Representative London Lamar is the youngest female legislator in the 112th Tennessee General Assembly. She serves as Secretary of the House Democratic Caucus and sits on the Finance, Ways and Means, and Criminal Justice committees. Lamar has represented the 91st District since 2018.
This interview is part of a series for No Democracy Without Black Women, a report about the underrepresentation of Black women in state legislatures.
What compelled you to run for office?
I’ve always wanted to run for office. I spent most of my twenties building up an apparatus for young people to take part in the political process and build up their leadership skills. I always felt like we can make change no matter where we are, no matter what community we live in. If we truly want to change society, we have to put ourselves in positions of leadership.
I am now the youngest woman in the Tennessee General Assembly, and I’ve been able to show young people what happens when you put yourself in a position to make substantial change. Those who came up under my leadership are now serving in elected offices themselves. As millennials, we have to hold each other accountable for taking part in the political process because it works. And we can make change. We are getting things done.
How do you feel about the current state of millennial engagement in politics especially for Black women?
The world is finally taking notice of the beauty of our intelligence, of our voices, of what we have, and how we bring that to the table. We are able to use technology like social media to get our stories out there and make sure people are listening to us and hearing our stories. For example, I’m bringing moms and women into my brand and my social media, because I’m in the legislature fighting for policies for moms. I have a track record of being a leader and fighting for these issues, and you see it all in front of your face on social media, so I’m able to connect with more people than ever before.
What do you feel is your greatest asset as a Black, millennial, woman legislator?
My voice. The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. And if anybody understands that and can articulate the inequities in this system, it is us. And so for me, my voice is so powerful, my experiences are so powerful, the stories of my community are so powerful. And when I’m able to bring those stories and those real-life experiences to the work that I do, especially in my role as an elected official to truly impact policy—to me, that’s my greatest asset. Black women are in this fight for justice, in this fight for equity in this country, so we must be at the forefront. Who better to fix it than us?
What ways do you think Black women need to be supported as it relates to public health overall?
We must take Black maternal health seriously. I fight for reproductive justice in my community, my city, and my state. This is a real public health crisis that we must bring to light. Insurance companies must cover the full range of reproductive health options and women must have full autonomy over their decision-making, which includes their ability to have a child or not have a child. Women must be able to live free from judgment and any other government restrictions that deny you the right to make your own choice about your body.
We also must focus on ensuring access to mental health services. This pandemic has exposed the need for more mental health counselors and enhanced insurance coverage for a breadth and depth of services. We need to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally.