I began my career in 1995 as an intern in the St. Paul office of Senator Paul Wellstone. In the following 22 years, I served as a senior staff person or executive director for several organizations working for civil rights and economic justice.
I led Project Vote, a national voting rights and civic engagement organization from 2008 through 2017. Prior to that, I served as programs director (2003-2006) and then deputy director (2007-2008).
During my 14-year tenure at Project Vote, I developed and led two voting rights programs that won significant federal court cases enforcing the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), the US Constitution, and other federal laws. I also served on the leadership team that developed and managed two of the country's largest nonpartisan voter registration drives in communities of color.
In 2006 through 2008, I helped expose what turned out to be the US attorney scandal, efforts by the Bush Justice Department to force states to illegally purge their voter rolls, and other systematic efforts by the GOP to suppress minority voters.
For six months in 1998, I worked with SEIU 1199 in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia to organize nursing homes workers. I quickly realized that labor laws and the legal process failed to protect workers who wanted to organize a union.
I decided to look for opportunities to use my community organizing skills to support workers. In September 1998, I accepted a position as executive director of the newly-formed Las Vegas Interfaith Council for Worker Justice, a position I held through March 2003.
My first real job was with MN ACORN in 1993.
I was hired and sent to Little Rock, AR, where I trained as a community organizer in the neighborhood around Little Rock Central High School. When I returned to Minnesota three months later, I became MN ACORN's executive director at the age of 25.
In my three years at MN ACORN, my team and I helped pass the country's second living wage ordinance, held bank accountable for redlining and excessive bank fees, and expanded our low-income, multiracial membership. We also proudly continued ACORN's tradition of direct action protest while helping build Minnesota New Party, a sophisticated and racially diverse political coalition of workers, low-income neighborhood leaders, and progressives.