doors to start a petition drive to get the remainder of their block paved. After succeeding, they went on to form the block club, and initiated block clean-ups, block parties, "paint-the-pavement", and other community building events.
- Board member of the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus.
- Founding member of L.I.F.T (Leading Individuals and Families Together to End Poverty). Worked with legislators to form the policy recommendations through the Legislative Commision to End Poverty by 2020. They also passed a rental control bill attached to new developments using public subsidy, which was subsequently vetoed by the Governor.
- Troop Leader, Girl Scout Troop 50106 (ages 13-16) of the Summit-U neighborhood.
- 2nd Chance Coalition. Facilitated large community meeting for restoring the right of ex-felons to vote once released from incarceration.
- HIRE Minnesota. Negotiated with legislators to help create a pipeline for outreach, training and accountability measures to ensure that low-income residents received their fair share of the weatherization jobs created by the federal recovery dollars.
- Past board member of Model Cities
- Former organizer with Aurora St. Anthony
- Former board member of the MN Women Political Caucus
- Former Girl Scout troop leader