She hasn’t graduated from college yet, but 22-year-old Myya D. Jones has her eyes set on her first job when she does: mayor of her native Detroit.
“When Trump won the election, I was like you know what, I can’t back down from doing this,” Jones told theGrio.com in a phone interview. “When people like Trump are constantly getting elected into office and are doing no good for our country, let alone our cities.”
Jones is a business major at Michigan State University and minors in Arabic and African-American studies. Running for office came out of a desire to improve her hometown. The city suffered a disastrous economic collapse in 2008 during the Great Recession. Jones looked at some of the ways current leaders are trying to help residents recover and wasn’t impressed.
There had to be something she could do.
“We’re tired of being neglected; we’re tired of being left behind,” Jones insisted. “No one really cares about us, our schools are closing down, our neighborhoods are increasing in crime. It’s unfair and it’s unjust.”
While Detroit’s crime rate declined in 2016, the city still has the second highest violent crime rate for cities of more than 100,000 residents.
For the city’s black population, the rate in which the population is shrinking is alarming to many black residents, when as a result of efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown, once predominantly black neighborhoods have been gentrified, displacing blacks.
“People really hate speaking about gentrification, and what I’m really getting tried of is people sugar coating everything; the reason why we’re in this predicament right now is because everything is always sugar coated,” Jones said.
Hoping to turn things around, Jones says she is not trying to get recognition or a fancy title; she wants to help improve Detroit and is concerned the next mayor won’t have the city’s best interest at heart.
Jones says she’s received some pushback from critics who say she’s too young for the job.
“People can say I’m really ambitious as a 22-year-old, but ambition gets you to where you want to go; ambition is what got some of the most intellectual people who have progressed our society were young people. Dr. King was young when he started off too,” Jones said.
Interested in politics, Jones received an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus. But while on Capitol Hill, Jones found herself disheartened by too many politicians who she felt were in it for the wrong reasons, concerned she says with power and greed.
“It’s so simple, but we complicate it because people care about money; all they care about is money and how can we get richer, not how can we help the people. Politics is about people and civic engagement and action, not about how can we make more money.”
Jones has filed for a petition for candidacy for mayor of Detroit and hopes to get her name on the ballot. She says her platform focuses on public safety, child welfare and economic development, issues she believes Detroit is not currently addressing effectively.
If she wins, she will join a growing number of young black mayors in cities (albeit smaller) like 26-year-old Michael Tubbs, who is mayor of Stockton, California, and 29-year-old Svante Myrick, mayor of Ithaca, New York.
Outside of politics, Jones’ personal battle with bi-polar disorder has lead her to speak about the illness publicly and given her confidence to tackle roles like running for political office.
“If I tell my story and it can help people, I’m always open to speak about it because you never know who you’re going to touch through your story; maybe through my story people will be comfortable to speak out,” she said.
Jones graduates in May and is juggling kickstarting her campaign and school but is optimistic about her odds. “Everything should be purposeful. Everything you do, everything you say, should be with a purpose,” Jones said. “It’s not about losing, it’s about are you really trying to do what you want to do to progress the people.”
Ashantai Hathaway is a reporter at theGrio. Keep up with her on Twitter @ashantaih83.