When you encounter the word “politics,” what comes to mind? Perhaps voting, laws, elections. Maybe you understand how it plays out in the United States, maybe it seems like a code you can never hope to crack. For MLK Week 2020, we explored ways to Face Everything And Rise; and our keynote, Aisha Moodie-Mills (she/her), who is currently a CNN Political Commentator, is a seasoned expert at turning feelings of anger, frustration, and fear into tangible change for a better future.
“The people who are the biggest change agents, aren’t the folx who are most courageous. They are just so called into the work because they can no longer sit idly by.”
Moodie-Mills was no stranger to passion growing up. At various points in her life, she wanted to become anything from a therapist or child psychologist to a superintendent. The heart of all these dreams, though, was a deep desire to understand how systems affect our lives and correcting these dynamics to best serve everyone which eventually morphed into focusing on a much larger system: the government. She first concentrated on rights for the Black community and women — two communities she identifies within — but quickly learned, “having thought that I had it all figured out as a young person and knew what my career trajectory was going to be and what my strength was, you really don’t know anything until you start to experience life;” and those identities she held would eventually fuel her ambition to get involved.
Politics is deeply personal to Moodie-Mills, and this belief truly formed when she fell in love with her partner (during a time when marriage was not a right extended to the LGBTQIA+ community with little observed Black representation among those fighting for marriage equality), which launched Moodie-Mills into marriage equality work and eventually the broader scope of policies affecting the LGBTQIA+ community. This space allowed her to bring all her identities into her work, advocate for causes directly affecting her own life and end up as the President and CEO of the Victory Fund and Institute.
“The only way we can change the world is by doing the right thing when it matters, even if we’re afraid.”
Looking at this journey, it’s no wonder that she’s become an inspiration. However, Moodie-Mills knows that her triumphs weren’t achieved without pain. She attributes much of her motivation to the “cold pit” in her stomach she just couldn’t shake. To her, the most constant companion to her motivation is profound anxiety. What does the future hold? Will my work actually impact the way our world runs? Where can I make a difference and truly matter? But rather than putting on a brave face and ignoring fear, Moodie-Mills believes, “the people who seem so courageous that you see marching on the front lines, the people that seem like steel, all of us feel the same level of anxiety.”
She sees the biggest agents of change as those who are still moving and harnessing the acknowledgment of fear as an indication that change is needed — and that’s not easy to do. Moodie-Mills implored us to find comfort in remembering that figures like Dr. King, Audre Lorde, and so many others who we hold as beacons for change did not replace fear with courage, but rather could no longer ignore what their conscience was motivating them to do. To Moodie-Mills “the only way we can change the world is by doing the right thing when it matters, even if we’re afraid,” and in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the time is always right to do what is right.”