I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Crown Heights to be exact. In a neighborhood that was home to struggling Black families, hard-working Caribbean Americans, and the devout Lubavitcher Hasidic community. It was less a melting pot than a grand quilt, complete with edges frayed by the frequent tensions that often pulled at the fibers of our marvelous but tattered tapestry.
My family was (and is) devoutly Christian. And as far back as I can trace our lineage – back to the days of slavery – my ancestors were preachers and pastors. My sister and I carry on that tradition today, being the fifth consecutive generation of preachers in the Daughtry family.
We all want the same things: to be loved, respected, valued, and heard.
But my Christian upbringing was greatly influenced by my experience as an African American girl in a world that didn’t fully accept me. I grew up acutely aware of inequalities and injustices – from racism and sexism to poverty and inequitable wealth distribution to just the ways we were treated by police officers and school teachers. This awareness was validated by my parents who some would call “activists.” Outspoken and insistent, my parents – particularly my dad – fought intensely for all people to be treated equally, regardless of race, color, creed. We hosted many a protest rally and educational forum at our church in Brooklyn. These events were attended by hundreds of people from all walks of life … all religions, all races, all economic strata were represented. I was surrounded at all times by people from diverse communities and backgrounds, who held varying beliefs and traditions. Together with my church family, these are the people who raised me, watched me grow, supported me, protected me, encouraged me, admonished me, and just plain ol’ loved me.
From these folks, I learned to appreciate diversity in all its forms. I learned that everyone has value and everyone has a story to tell. That if you listen long enough, you can find common ground with anyone. That you don’t have be just like me to be just like me. That, in the end, we all want the same things: to be loved, respected, valued, and heard.
These lessons served me well at Dartmouth College, where I arrived the Fall that Ronald Reagan was elected to the White House. And they stayed with me during my first presidential campaign –the 1984 run of Reverend Jesse L. Jackson. Reverend Jackson allowed me to run his campaign in Hanover, New Hampshire, despite the fact that I’d never even worked on a presidential before. I was hooked by the experience, and I’ve worked on just about every presidential campaign since then.
My bio will tell you about all the other political things I done – working on Capitol Hill, working at the Democratic National Committee, working for a Presidential Administration, etc., etc. And you can read about my work in the faith realm: my own church, my work with national faith leaders and with varying communities of faith. And of course, you can learn about my work in managing some of the most successful and high-profile projects and events in recent history.
But the questions I’m most often asked are: what does your work have to do with your faith? How do you combine faith and politics? How have you made sense of this and how have you made it work? Here’s my simple answer:
My deeply held faith drives me to believe that every single human being is a person of worth, in whom God has invested His own time and His own breath to bring into being. I am compelled therefore to love and care for God’s handiwork – my sisters and brothers on this earth — and to see them as reflections of God’s love, grace, and joy.
My work is an extension of this.
I view electoral politics and community activism as a means toward helping all people achieve their fullest, God- given potential. Whether it is through electing representatives or enacting laws that support and nurture our individual and collective growth or that open wide the doors of opportunity. Or whether it is building coalitions in our neighborhoods that will help to ensure that community resources are being fairly distributed, that the most vulnerable are cared for, and that everyone has a fair chance to grow and excel.
My work with organizations and businesses is undergirded by my fierce desire to see every organization, every business, every enterprise operate at its maximum potential, to be professionally and technically excellent, to be leaders in their fields. In this way, they are an extension and a reflection of God’s own excellence.
My life’s work is to help organizations and the people with and for whom they work to be the best that they can be, to reach their fullest potential and their greatest good. I believe that when we operate at our highest capacity, we bring light, and life, and love to the world and each other. And that makes life better for all of us, especially our children. And in that, God is pleased.