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 a graduate of 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.
"I moved to the Twin Cities in search of a better life for my kids. Homeless, my children and I stayed in a Minneapolis shelter for several months. It wasn't long before my family and I went from homelessness to homeowners. I found my 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 seven years.
"During this time, I began to get involved in social change work. A defining moment came when the city only paved half of my street, even though the entire street would be assessed for the cost. I started knocking on doors, organized my neighbors and began meeting with elected and city officials. Soon after, the city paved the rest of my street. An activist was born.
"After seven years, I left the comforts of my corporate job to become a Wellstone Organizing Fellow and embark on a new vocation of community organizing. I was quickly hired on by Urban Embassy, where I would go on to lead efforts to engage the African-American community during the 2008 election.
"My political life began as a community organizer in my Saint Paul neighborhood and expanded as I geared up to run for office in 2010. As a person who overcame to become the first African-American to represent Saint Paul in the MN House of Representatives.
I am a proven educator, organizer, and a leader. We need a Representative who will do more than just vote "the right way" at the capitol - I have proven my ability to unite diverse groups of people and opinions, and then have the passion and experience to fight the battles at the state capitol."
At the Capitol, Rena represents the St. Paul communities of Rondo, Frogtown, Summit-University, Thomas-Dale, Midway, a portion of the North End and Cathedral Hill. She currently chairs the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee working to expand health care coverage, reduce prescription drug prices, eliminate health disparities, and remove barriers to critical safety net programs. She is a founding member and chair of the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus and United Black Legislative Caucus.
On a national level, Rena serves as Executive Secretary of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL), Midwest Region Coordinator for the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL), and as the Minnesota State Director for both the Women Legislators’ Lobby (WILL) and the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL). She is a proud mother of seven and grandmother of eight.
Learn more about Rena's vision for Saint Paul and for Minnesota. She's a champion for our priorities, including a quality education for all, paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, ending racial disparities, ensuring there's affordable housing, and that our criminal justice system is reformed to serve us.