Op/Ed: The future of Michigan is Abdul El-Sayed and the Black women warriors pushing to get him elected as governor

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed Is running for Governor of Michigan on a platform that embraces the needs of people of color and includes a cadre of Black women who are trying to get him elected. (Courtesy of Facebook/Abdul El-Sayed for governor)

Far too often, Black and brown voters are asked to head to the ballot box for politicians that do not understand the challenges we face. While the Republican Party constantly caters to racism and bigotry within its ranks, the Democratic establishment asks for our community’s support when it’s time to vote, and then, either forgets about us when they get elected or makes us collateral damage for policies that benefit others.

Even with all of that in the way, it has not stopped us from voting: Black women are the most reliable voting block for Democratic candidates but understand this. We are getting tired of candidates who disregard an intersectional approach to policies that address the systemic oppression of Black and brown communities. That’s why we are so inspired and excited by the candidacy of Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, a progressive Democrat running for governor in Michigan.

Abdul is one of the few candidates running on a bold, comprehensive, progressive platform that addresses the specific challenges that people of color face in Michigan. The centering of Black and brown people in his policies is a testament not only to Abdul, but to the Black women who lead his campaign. While other candidates scrambled to hire Black staff after they faced pressure, Abdul hired Black women from the very beginning – long before his first Sunday morning speech at a Black church.

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Abdul’s policy director, Rhiana Gunn-Wright, is a Black woman. His political director is a Black woman. His lead organizer is a Black woman. These women are his Dora Milaje: warriors who have been fighting against the systems that continue to silence Black people – the underserved and even the more privileged – long before they crossed paths with Abdul. His commitment to recognizing their talent, empowering their leadership, and partnering with them to craft his vision for Michigan is a testament, not only to his good sense, but, more importantly, to his commitment to our communities.

His is not a fair-weather commitment either. As Health Commissioner of Detroit, Abdul rebuilt a department that served 600,000 people in a predominantly Black city. When he saw what was happening to children a few miles up the road in Flint, he quickly took steps to protect children in Detroit, testing every school building for lead in the water within six months.

Abdul has fought corporate polluters who wanted to increase their carbon emissions in Black and Latinx communities. He has made sure that every child in the Detroit Public School system had a free pair of glasses if they needed one. These are the actions of a leader who cares, even when the cameras aren’t around.

At the beginning of his campaign, Abdul released a 50 page Urban Agenda. The document is an ambitious, detailed plan to address urban poverty, discriminatory gentrification, and racial injustice in Michigan’s cities. It’s an agenda that is sorely needed in this state.

The ongoing Flint water crisis has proven that under current leadership, Michigan’s state government cannot be counted on to protect the basic safety and human dignity of people of color, even when the world is watching. Plus, Flint was only one canary in the coalmine.

Black people are facing a deluge of issues in Michigan from water shutoffs to voter suppression to gentrification. We need a leader who will not only understand all of these issues, but who will include Black people on his team who will collectively fight against the systems that create these problems. Abdul is the only candidate who has done this so far, and we know that he will do it again as governor.

Michigan needs a bold progressive leader with the skills and track record to get things done. The people need a visionary who does not shy away from racial injustices no matter how difficult or daunting they may be or intimidated by those who are paying to benefit from them. More than that, Abdul is a candidate we can trust because he sees and believes in the humanity of Black people. In a era when joy is hard to come by, Black folks do not have time to fight our leaders to do the right things by us.

We are citizens, not babysitters.

It is time for us to support the kind of candidates who we can trust, even when we’re not watching. Abdul is that leader for Michigan. Just ask his Dora Milaje.


Nina Turner is the former Ohio State Senator & President, Our Revolution and 
Tamika D. Mallory is the former Executive Director, National Action Network & President, Women’s March, Inc. Follow them both @ninaturner and @TamikaDMallory