It’s my first week as executive director of State Voices, and the support I’ve received from colleagues in the movement and the warm welcome I’ve received from staff has been heartwarming. As you may know, this is a homecoming for me, as I previously spent three and a half years as ED of Wisconsin Voices and a year as Senior Director of Programs in the D.C. office. It’s good to be back.

I’ve been ruminating about what it means to me to return to State Voices. This is not just a professional commitment for me; it’s deeply personal. Case in point: After we moved to D.C. from Wisconsin, my husband was making fairly regular trips back home to care for his ailing mother. One day, as he was preparing for the trip, I watched him put on a suit and tie for what was going to be a 14-hour drive. I asked him, “Babe, why are you wearing a suit and tie?” “Well,” he answered, “if I get pulled over, at least I have a chance.” My heart broke for him, and for black and brown people all over the country who are putting on suits and ties as if they were suits of armor that could protect them from the shameful legacy of slavery and injustice.

So, I’m back at State Voices because I have dedicated myself to my values and my vision for a better America. Because I want to be part of State Voices’ important work: standing up for gender and racial equity and justice and on behalf of anyone who is oppressed, disenfranchised, or feels unsafe in this country—people of color, women, poor people, the LGBTQ community, and immigrants and refugees. I am grateful to be part of an organization that is committed to placing racial justice at the center of its mission and to be among the people who have chosen to work here.

Our job, as I see it, is not just speaking truth to power but restoring power to its rightful owner: the people. Voter registration, election reform, eliminating systemic barriers to the ballot box, encouraging participation in the Census, using data and technology to organize—these are just some of the ways that State Voices works to secure its vision of a multi-racial democracy.

My story is not unique. There are millions of Americans whose stories need to be told and acknowledged. At a moment when news reports are confirming a world turned upside down (h/t to Hamilton), the most important thing State Voices can do is stay true to its mission—state by state, striving to give voice to those who aren’t being heard. It’s why we’re called State Voices.

State Voices has 10 years of success to build on. I am honored to have been welcomed back to lead State Voices as we write the next chapter of its history, and I look forward to being on this journey with you.