Black members of Gen Z take to the 2022 political stage

By Tashi McQueen,
AFRO Political Writer,
Report for America Corps Member

If there is doubt that young people are interested in advocating for the improvement of American values, the worry is over. Young Black politicians have put in their bids this political season.

Korey T. Johnson, a Baltimore native candidate for the House of Delegates, and Ray Reed, a 25-year-old Missouri congressional candidate, are just two young Black politicians who ran to make their mark in the U.S. political sphere.

“Change doesn’t come from Washington. Change comes to Washington,” said Ray Reed in a statement on his campaign website.

Generation Z and young Millennials are vocal and ready to make significant policy changes. This is the case for Gen Z citizens, especially as this is the first year they are eligible to run for office.

According to the Pew Research Center, Gen Z is the age of people born between 1997 to 2010. Millenials were born between 1981 to 1996, making the youngest Millennials 26 years old.

Previous AFRO reporting illuminated Yolanda Renee King, Jelani Williams and Michae Jones as some of the passionate Black youth advocating for a better American society. 

“When you think about it, young people have grown up through racial turmoil, mass gun violence, and inflation – magnified at a high rate,” said Emmit Riley, associate professor of political science and Africana studies at DePauw University. “It’s had a major impact on their lives.”

Parkland shooting advocates like 22-year-olds Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg are amongst Gen Zers fighting against gun violence by asking top officials for policy changes. 

“Young people are using their platforms to push against conservative issues,” Riley said, speaking about gun and climate change laws.

Korey T. Johnson, a 25-year-old lawyer and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute graduate, is running for District 10 House of Delegates in Maryland. 

[Two] months ago, I filed as a candidate for Maryland State Delegate of District 10,” said Johnson via Twitter on April 21. “They told us we didn’t stand a chance – we proved them wrong: $23k raised & thousands of touched voters.”

RJohnson officially lost with 3,823 votes, 8.72 percent, according to the Maryland State Board of Elections. According to her website, she would have been the youngest Black woman state elected official.

Johnson grew up in Randallstown in West Baltimore County. She was raised by Army veteran parents and is a graduate of Towson University. Johnson highlights the support of parents and the example they set as a major contributing factor to her leadership skills.

According to her website, Johnson’s platform included positions on increasing community investment, improved law enforcement operations, environmental justice, and workforce development.

“Young people are running for office and are pushing for progressive policies,” Riley told the AFRO. 

The Black youth of Baltimore are often passionate and present, but now they are eligible to move their fierceness from the streets to the halls of government. One could only imagine what this new threshold of influence could do for American society across political lines.

“Oftentimes, we hear politicians campaign on certain platforms, and they get elected and find out it is not as easy to put these campaign promises in action,” said Riley. “I wonder if young politicians will be more effective.”

Ray Reed, 25, ran for Missouri’s Second Congressional District. He did not win his bid but garnered much support anyhow. 

Reed tweeted his loss on Aug. 2, announcing his “necessary break” from politics but plans to get “right back to work” in lifting a “new generation of leaders” and progressives.

He lost to Trish Gunby, a three-year representative of the 99th House District in Jefferson City and 30-year resident.

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