Many of us will never forget Election Night 2016. I know I won’t. What began as an inspiring day spent with grassroots organizers and community leaders ended with me in tears as I thought about what the Presidential Election results would mean for so many people I care about. Sadness and fear hung in the air the next day as I wandered around the city. Then, the next morning, I got on a plane and flew to Atlanta for a national conference called Facing Race.

A writer named Jennifer Pozner described the mood perfectly: “We didn’t know how we’d make it through the next three days in Atlanta, let alone the next four years in America.” Angela, let me tell you: that conference ended up being the best place to be in that precise moment. The 2,000 racial justice activists who showed up with heavy hearts filled each other up with the motivation and inspiration to pick ourselves up and continue the fight for justice.

I was there with a group associated with RISE San Diego. Some of us worked for nonprofits, others worked for elected officials. We were there to learn and bring ideas back home to San Diego. One of the members of the group was Monica Montgomery.

Photo Credit: RISE San Diego

Monica left an indelible impression on me. It wasn’t because we had a ton of time together (we didn’t) or anything specific that she said about herself. It wasn’t even because of how obviously smart and passionate she was. It was the way Monica talked about her community. Over the next year, I got to know Monica better as we were both RISE Urban Leadership Fellows. Over and over again, no matter how intense the program, Monica was remarkably consistent in her character, values, and commitment to community. My initial instinct about her had turned into an affirmed belief: she was the real deal.

By 2018, we were both running for office. Monica was running the most courageous campaign in San Diego. Staring straight at the political establishment and not blinking, Monica didn’t just win, she made history by defeating the incumbent City Council President in a landslide. See, she didn’t need the establishment, and it didn’t matter that they spent piles of money attacking her. Her community knew who she was and had her back.

This is why our team was so ecstatic when we got word that Monica was endorsing our campaign. In fact, our campaign manager Maryan and my wife Angela might’ve screamed with excitement when I told them the news… Four years ago, Monica was one of the people who gave me hope that we, as a people, could and would resist until November 2020. Now, with her support, we have a chance to work together to make the next four years the ones that transform San Diego into the city it can – and should be – for everyone.

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