ELK GROVE – Maureen Craft sees Elk Grove as a city of yet-to-be tapped opportunities and believes she’s the change needed to shake things up and move forward.

Ms. Craft is vying for a seat on the Elk Grove City Council. The businesswoman and California Democratic Party Central Committee Board member also ran for the District 3 seat in 2016. If elected on November 3, she’d be the first African American woman to serve on the local government body.

The Sacramento OBSERVER talked with Ms. Craft about her vision and what it means to be politically active in the region.

Q: What’s the Black political scene in Elk Grove like?
A: The political scene for the Black community in Elk Grove has been dormant. Since the city’s inception in 2000, there has been one Black City Council member, who also served as mayor. There has not been a Black person in office since 2014.

Q: Is it hard to be politically active as a Black person in Elk Grove?
A: Historically, Elk Grove has been a majority White community. While communities of color have increased in the last 10 years, the involvement of these groups have not grown with their increased population. Black activism has been difficult due to the lack of Black businesses, Black community groups and an overall acceptance of Black leaders at the decision making table. Conversely, Black leaders like myself and a few others have become the changemakers who are committed to increase the presence of Black representation.

Q: Elk Grove has had some racial issues, what are Black residents sharing with you about their issues and concerns? Have they felt free to speak on that?
A: Residents have expressed their desire for their families to live, work and play in Elk Grove without the fear of being racially profiled and harassed. They have also indicated that they would like to see a police department that culturally represents the diversity of the city. Lastly, Black residents would like to see a substantial increase in Black-owned businesses.

Q: Where did your political awareness/civic engagement come from?
A: I have been politically engaged since I was a child. My mother was deeply involved in the civil rights movement in the ’60s. From a very young age, I was taught that my vote counts and my voice matters. She taught me that as a Black woman, I would have to be vocal about change and diligent about the effort I put into making that change happen. I was taught equity and equality. She taught me to dream big.

Q: You’ve run before. What’s different now?
A: As a candidate and leader who is running for Elk Grove City Council, District 3, I am engaged and invested in the residents and the growth of our city. I’m excited about the opportunity to govern over the most diverse district in Elk Grove and to take my rightful seat at the table as the first Black woman to lead in Elk Grove. Since 2016, I have become more politically entrenched in Elk Grove politics. As a leader, I advocated to have the City of Elk Grove conduct a diversity and inclusion audit, so that people of color can have a seat at the table. For the past three years, I worked with a coalition and lobbied for By-District Voting, which was adopted in November of 2019.

Q: You’ve had roles related to the Democratic Party. What are they?
A: Currently, I have several roles in the Democratic Party. I have been elected twice as a California Assembly Delegate for District 9. I am an Executive Board Member for the Democratic Party of Sacramento County. I am also a member of the Elk Grove -South County Democratic Club and I am actively involved in Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA).

Q: Why is it important for you to be engaged?
A: We have to be present to speak on the issues that directly affect our community. I have found that it is important to lobby for equity and inclusion at both the state and local levels.

Q: A lot has been said about the position Black women are in right now to make a difference in the upcoming elections, your thoughts on that?
A: Black women have proven to be the ‘margin of victory.’ We show up 95 percent of the time to let our voices be heard. We fight for a seat at the table and we lead unapologetically. We know that we are the change agents for the future and we want our voices to be heard.

By GENOA BARROW | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer