My story is not perfect, but it has become all too common where I am from. I was born to Chokwe Pitchford and Kimberly Houston on May 7th, 1999 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Young and in love, they moved down south to chase after whatever they believed to be the American Dream, but the world was not working in their favor. The American Dream was difficult to achieve, so they moved back home to Benton Harbor where our family and many other families struggled to make ends meet. As the crack cocaine epidemic swept through the United States, Black communities were disproportionately affected and when I was 7 months old, the authorities placed my parents under arrest for possession with intent to distribute cocaine. I stayed with my grandparents while my parents’ situation unraveled, and I learned from a very young age about the injustices of the criminal justice system and how a dwindling economy forced people into a corner.
After the millennium, my parents proceeded to chase and attempted to catch the American Dream by moving to Atlanta, Georgia. We created the fondest of family memories during our time there. I attended elementary school while my father began to work in construction and my mother studied to complete her nursing degree. As the economy started to decline in 2006 and 2007, we lost financial stability and the looming housing market crash destroyed any chance of successfully achieving the American Dream. My parents worked hard and did everything right to provide for me and my sisters, but still could not participate in the American Dream. The door of equal opportunity was slammed in their faces.
Once again, we relocated to my parents’ hometown of Benton Harbor in Southwest Michigan to attempt a renewal. I attended Creative Arts Academy where I was very active in dance, drama, and music. We bought a house to begin the process of building generational wealth, but in 2010 a grease-fire consumed everything we had. We suffered a total loss house fire and the insurance company denied our claim and declined to help restore our American Dream.
My story is brought to a head in 2018 when Michigan government officials threatened Benton Harbor High School with closure. My friends and I knew the only way to get representation was to be the representation for our community. We organized, knocked doors, worked for campaigns, and traveled the country learning how to relationally organize in areas such as Southwest Michigan. During this time, I also finished my Political Science degree at Lake Michigan College.
I decided to run for office because no one is talking about working families, and this year has shown we need someone who can unify our community and not seek to divide us further. It does not matter to me if you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. What matters is going forward, together as a community on issues like reforming health care to cap the cost of prescription drugs, changing our economy to give working families pathways into the middle class, and fixing the injustices of our criminal justice system to allow everyone to realize the American Dream.