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TRANSCEND: REP. MALCOLM KENYATTA

The following is a transcript of Gracie’s conversation with PA Representative and U.S. Senate hopeful, Malcolm Kenyatta

GRACIE

He made history and he’s in the race to do it again, next. I’m so happy and honored to have today’s guest with us. In 2018, he made history as the first openly LGBTQ person of color, and youngest member to be elected to the PA general assembly. Malcolm Kenyatta is deeply committed to create an equitable and inclusive society, as a representative of the North Philadelphia community in which he was born, raised and resides along with his partner, Dr. Matthew J. Miller. Kenyatta has championed proposals to address generational poverty, raising minimum wage, protecting workers rights, mental healthcare, and gun violence, just to name a few. If elected to serve as Pennsylvania’s next US Senator, he will be the first openly gay man, and first openly LGBTQ person of color in the US Senate. Please welcome to Transcend, representative Malcolm Kenyatta.

MALCOLM

Gracie, I’m so excited to be with you.

GRACIE

Malcolm, thank you so much for being here with us. I really appreciate your time knowing you’re busy out on the trails. So of June 19th this year, I went to a fundraiser that was held by a mutual friend from Malcolm, and I was a bit hesitant to go because, you know, I’m like, I don’t really get into politics. I don’t do politics. I mean, although I play my part, but that’s about it. However, I was very inspired by Malcolm’s story, his testimony and his power, but then come to find out he was also from North Philadelphia just as moi. And he also share the loss of both parents who are now no longer with us. So, I’m so grateful that I now have the opportunity to sit and speak with Malcolm.

MALCOLM

You know, thank you. you know, Gracie for being vulnerable and honest, about that because I engage with so many people who say, well, you know what, Malcolm I don’t do politics. And I remind folks, well, politics does you every single day there are critical decisions being made about our lives. And the unfortunate thing is, you know, when I hear people talk about, the different firsts, it really, to my mind is not something that I celebrate. It really is a indictment. Of how far we have to go to have a government that looks like all of us, a government that reflects the fullness of our lived experiences. And to your point of not feeling seen and not feeling heard, so many folks aren’t seen and heard, particularly, people within our community. They are not, they are actively not. And that’s why it’s so important to have voices that come from a variety of different perspectives, who are elevating the issues that you and I know intimately, but that are not the front and center issues, when we think about the decisions, and when we think about things that are happening in our body politic. But all of us, whether it is the floods and tornadoes that we just saw here, which is just like a blaring alarm for us to address the climate crisis. Whether it is the continued attacks and the vicious murders that we’ve seen of, of trans women of color in particular, or whether you look at what the Supreme court just did by basically overturning Roe vs. Wade, Roe V. Wade, by allowing this gruesome, distasteful, completely inappropriate law in Texas, to move forward. And so we are in a position right now where our democracy and where everything that matters to people of color, to marginalized people, it is on the line right now, and we have to stand up and fight for it. The opponents of democracy, folks who don’t care about us, those folks show up every time they show up every election, they raised their hand and run for office, and we have to show up every time as well.

GRACIE

Okay, let me give you your flowers. And let me just give you, you are the vice chair of the Pennsylvania delegation. Also a member of the governance test for suicide prevention. Your award-winning short documentary growing, Going Forward, which was based on your election run. And also you were chosen by President Biden to give the keynote address to the democratic national convention. I mean, what inspired you to get into politics? And what made you become so passionate about creating change?

MALCOLM

You know I will say, you know, there’s a, there’s a long answer, but I will give you the short one and say, I grew up poor and I was pissed about it. And I’m looking around and I’m saying like, why is this happening? But there is, you know, a story that involves my mom, Kelly, and you can draw a direct line from, from this story to me running for the US Senate right now. You know, as you said, both of our parents, have, have passed, and we understand the, the pain of that. But I think about the real ironic cruelty of the fact that my mom, you know, was a home healthcare aid. And she spent every day, 12 hours, 16 hours a day, making sure other folks got their medicine on time, only to come home and have to ration her own insulin. She and my dad separated when I was pretty young and then divorced. And we were living on this block because we moved quite a bit. And we’re living on this one block, which is in my now district Woodstock street.

GRACIE

That’s Woodstock.

MALCOLM

And I came home and I’m like, right, you know Woodstock. And I come home, you know, like just complaining about, you know, the blight in the trash and just like upset. And I’ll never forget my mom’s smoking a Newport cigarette, and she’s looking at me and she said, you know, boy, if you care so much, why don’t you go do something about it? And I was like, oh, okay, like, I thought you were gonna give me a hug, but okay, I’ll take the tough love instead.

GRACIE

I mean.

MALCOLM

And so that’s right, I ran for junior block captain and that was the first thing I ever did.

GRACIE

Coming from a legacy, your grandfather Muhammad Kenyatta was a Civils right leader. What impact has he had on you that you’d now like to aspire to leave with us?

MALCOLM

You know, when I think about my grandfather and his legacy, I’m still lucky that his wife, my grandmother, is with us and she’s my last living grandparent. And I’ll never forget, she called me in 2019. And if anybody ever gets to meet my grandmother, Mary, she is tough as nails, tough as hell.

GRACIE

My grandmother’s name is Mary also.

