Posted by on September 03, 2008 in Blog

Rashida Tlaib might be running for State Representative for the first time, but she’s no newcomer to the area or to the issues. Residents know her by name, she’s visited their homes on her door-to-door campaign, and she’s part of a growing group of those who work in “service politics”. A self-described “daughter of the community” and “product of the culturally vibrant community of Southwest Detroit”, Rashida Tlaib is looking to represent Michigan’s 12th District, the district she grew up in.

Tlaib’s history of working in public policy and legal services is a natural fit for this position. She worked for a number of local service providers as well as for the current State Representative, House Floor Leader Steve Tobocman. Tlaib says “I think of myself as more of a social worker than a politician. It took another community activist to tell me how important it was to have “people like us” in the state legislature that believed in “service politics” where legislation and helping people through everyday issues went hand in hand.”

With Tlaib already working on public policy issues that were important to Southwest Detroit, she says it felt completely natural to talk about those issues with residents during her door-to-door campaign. Having grown up in the community and worked at local nonprofits in the area, she had already developed a relationship with people. Each of the residents was given an opportunity to personally interview her – “They are my employers!” she points out – and at the polls on Election Day, residents called her by her first name and knew who she was before they walked inside to vote.

“I am a true believer that a focused and aggressive grassroots campaign is the most effective way in earning voters’ support and respect. I have a unique name, similar to Sen. Barack Obama, but that didn’t matter to my residents and neither did my religion or ethnicity when I came to their door.” Her district is not heavily Arab-American; they make up only 2% of the population. Southwest Detroit is over 40% Latino and the rest is a mixture of European immigrants and African Americans. Tlaib visited each home twice and walked every street in the district at least twice. “My community appreciated my work ethic and my sincerity of wanting to make a difference by representing them in the state legislature. They know that I will always have the best interest of the community in mind with every decision I make. ”

It is clear that the residents of her community love the fact that she is not a career politician, but rather a daughter of the community. Tlaib has promised to work side by side with residents to fight corporate and special interests that negatively impact the environment and their quality of life. Southwest Detroit is surrounded by some of the most egregious polluting companies, and Tlaib has assured residents that she can’t be bought. Another goal of Tlaib’s is to open a district office that provided comprehensive services such as foreclosure prevention, legal referrals, free tax preparation, reporting illegal dumping and crime in the community. State representatives are not permitted to use funds allocated by the state for such an office, so Tlaib will fundraise every year to provide this service to the community.

Rashida Tlaib counts herself as a perfect example of why everyone should be involved in politics. “I am a product of all the work that the Arab American community has put forward so far. If it wasn’t the community mobilizing themselves and organizing their voice, I would not have ever run for office. If we give up now, then we will go back to the years where we weren’t represented at National Conventions or even viewed as an important constituency.” Tlaib urges everyone to go out and vote this November 4th, because “if you stay home on November 4th, then you are agreeing with these unjust policies that have been enacted post-9/11, with our community as the primary target of the current administration. I don’t want my son to worry about so called “no fly list” or if his donation to an organization is suspect.”

Tlaib points out that in this presidential election, Michigan it is especially important. “The community here is given a unique opportunity to advocate for a voice in the new administration. They are helping shape policies that impact Arab American families across the United States, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be given a position in the Obama campaign to highlight the diverse talent of the Arab American community in Michigan.”

Asked what this win means for her personally, Tlaib responds, “I was so proud of my community and it gave me faith that the America I was raised in is a place where anyone, no matter their background, can reach their dream.”

To donate or become involved with Rashida Tlaib’s campaign, please visit