Nina Turner uses church background to touch the heart of voters as Sanders campaign co-chair

'I was molded in the Black church. And that gave me the spirit, not only the spirit but the compassion that I have for marginalized people.'

As a national co-chair for the Bernie Sanders’ campaign, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner leans on her connection to God to infuse politics with spirituality. 

Turner is “the voice” of Sanders’ 2020 presidential bid for the White House, and she supports Sanders’ ideas from a policy perspective while using her gifts as an orator to bring soul to the mission.

The daughter of a preacher, Turner’s political speeches are always loaded with an otherworldly knowing.  

“I was molded in the Black church. And that gave me the spirit, not only the spirit, but the compassion that I have for marginalized people,” Turner told TheGrio.

With church and service as the building blocks of her life, Turner began her career in politics as a junior at Cleveland State University. She, along with a few of her classmates, formed a group called Students for Positive Action.

They organized together to impact one of the most challenged, underprivileged communities in Cleveland. With her passion for activism activated, Turner went on to become a Cleveland City Councilwoman and worked under Michael R. White, the second African-American mayor ever elected in the city.

After two years of service as a councilwoman, she was tapped to join the Ohio State Senate.

Turner’s work with Sanders is a full-circle undertaking, considering she worked with the senator during his 2016 campaign for president. Approaching the 2020 nomination season her sentiment toward Sanders is the same—she sees her advocacy of his work as an extension of her role as a public servant. 

“We do need to have a public servant for a time such as this that is gon’ go ham on the establishment–that has said to Wall Street very clearly, ‘I’m coming for your greed.’

“Who believes that we should have Medicare for all, college for all, cancel student debt, cancel medical debt, deal with systemic racism and bigotry in this country in ways that it has not been dealt with. So, yeah, I’m rockin’ with the Senator because he’s rocking with me.”

For critics of Sanders’ policies who say his goals are too “radical,” Turner has a simple response: 

“There were some folks that said abolishing slavery was too radical,” Turner told TheGrio

Continuing, “Think about all of the great trailblazing liberation type things that have happened in this country. The status quo will always be the ones that call these things too radical. But if you are the one that’s catching hell, then it’s not radical. He’s right on time.”

Turner balances her time on the road with motherhood, saying, “the greatest title God has blessed me to have is that of ‘mama.’’

While raising her own child, Turner constantly gives gratitude and pays homage to her ancestors and the political mothers (Shirley Chisolm, Donna Brazile) who gave her dreams shape.

“My grandmother, my southern grandmother really cemented in me what it means to be a true public servant: To be true to yourself and to be the best,” Turner said.

“My grandmother used to say, ‘Be the best. And if you can’t be the best, be next to the best. Be so close to the best that nobody could tell the difference.’ And I carried her words with me.”