MALCOLM

Oh my gosh, look at this.

GRACIE

Yes.

MALCOLM

Look at all these overlaps, come on North Philly with it’s grandma Mary’s.

GRACIE

Okay, North Philly

MALCOLM

But she’s just tough as hell. And she called me and she said, you know, I’m so sorry on the verge of tears, I’m so sorry. And I’m like, oh my God, what’s wrong? And she said, you know, I thought me and your grandfather, I thought we fixed some of this stuff. And here are you dealing with the same things that we were talking about in the fifties and sixties and seventies, you know, when they were really, really involved. And I refuse to have to have that conversation with my kids. We should all refuse to have to do that. Because the things that we are talking about, just this basic idea that no matter who you are, how you identify, your identity, that you’re not treated differently because of those things. The simple idea that every single one of our kids go to a good school, can grow up in a safe neighborhood, and then be well positioned to follow whatever their dream is, to go to college or a trade, start a business, have a, have a successful show and podcast. Whatever it is, what we are missing right now, are not ideas on how to address these things. What we’re missing right now is the political will to do it. The political will to make all the things we say about ourselves as a country, all the pressure and words of our founders that talked about fairness and justice, make those words real in our lifetime, make it real for every single person. We have the ability to do that. But what we haven’t had are enough people who run for office, who know what you and I know, who understand in their bones what happens when government doesn’t work, when government ignores you and doesn’t see you. And when it does see you, it’s to try to do something messed up to you, as opposed to try to do something to help you and people who are similarly situated. And so, that experience with my mom, that experience with my grandmother, the experiences of so many people who come into my office every single day, who are doing everything that they’re told to do. But can’t seem to get ahead. That inspires me to keep going.

GRACIE

And that is why I love and support you so much because you know, you’re not just someone that’s like up there saying, oh, I’m for the community. You know what it’s like. And with your support from your angels above, and also your with loving partner, Dr. Matt J Miller, how has it been having him by your side throughout this entire journey?

MALCOLM

Well, first of all, he’s so cute and that helps . No, but seriously I think, having somebody who inspires you every single day, and who calls you higher, and who holds you accountable, is something I’m just incredibly lucky to have. To have somebody who with the own, with his own work that he does as an academic and as an artist, really imagining new ways for our cities to operate and thrive. His PhD is in urban planning, and he’s always thinking about how our cities and communities, are holistic places of joy and peace and prosperity for all of us, right? And so that’s, it just always challenges me, right? Because I’m on the government side, he’s thinking about these things all the time through the angle of culture and of academics. And we just get to have this ongoing conversation about the type of community we want to live in, and the type of community that for our kids, whenever we have some, that the type of world that we leave to them. And so I’m just lucky to have a partner in this work, and somebody who is inspiring and beautiful, and thoughtful, and supportive, and all the things that you want.

GRACIE

And I can say from my, me on the outside looking in, I always want, I always knew that I had that vision for a partner, but I always realized that that also came from a place of void. And also with my parents, no longer being here, the same reasons in the same ways of which you just expressed, those are the same reasons why now I open my heart for a partner to come in. I mean, you’re out here and you’re making history, you’re killing it really quick, fast. What would you say to 11 year old Malcolm, who was about to become block captain of Woodstock street?

MALCOLM

I would say this to him, and I’ll say this to you. First of all, check your DM’s, I met Matt on Instagram, I swear to God.

GRACIE

Hey! It goes down in the DM’s.

MALCOLM

It does, Check your DM’s, so that’s the first thing I’d say. But what I would say to a little 11 year old Malcolm is keep going. It is so attractive sometimes to believe that where you are right now is the be-all-end-all of your story. Particularly, you know, as kids, I mean, you know, some of the stuff we were worried about at 15, 12, 17, you thought it was the end of the world child. You can’t even remember what you were upset about, what was going on. And I meet so many young people who feel like, well, you know, things, aren’t what I want them to be right now. You know, I didn’t go to the best school. I didn’t live in a neighborhood that was fully resourced in the way that I should. And so that means that my possibilities are limited. That’s not true, that’s not true. And when each and every one of us doesn’t try to sort of leave our neighborhoods, but says, we deserve neighborhoods. Every single zip code, that are safe, where people are healthy and whole, and then do the work to make that real. Then we have this block by block approach where we’re beginning to transform our realities, and transform, the material conditions for people who we love and care about. And so it will get better, and the big change that we see, it doesn’t happen because there’s one person. It happens because each and every one of us recognizes the role we play. And for some of us, it’s doing the work that you do in this amazing platform that you’ve built to tell stories that people don’t often get to hear. For other people, it’s going to be running for office. For somebody else, it’s going to be starting the business. But we all have a role to play, and when we play it, we can make big things happen.

GRACIE

Thank you so much. I really, I really appreciate just you being here. I thank you for your time. I know one thing I will go back to my younger self and make up for some catnaps. Thank you for being here, thank you for all that you do.

MALCOLM

You’re the best.

GRACIE

Thank you for being living proof that us kids from the, from the hood, we are destined for greatness. Representative Kenyatta, continue trailblazing. To watch this episode again, or for more stories like these, check out our website at pluslifemedia.com, and make sure to follow us at plus life media. Until next time, be aware, be involved, and be a part of change.

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