Najaah Daniels, Yterenickia “YT” Bell, Carin Schiewe

Najaah, YT and Carin, the latest additions to the re:power team. Each of them is dedicated to transforming how we think about power, who holds it, and how we wield it in our communities, whether it’s in the streets, on the campaign trail, in the courts, or in elected office.

Read all about Najaah, YT and Carin and make sure to check out our website for the latest updates on their work: www.repower.org.

Yterenickia “YT” Bell (she/her)
Project Director, Progressive Governance Academy

How did you get involved in organizing and movement building?

I’ve been organizing my entire life. In elementary school, I remember organizing my friends to get more recess time. After undergrad, I realized that the criminal justice system was failing people in my community. As a result, I pursued a career in social work and public policy; I knew that policy influenced practice. While pursuing my degree, I decided that I’d become an advocate and lobbyist. Soon after, I was hired as the Legislative Coordinator for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates in Georgia.

At the end of the legislative session, I was devastated. A discriminatory and deceptive healthcare bill passed out of committee. After that loss, my supervisor let me know that the work wasn’t over yet: the fight had just begun. We jumped right into the electoral cycle and ran a few campaigns to educate residents about key bills passed in the state legislature that session. We wanted them to join us in ensuring their representatives reflected the interests of the people.

At the end of that electoral cycle, I flipped two out of four districts — meaning I helped get new candidates elected who were more aligned with the values of the people. These victories encouraged me to continue down the path of movement work.

What brought you to re:power and our mission to build power in communities of color?

I’m excited to be apart of an organization that lives into their values. I see how re:power seeks to transform how we think about power to really be about creating impactful change in communities of color across the country.

I’m ecstatic about the launch of the Progressive Governance Academy: a joint pilot program created to ensure elected officials are equipped with the knowledge and skills to be successful leaders, and who will advocate for bold progressive policies that improve the quality of life for all residents. As a current elected official, I saw there was a need for this. Now I’ll be able to identify who needs support and can benefit from this kind of network. I can’t wait to run the program! I want to develop and support progressive elected officials to improve their work productivity and community impact.

What’s something about you (a hidden talent, interest, or skill!) that most people don’t know?

My first name, Yterenickia means “defender of honor.” At birth, I weighed only 1lb, 1oz and the doctors expected me to pass away, but I survived. The hospital designated me as a “Miracle Baby”. My premature birth keeps me grounded and signifies for me that I have a purpose on this earth. It’s why I’ve worked diligently to walk in my purpose and have a positive impact in the lives of others.

What person (a historical figure, character, or film/art/literature) inspires you?

My grandmother, Dorothy Lewis, inspires me. She’s been an advocate for youth empowerment, and always supported my aspirations. Her support gave me the strength to run for office and become an advocate for communities who’ve been historically marginalized.

What issue (if you had to pick one) are you most passionate about? And why?

I’ve dedicated my life to people and improving their quality of life by advocating for representation that reflects the needs of communities who’ve been historically shut out of our democracy. Justice is my issue and always will be because I was taught to stand up for what’s right.

Najaah Daniels (she/her)
Principal, Public & Political Leadership

How did you get involved in organizing and movement building?

The deportation of my biological mother to the Dominican Republic and being forced to maneuver the New York State Foster Care System at a young age, all sparked my interest in public service.

In middle school, a few of my high school friends invited me to a NAACP regional conference and while there, I shared my personal story to shed light on the barriers women and girls, people of color, and the working poor face.

At 16 years old, I became the youngest elected President of the NAACP New York State Youth & College Division. I’ve been organizing, building movements, and empowering people across the country ever since.

What brought you to re:power and our mission to build power in communities of color?

One of my first political training experiences was with Wellstone Action (now re:power) almost 15 years ago. I can still remember the impact that training had on me as a young activist finding her footing. For me, joining re:power as a Principal of Public and Political Leadership is the combination of my passion and purpose.

What’s something about you (a hidden talent, interest, or skill!) that most people don’t know?

