By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
NEWARK â€“ Imani Oakley said she is an “unabashed” progressive and after working for two politicians, the 29-year-old attorney found her calling as the legislative director and regional organizer for New Jersey Working Families Alliance.
Oakley was one of several young African-American leaders honored last month at the SNJ Millennials 30 Under 30 Awards.
“Being a North Jersey person who SNJ Millennials respected enough to give this award to is truly an honor,” said Oakley, a Howard University School of Law graduate. “Two of my fellow classmates from New Leaders Council (Rashan Prailow and Fatima Heyward) have also both been recipients of the award so following in their footsteps and keeping the team strong is always a good feeling.”
The Working Families Alliance is a grassroots, multiracial party of working people coming together across our differences to make our nation work for the many, not the few, according to its website.
The organization has state chapters in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, Washington state, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia.
Fighting for the Marginalized
“I was attracted to Working Families because after working for two politicians I grew tired of work environments that would pay a lot of lip service to progressivism but whenever it came time to make tough decisions and overtly push for a cause that progressivism would take a back seat to politics, Oakley told Front Runner New Jersey.com.
“I wanted to work for an organization that was unabashed in its push for progressive values and policies. The pay was also considerably better than my other two jobs which given my resume also speaks volumes about the value of qualified Black women in mainstream politics. In general I consider myself a leftist. I believe that playing the center only benefits the status quo and will do next to nothing to turn things around for groups who have been marginalized,” she added.
Rights Restoration Project
Oakley sits on the board of a nonprofit called Rights Restoration Project, which deals with educating people about involving their right to vote and their right to expunge their records in each state.
The project seeks to inform people with criminal records and criminal statuses about mitigation and voting.
“I’m also the northern vice chair of the New Jersey Young Democrats and the political director for the Young Democrats of America’s Women’s Caucus,” Oakley said. “These two roles are great because I get to collaborate with other young Democrats to help accomplish different projects that help to educate the community on policy or political efforts, register people to vote, etc”
Oakley is also an institute chairs for the New Leaders Council-New Jersey where she helps design and facilitates the curriculum for incoming fellows.
“The New Leaders Council-New Jersey was a great experience as a fellow because I got to meet some of the most accomplished young/emerging progressive leaders throughout New Jersey and nationwide via our national conference,” she said.
The New Leaders Council is one place where Oakley gets a chance to be a role model for other African-American leaders. It’s a role that she said she takes seriously.
“I often tell other people that we’re kind of at the age where we’re crossing over and soon we’ll be the elders in the room and although many folks abuse the idea of being an elder by using the title simply to put down young folks, being an elder is about more than just young folks respecting your every word,” Oakley said.
“My advice for black youth is this: You will often find yourself being the most qualified person in the room who is given the least respect and the least benefits. Due to this, never be more loyal to any job, person, or opportunity that isn’t loyal to you, your needs, and your goals. Take what you can get and when the relationship no longer serves you never hesitate to move on,” she added.
Through her professional life and work in the community, Oakley has quickly made a name for herself as someone who will stand up for the marginalized.
Photos courtesy of Imani Oakley and social media.
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