By Sam Hall,
When Mike Bloomberg decided to run for president, he decided to take an unconventional path. If he was going to run for president of the United States, he wanted to talk to the voters all across the country. He was going to build an operation like none other.
That strategy is clearly reflected in Mississippi, where not only has he built the largest Democratic presidential operation in more than 40 years but where it is led by three African-American women who all hail from the state.
Veteran political consultant Pam Shaw is leading the team as state director. Teresa Jones, who has worked in government and political positions from the Delta to D.C., is the political director. And human rights activist Brittany Gray is overseeing the organizing and field strategy across the state.
“I am thrilled that a presidential candidate is willing to invest in Mississippi,” Shaw said. “Democrats’ political infrastructure here is weak. Mike’s financial investment affords us an opportunity to build a political campaign that hasn’t existed in this state in decades.
“Someone who gives that type of commitment to a state with a small number of delegates, a state many assume to be a reliably red state, and a state with a significant African-American and poor population is the type of person I want leading this country.”
Pam Shaw: Christian and social justice warrior
A senior manager, entrepreneur and public policy analyst, Shaw is a seasoned leader, tactician, organizer and devotee to social justice. She has more than 30 years of experience working at the intersection of policy, politics, education and economic justice.
Shaw said her mother shaped her ideals around social justice at a young age.
“I am a product of all of the iterations of integrating public schools in Vicksburg. My mother was a church woman. Many of the strategic conversations happened in my church, and I was privileged to be a small child listening to those conversations,” Shaw said.
It’s her Christian faith that led her to fight for those being overlooked or mistreated by society and by the very government charged with protecting them and providing them with basic services.
“Because I am a Chrisitian, I am a social justice warrior. Political, economic and social justice are threads intimately interwoven into the fabric of the world,” Shaw said.
Teresa Jones: From the Delta to D.C. and back
Jones said she decided to get into politics at 17 after serving as a page in the state Senate for Sen. Johnnie Walls and was able “to get a front row seat to Mississippi’s legislative process.”
“I saw how few women legislators were in the halls of the Capitol, but how fiercely they spoke on issues that mattered to them. That’s when I decided I wanted to do this work,” Jones said.
Since then she has worked in nearly all levels of government including the U.S House of Representatives for Rep. Bennie Thompson, the White House for former President Barack Obama and the U.S. Senate for Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Jones recently worked in Clarksdale, where she assisted Mayor Chuck Espy with securing grants for community, youth and business development projects.
Jones said she joined Bloomberg’s campaign “because he’s investing in Mississippi to help build our political infrastructure. When this race is over, Mississippi will have young people with real skills and experience to run modern campaigns.”
Brittany Gray: Community-minded activist building a better future
Gray has held national, state and regional organizer roles within prominent nonprofits and political campaigns including President Barack Obama. She has worked on issues such as labor, politics, race, education, economic democracy and justice, criminal justice, mass incarceration, hunger, climate justice and poverty.
“For years, campaigns have succumbed to the modern technological tools that have been readily available but lacked the expertise. Very few across the state know how to use these tools in an effort to run data-driven successful campaigns,” Gray said. “We have the opportunity to change that right now as the resources are readily available. It is my intent as state organizing director to prepare organizers as they create a new, more sustainable political infrastructure here in Mississippi.”
It’s Bloomberg’s investment of resources not only to benefit his presidential campaign but to strengthen the Democratic Party in Mississippi and beyond that attracted Gray to the team.
“Campaigning and politicking in Mississippi has to change if Democrats and African Americans are to ever win statewide. Why not be a part of fostering that change?” Gray said.
Gray also said she believes it is important for people to offer their skills to local communities, and she models that belief in her commitment to community involvement. Participating in various organizations and programs, working and focusing on her studies has always intensified her attitude towards hard work and a desire for excellence.
What Bloomberg’s investment in Mississippi means
Shaw: “Mike’s life experiences set him apart. And his public acknowledgement that his African-American peers did not have the same opportunity to acquire wealth as he did is an unusual admission. In an era where a premium is placed on personal responsibility and the wrong belief that the playing field is even, Mike’s acknowledgement is a gamechanger, especially in a place like Mississippi where nearly 40% of the population is African American. And it’s his outlook and understanding that informed his Greenwood Initiative, which is a phenomenal plan to help grow generational wealth for black people.”
Jones: “Mike has a comprehensive plan to create wealth for Black America. As someone who was born and raised in an impoverished, rural Mississippi Delta town, I witnessed the lasting legacy of racism firsthand, and I have personal experience with how generational poverty impacts the entire black community. Mike’s Greenwood Initiative gives me hope that, in my lifetime, we can finally break the wheels of racial, economic injustice and black Americans can finally have a chance to reach the American Dream that was promised to us.”
Gray: “Mike is investing in Mississippi in a very historic way, unmatched by other federal, state and local campaigns. Mike’s investments allows for the placement of multiple organizers across each congressional district. A majority of the organizers look like me and will develop the necessary skill set to later return to their own communities as they run local and statewide campaigns effectively.”