I’m pretty eclectic but one thing that has remained the same is my love for the arts, particularly the performing arts. I grew up dancing, singing, and playing both the alto saxophone and drums — because there weren’t enough girls playing either instrument. As a little girl, my plan was to go to Juilliard and become an entertainer. Along the way I discovered my passion for politics and decided as long as I was on stage it was a fair trade.

What person (a historical figure, character, or film/art/literature) inspires you?

I have great respect for Mother Teresa as a humanitarian who served the world with authenticity and empathy. Her “do small, ordinary things in an extraordinary way” dictum is one I aspire to live by daily.

What issue (if you had to pick one) are you most passionate about/have you dedicated your life to? And why?

I am most passionate about inclusive politics because my upbringing made me question why certain groups of people — people who look like me — aren’t given their chance at the American Dream. I believe our government and power structures must include the ideas, lived experiences, and perspectives of communities who’ve been historically marginalized and underserved.

Carin Schiewe (she/hers or they/them)
Principal, Democracy

How did you get involved in organizing and movement building?

I grew up in rural New Hampshire and no one in my family discussed politics. My parents married as teenagers and had four kids by the time they were 30. Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents — three of them were immigrants,two from Germany and the other from French-speaking Canada.

I learned from grandparents what it was like to live in this country as immigrants, and I also saw the choices they made every day that changed them from the people they might have been to the people they became in order to “blend in.”Later in life I realized that because they were white they were privileged to make those choices and receive benefits that people of color don’t have access to in this country.

No one in my family had a college degree. Initially my biggest aspiration was to be a teacher, but after two years at a state college near my hometown, I knew it wasn’t for me. I was rescued by Mary, an amazing woman who was my best friend’s mom. She was a college professor, an organizer, and one of the first people to get thrown in jail for protesting a nuclear power plant nearby. Before Mary, I didn’t know there was such a thing as “organizing.”

Mary became a mentor and soon convinced me to get out of my hometown, apply to other colleges, and travel. I took her advice and it changed how I viewed the world and my role in it. This experience and the examples set by the many strong women in my life forced me to find my own values and my voice. I graduated college and against all the odds, became an organizer and discovered that I loved the process — the people and even hard parts because it leads to transformation in large and small ways everyday and for the long-haul.

What brought you to re:power and our mission to build power in communities of color?

As a white progressive who’s been organizing for 36 years, I’ve learned that there’s a great difference between advancing justice and what many white organizers have traditionally seen as “progressive politics.” One thing I know: we can’t have justice in this country without centering people of color. If the people who are the most impacted by injustice aren’t at the decision-making table with equal power and leadership, we’re simply perpetuating the problem.

Plus, I can’t think of anyone smarter, tougher and more committed than many of the leaders of color I’ve worked with over the years, most of them women. I want to do what I can with what I have to support this kind of leadership.

What’s something about you (a hidden talent, interest, or skill!) that most people don’t know?

I’m building a retreat in the woods and getting pretty good at using power tools because of it. I’ve been known to create some pretty hard hitting cartoons about sensitive topics such as beating cancer, dating, and progressive politics, which, believe it or not, have a lot in common.

What person (a historical figure, character, or film/art/literature) inspires you?

My grandmother, who showed me that a woman can wear jeans, play the violin, shovel her own driveway at 85 and still have enough energy left to take care of others. Martin Luther King Jr. for centering the transformative power of love and acting on the courage of his convictions.

What issue (if you had to pick one) are you most passionate about/have you dedicated your life to? And why?

Democracy. If we don’t have it, all the organizing in the world won’t make a difference. Right now, democracy is the ground we stand on and the thing that makes inclusive politics possible. I can’t envision achieving justice without it.

Want to know more about what we’re up to in the world? Tweet at us at @repowerorg, and follow along as we come to a city near you!

P.S: re:power Academy is our our signature training program in grassroots organizing, technology, and campaign management. We have our Data and Analytics Camp, Electoral Campaign Management and Grassroots Organizing trainings coming up: get all the details here.

— The re:power team

We believe in a future of inclusive politics where decisions about our communities are made by our communities at all levels.

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