Because Change is Dope: Ashley Robinson on Building Black and Brown Progressive Campaign Leadership

Loading Likes...

Call us obsessed with electing more Black women to every political office in the nation. We won’t be offended!

At BlackHer, we believe in the power of equal representation. (Isn’t that a central principle of a democracy?)  And we’re ready to win big in 2018!

In 2018, there are more Black women (and men!) running for office than ever before. That said, regardless of your street cred, experience, and bank account, no candidate (Black or White) gets elected on their own. It truly takes a village to put a woman in office. And it starts will building a great campaign.

This week, we were thrilled to catch up with Ashley Robinson, principal of a new nonprofit called BLUE (Building Leaders and Uplifting the Electorate) Institute. They provide training to young people of color who are interested in leading progressive campaigns.

Me: When and why did you start BLUE Institute?

Ashley: BLUE Institute actually started as a project I dreamt up in 2015 when I was chief of staff to former Georgia House Minority Leader, Stacey Abrams. In addition to our legislative responsibilities, our staff was also responsible for helping candidates with their campaigns. The more we traveled the state, the more I realized that a number of our candidates, especially those of color serving diverse and rural communities, were not running professionalized, data-driven campaigns. It also occurred to me that within those campaigns, the leadership was mostly male and white – even if when the constituents were not.  Unfortunately, the lower you were on the totem pole in the campaign, the browner and blacker the staff. That deeply bothered me.

I told Leader Abrams about my concern and she said, “You should do something about it.”  So, this is me doing something about it!

With her help, we were able to launch a program to diversify campaign staff and leadership and change the way young people of color think about politics. At the end of the day, we want to invite and empower all people of color to have a voice in our politics. And in particular, we want to lift up those of us who have been historically marginalized or completely left out.

Me: Awesome!  You just finished a recent training in Tampa. How did that go?

Ashley: It was amazing!  We had over a dozen people in our Tampa class and the young people are true badasses. Not only were we able to share valuable information on all facets of campaign management and structure, but we were able to facilitate thoughtful conversations among activists and community leaders about key issues in their community.

Genny (BLUE’s COO) and I, take BLUE Institute on the road because meeting people where they are is vital to our mission. Every community has a diverse constituency and challenges.  But every community also has amazing people who have the power to make change.  By training locally, we’re helping folks to learn the ins and outs of campaign management.  We’re also helping folks get connected to other diverse and talented colleagues they can work with to make a positive impact. Their work is definitely just getting started in Tampa!

Me: What would you tell BlackHer readers who want to get involved in progressive campaigns but don’t know where to start?

Ashley: First, I’d tell them to go to www.blue.institute and request a training in their area or sign up for one of our trainings. The great thing about campaigns is that they require people with diverse skills.  If you’re an accountant, campaigns always need a bookkeeper. If you’re a graphic designer, campaigns always need design work. If you’re a people-mover, campaigns always need a powerful voice on the ground to rally voters.

I’d also tell your readers to research issues that they are passionate about and find a candidate who embodies their values and ideals. Working on a campaign is powerful and demanding, so be sure to pick someone who shares the same “north star.” If you do that, you’ll be happy to devote your time to his or her campaign. Next, find a way you can help address a pain point for the campaign. For example, use your skills to host an event, set up a rally, or make meaningful connections from your network and do these things authentically.

Me: What’s next for BLUE and how can the BlackHer community help?!

Ashley: We’re coming to a town near you!  In 2018, BLUE is traveling across the South and Southwest to empower our young people to support electoral campaigns through our boot camps and events. And we need everyone to get involved!  It is important to us that our cohorts are diverse in ethnicity, life experience, and skill.  Also, if you are interested in bringing BLUE Institute to your city, please send us a note.

Finally, you can also support our work by making a contribution or sponsoring an attendee at www.theblue.institute/donate.

Jocelyn