Over the course of her career, state Rep. Renitta Shannon, an award-winning progressive politician has consistently advocated for marginalized communities. Currently, Shannon is running for Lt. Governor in Georgia, and she hopes to use her seasoned expertise, grit and knowledge to advocate for minority groups. Shannon is a subject matter policy expert—most remarkably in her fight for reform to reproductive freedom as Americans. In her run for office alongside Stacey Abrams, she is the only candidate that has been outspoken about reproductive rights.
As the only woman on the Democratic ticket and the only Black woman and LGBTQ+ candidate in the race, Shannon represents change. She is supported by organizations such as Georgia Working Families, New Georgia Project, Black Male Voter Project, and more. In a recent interview, 21Ninety spoke to Shannon about the recent controversy about abortions, her political agenda and her hopes for the future.
21 Ninety: What inspired you to get into politics?
Rep. Renitta Shannon: Before running for office, I was a community organizer and a successful business executive. I just wanted to talk about the issues that matter to the Black community, specifically Black women. At the time, I did not feel like I saw enough folks in the Georgia House of Representatives who were willing to speak directly about the issues that matter to Black women.
21 Ninety: Before you went into politics, who were your biggest inspirations?
Rep. Shannon: I’ve always admired the work of Shirley Chisholm. She ran for president when folks were not used to seeing Black women in leadership, and so she was boldly progressive and ahead of her time. That is who I have modeled my legislative career after.
21 Ninety: Before you went into politics, did you ever think you’d follow that career path?
Rep. Shannon: Before going into politics, I was a successful business executive, and running for office was not something that was on my radar, but when I decided to go into politics, I decided that I would fight for the interests of marginalized people.
21 Ninety: We recently learned that Roe v. Wade may be at risk of being overturned. If it goes into effect, how much will it affect Black women?
Rep. Shannon: There are many ways that this decision will directly affect Back women. It has always been the case that Black women have struggled to gain access to quality healthcare, abortion and birth control. On the other hand, many white women figure out a way to economically gain access to quality healthcare. What we need to do now is push for federal legislation that will advance total reproductive freedom and access. We also need to see states move forward with putting these rights into law so that it’s not up to the court to affirm our rights. If I’m elected Lieutenant Governor of Georgia, that is exactly what I would seek to do.
Rep. Shannon: There is also another harm that nobody is paying attention to. Many folks don’t realize this, but we’ve had medical abortions for decades in this country, which means there are medicines that you can take at home that will produce an abortion. These drugs are very similar to the same drugs that you’re given. Suppose a woman happens to have a miscarriage. In that case, there is a risk that they would be asked whether the woman had a miscarriage or whether she gave herself an abortion at home through a medical abortion. The criminal legal system in this country is excellent at disproportionately criminalizing Black and brown folks. By outlawing abortion, Black women who have undergone a miscarriage may be more harshly criminalized.
21 Ninety: If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, how will it affect your work?
Rep. Shannon: I am somebody who has been doing the work for a very long time, and I was working on these issues before being elected to the state house, which is why I’m running for lieutenant governor of Georgia. I know the policy well enough to protect Black people in vulnerable situations, and getting elected into the lieutenant governor’s office will help me achieve that.
21 Ninety: How can political leaders stop this potential overturn from happening?
Rep. Shannon: Abortion rights should have never been left up to the courts. Many folks think that somewhere in law, there was a bill that gave us the right to abortion and reproductive freedom, but that is not the case. The right to have an abortion was always just the constitutional decision of Roe v Wade. What we need at this point is for state legislatures to pass laws that advance and protect reproductive freedom, including the right to abortion and other types of reproductive freedom, like making sure that folks have access to birth control.
21 Ninety: What words of encouragement do you have for Black women who are pursuing their dreams?
Rep. Shannon: Don’t shrink yourself, and don’t stifle yourself to fit into any circle. The way anti-Blackness works in this country is that no matter how you twist and change yourself, it will never be good enough for white supremacy. White supremacy is about saying that white is always better, so why try to twist yourself and minimize yourself and decrease your essence?
21 Ninety: What do you want to be remembered for?
Rep. Shannon: I ran for office because of the issues that I saw minority groups face. I wanted to be on the frontline and have opportunities to fight for those who don’t have a voice. I want people to remember me as someone who knew that being able to expand postpartum Medicaid in Georgia. To me that’s leaving a legacy because we know that access to healthcare is life-saving.
If you would like to learn more about state rep. Shannon’s work, head over to her website here.