Kendall Martinez-Wright, the Afro-Latina fighting to be the first Black transgender woman in Missouri’s House
The longtime community activist has rural roots and is out to be a voice for others long overshadowed in the state.
After lobbying and making her voice heard behind the scenes of Missouri politics over the last few years, Kendall Martinez-Wright is making a bid for the state’s fifth House district seat in 2022.
Just two days after Missouri’s House of Representatives passed a bill banning transgender athletes from participating in sports, Martinez-Wright announced her bid to be the first Black transgender woman in the chamber.
This afternoon I took time to stop by a peaceful March for Trans folks and let them know that they are not alone. Love and action is what I felt the whole time. #ProtectTransKids #ProtectTransLives #ThisIsAnAllDayAllNightJob pic.twitter.com/CLFysDUSjh
— Kendall Martinez-Wright (@Kendall4MO) April 17, 2021
On Wednesday, April 14, she participated as a speaker at PROMO Missouri’s “Let Kids Play” virtual lobby day.
“We as a community need to ensure that trans folks deserve to freely participate with their classmates. I take a bold stance in supporting our trans and GNC (gender non-conforming) siblings,” Martinez-Wright wrote on Twitter.
Martinez-Wright, who grew up in Palmyra, Missouri, told The Missouri Times that she’s observed that rural communities like hers can often be overshadowed.
“With me being a very blunt minority — African-American as well as Puerto Rican and trans — I want to show individuals that no matter how you identify or where you are, your voice should always be heard, and I feel like at the end of the day there are voices that aren’t,” she said.
Hello! I am Kendall Martinez-Wright, I go by she her pronouns and I am the first Trans woman to run for the Missouri House of Representatives for 2022. I stand for all individuals and I will specifically stand for Trans folks here in Missouri. pic.twitter.com/nagDQZejKZ
— Kendall Martinez-Wright (@Kendall4MO) April 22, 2021
Martinez-Wright, who has worked for Empower Missouri and the Mid-Missouri Young Democrats, said that in the state House, she would prioritize education, infrastructure, agriculture and accessibility for her community.
When the pandemic hit and communities and schools transitioned from in-person to remote learning, Martinez-Wright noticed a “real cry for help and to be heard.”
“We need to address underperforming schools, ensure businesses and agriculture are operating and sustainable, and provide reliable internet infrastructure so students and families can be successful not only now during the pandemic but in the future,” she said.
The Afro-Latina candidate hopes that her campaign will serve to encourage others to involve themselves in the democratic process, either through grassroots work or from the state House.
I believe in @Kendall4MO with my whole heart and I know she will fight for a fairer Missouri when she gets elected. Help send her to #moleg https://t.co/kQSDEYkD16. #Kendall4Mo https://t.co/zmDkCK012G
— Brooklynne Roulette Mosley (@Brooklynne84) April 23, 2021
Martinez-Wright recalls experiencing a lot of self-doubt and symptoms of “imposter syndrome,” but her love for and desire to improve her community kept her inspired to continue.
After years of actively working within the community and the government, she realized that people need to step up and become the game-changers the country needs, especially young people.
“At the end of the day, it’s like what my mom told me: ‘If you want to do something, don’t wait. You never know when you’ll have an opportunity again,’ and that’s why over the last few weeks I’ve been planning this,” she said.
I am ready for work for YOU when elected. To ensure I win in 2022, visit https://t.co/mWO3LzlFaE for details! Together can can flip MO HD 05 and send me to the People’s House in Jefferson City. pic.twitter.com/NJoiNxtjVc
— Kendall Martinez-Wright (@Kendall4MO) April 2, 2021
Martinez-Wright’s campaign is drawing on the truth that every single person is dealing with some sort of battle or carrying a burden that they don’t advertise, and that we collectively have to be support systems for each other.
GOP Rep. Louis Riggs, who currently holds the District 5 seat, won his second term in November 2020 without any Democratic opposition.
Riggs also spoke to The Missouri Times saying that he has plans to run again in 2022, claiming that he will “keep running until broadband is universal in rural Missouri.”
Since the announcement of her run, Martinez-Wright has been receiving praise and support on social media. She has reposted much of the encouraging tweets onto her own page.
Rachel R. Gonzalez, a close friend of the candidate, quote tweeted a post from The Hill, announcing the campaign, writing that “if you’re accepting and kind, make sure you’re following my friend.”
“Kendall is an incredible person, and she deserves all the support,” Gonzalez said.
Others were happy to see fellow Black and Latina women making waves in local government.
Supporters have commented on the sheer “Black girl magic” of her campaign, and that “Latinas do it best!.”
“A queen, cambia el mundo, amor!” wrote one Twitter user.
Martinez-Wright, who describes herself as a “catalyst of change and mover and shaker for all things equitable,” has already racked up 2,500 followers on Twitter, and the applause continues to roll in.
— Sydney (@Sydney_Halpern) April 23, 2021
In 2022, Rep. Riggs looks to have a Democratic opponent who is fighting to take her well-deserved seat at the table, and make a positive impact.