Higher Heights’ Sista to Watch is:
State Senator Lena C. Taylor
Occupation: State Senator, Wisconsin
Hometown: Milwaukee Wisconsin
Follow her on Twitter @SenTaylor
About Lena C. Taylor
Senator Lena C. Taylor is serving her third term as a Wisconsin State Senator, representing the 4th Senate District of Wisconsin, which includes the Village of Shorewood, portions of Wauwatosa, Glendale, and the north and northwestern portions of the City of Milwaukee, where she and her son currently reside.
Senator Taylor was first elected to political office in 2003 in the Wisconsin Assembly. In 2004, she was elected to the Wisconsin Senate, and became the thousandth senator, the twentieth woman, the fifth African-American, and only the second African-American woman to serve in that legislative body. In 2012 she became the first African-American woman to be appointed co-chair of the Joint Committee on Finance and only the second African-American to hold the position.
Senator Taylor has her law degree from Southern Illinois University. She has practiced as a public defender and currently practices with Pittman, Kyle, Sicula and Dentice.
Senator Taylor is Co-Chair of the Governor’s Task Force on Minority Unemployment, State Director and member of the national board of directors of the Women Legislators' Lobby, and the Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, former First Vice-Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and Member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
Higher Heights: What inspired you to want to work in the political arena?
Senator Taylor: My desire to serve those less fortunate and ensure they receive equal justice under the law led me to become an attorney. However, witnessing the inequity in laws and our system of governance led me to run for public office. Advocating for justice and equality is truly a privilege. However, I feel true public servants never forgets where they come from. That is why I continue to offer free legal advice to those in need through my church.
Higher Heights: What advice do you have for Black women that want to spark change?
Senator Taylor: Don’t wait. Change starts today and it starts with you. As the saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” You don’t have to be an expert on a topic to make an impact. If you have the passion and desire to make change, start locally. Once you get going, you’ll be surprised at the number of people that will want to help you affect change. This world wasn’t shaped by a bunch of people waiting around for permission to act, it was trail blazed by those who did act.
Higher Heights: What do you feel is the single most pressing issue facing Black women today and why?
Senator Taylor: I don’t think you can narrow it to a single issue. Although African-American women have witnessed great progress on many fronts, we have many areas of concern that we can’t ignore. Whether it’s our overall health and the alarming rate of obesity and stress induced medical problems, the challenges of illiteracy facing our children, or the pipelines to prison facing our men and young boys, our communities are in a state of crisis.
Currently, only 15 percent of African-American children can read on grade level, 30 percent of parents are functionally literate, and high school graduation rates for our children are holding at 68%. Education is the first step to addressing many of the issues facing our families, and by default Black women.
Higher Heights: Tell us about a woman mentor that has helped you on your journey?
Senator Taylor: Without fail, my mother has had the most influence on my life. She nurtured my independence, encouraged my curiosity, and grounded my values. When struggling with my life’s direction, my mother carved out a path for me. Ensuring that I enrolled in college, she provided me with an invaluable life tool, my education. In adversity and opportunity, my mother has taught me that strength, courage, and compassion coupled with hard work and determination, will take you just about anywhere you want to go in life.