Los Angeles, CA–Tanisha Saunders recently launched her campaign for an Assembly Delegate to the Democratic Party, representing the 61st District.
Assembly Delegates are unpaid, however, the role will allow Saunders the ability to utilize her civic engagement background in more impactful ways.
“My civic engagement stems from my experiences with adversity. It is also rooted in the power of the communities that have embraced me. They empowered me to get involved and use my voice for change,” said Saunders.
For Saunders, it is important to be involved and use her access and privileges to “do the work” of bringing knowledge and strategies to her community.
The Los Angeles native has spent the last several years engaged in grassroots organizing, advocating around the issues of homelessness, voter engagement and the foster care system.
“Delegates are vital to the foundation of the Democratic party. They are elected at the local level and are grassroots organizers,” Saunders detailed.
These elections happen every other year in California’s 80 assembly districts, with 14 delegates selected to serve as representatives to the Democratic State Committee.
Most importantly, delegates participate in discussions over candidate endorsements, as well measures and resolutions the Democratic party supports.
Saunders’ aim to become a California Delegate is rooted in uplifting the voices in her district, while empowering those who have been historically marginalized, to become politically involved.
Housing and homelessness are important issues to Saunders, as someone who has been directly impacted.
“I graduated with an AA in Child Development and honors while experiencing homelessness. I continued to experience homelessness when I transferred to California State University, Dominguez Hills but I triumphed and became more involved on campus and within the community,” shared Saunders.
In 2018, she completed a policy fellowship at City Hall with the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA).
As a Policy and Legislative Affairs Fellow at LAHSA, Saunders was part of the committee tasked to investigate the reasons why so many people faced homelessness in L.A county, and why Black people were disproportionately represented in the data.
The report highlighted racism throughout history, policies, as well as current institutional racism in public institutions and services.
Access to healthcare, wages that reflect the cost of living and decriminalizing poverty are also key issues Saunders hopes to create more advocacy around, as a California Delegate.
As a former foster youth and gun-violence survivor, Saunders was forced to navigate college while sleeping in her car with little support or resources.
Her civic engagement is directly tied to her experiences with adversity and the communities that supported her through those tough times.
She is a powerful example of what it means to be resilient, Black, and a woman in Los Angeles County. A city where intense trauma imposed upon marginalized communities, kills the spirit of some of our brightest minds.
Saunders was empowered to become politically involved in 2016, when she was introduced to the National Foster Youth Institute (NFYI).
“This experience lit a fire within me to get involved within my community, share my experiences and become civically engaged,” Saunders recalled.
The organization was founded by Mayor Karen Bass, a recognized figure in foster care advocacy.
As a youth leader/organizer with NFYI, I advocated for reform throughout the
child welfare system, while mentoring current and former foster youth in
Los Angeles,” said Saunders.
In 2017, Saunders also worked with the Rose Black Resource Center at CSUDH, contributing to the creation, implementation, and evaluation of programming catered to the personal development and retention of students.
She is not just advocating for change from the sidelines, but playing an active role in making positive contributions to the communities she grew up in.
Saunders is a recognized community advocate and is an active member of several community organizations and clubs. Most recently, she was awarded member of the year by the Black Los Angeles Young Democrats (BLAYD).
Her community organizing efforts have been featured in books, magazines, various media outlets and she is well received by her peers, community members and organizations for her involvement.
“I was heavily influenced by the work BLAYD advanced in the past year, mostly by the fact the members are dedicated to showing up unapologetically Black, progressive and outspoken in advancing the organization’s agenda while also centering Black joy, resilience and prosperity,” said Saunders.
These elections are not as widely advertised and many within the Democratic party do not participate, but this only fuels Saunders’ determination.
For Saunders, it is important to take on these roles so folks with shared living experiences, learn how to make their voices heard in more dynamic ways.
Anyone who is a registered Democrat in California can vote in these elections but they must register through the Democratic party.
The deadline to receive mail-in ballots has passed, but people who would like to vote in-person can still register.
You can cast your vote Saturday Jan. 21 at the Hawthorne Memorial Center from 10:00 am – 2:00 p.m. Located at 3901 West El Segundo Blvd, Hawthorne, CA 90250.
There are only 4 in-person voting days: January 7th , 8th, 21st and 22nd.
Visit ademelections.com for more information.
“I am learning and building relationships rooted in empowerment. I find opportunities to get involved and create supportive and transformational environments that uplift the social capital within these communities.”