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 Junior 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 at the Legislature
Rena was sworn into office on Jan 4, 2011 as the First African American to represent St. Paul at the Capitol. She is a member of the following five committees:
In addition, Governor Mark Dayton appointed Rena to serve on:
Education & Training
Current: Currently has served two terms as the First African American Representative of St. Paul- District 65A. Rena also works in the non-profit sector as the Director of Parent Leadership with Minnesota Communities Caring for Children. Rena created and currently directs a statewide parent leadership team that ensures the "parent voice" is represented in the policies, programs, services and systems 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 lifelong 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: