The NEA EdJustice team had the chance to catch up with Sequanna Taylor, a parent engagement specialist at the Golda Meir School in Milwaukee and a 2016 Minority and Women’s Leadership Conference participant. Taylor wears many leadership hats, from president of the Milwaukee Educational Assistants’ Association Council (MEAA) to District 2 Representative on the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors.
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We had the chance to talk with her as she prepared for her first year as an NEA Executive Board Member, planned her strategy to negotiate national certification for her education support professionals and leadership development for her team, and got ready for a re-election campaign for the Board of Supervisors.
We got her perspective on her transition from educator to educator activist and how the MWLC helped her. Below are the highlights of our conversation:
NEA: Can you tell us a little bit about what lead you on your path of leadership and activism?
Taylor: My journey from educator to activist started with Act 10 in Wisconsin, Governor Walker’s attack on unions.
I was a para-professional at Gwen T. Jackson in Milwaukee, and I remember standing in the hall and hearing about Act 10, but I didn’t know what it meant for me and I didn’t know what was happening, so I started by calling the union to get more information.
I learned more and I got involved. I went to the meetings, and I talked to my colleagues about what I knew. I remember the day that we all went to Madison [Wisconsin’s capital] to rally against Act 10. The Milwaukee Public School System shut down that day, so my friend and I drove up. As soon as my feet touched the Capitol and I saw thousands of people gathered, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be.
NEA: What made you decide to continue on this path?
Taylor: I often tell people I found my voice during the Act 10 fight. I didn’t grow up in a political house. But once my eyes got opened, I learned and it sparked something inside me. I knew I wanted to be in the heart of it. I wanted to know, to lead and to make sure I could provide people with a voice.
As I got more involved with the union, more opportunities opened up. People started seeing me more as a resource and an advocate. I got invited to more trainings, and I took every opportunity to learn.
In 2014, the opportunity came open and I applied and became president of my union, the Milwaukee Educational Assistants’ Association Council.
NEA: You didn’t stop there. You ran for and were elected last year to the Milwaukee County Board Supervisors from District 2. What continues to motivate you?
Taylor: I’ll be honest. I didn’t think I was going to run, but then I thought about how important it is to have a voice who cared about the community on the board. I wondered who was going to be the voice for the elderly and students and the people who need an advocate. I decided I could be that voice, because I have the passion and I wanted to be the voice to push the issues that push the envelope that will do right by our black and brown people.
I couldn’t stand by and wonder who would represent my mom and my sisters. It became personal.
NEA: You mentioned having the opportunity to take part in trainings as a part of what helped you grow as a leader. What was your most important takeaway from the Minority and Women’s Leadership Conference?
Taylor: Beyond the skills like strategic planning, research and public speaking, it was the people I met and the relationships. The network there is so amazing, and there were so many ideas to take in and amazing people you meet.
I would also say the conference helped me in confronting and managing my bias and recognizing what we need to change.
I used everything from the conference. I shared all the materials with the other leaders in Wisconsin. At my local level, they are so supportive of what I do and they continue to inspire me in every step along this journey.