Real Diversity and Inclusion
Life was perfect from a child’s point of view. I had a community of family that loved me, and I love them. Then suddenly, war broke out and my family was displaced. Bullets rang out in the community every day. One day I heard and saw a bullet coming directly at my head when suddenly I felt somebody grab me and we fell to the floor. It was my aunty; she had saved my life. We evacuated the city right away. I remember standing in line at a checkpoint watching as soldiers shot people dead while screaming “Next”. Sometime later we returned to Monrovia, Liberia reuniting with my daddy. “We are going to America,” he stated. My mother had sent for my daddy and me. We traveled to a village in Cote d’Ivoire where I remember watching with others like a movie as the President of Liberia was dismembered and tortured.
In another village, we were reunited with my aunty, uncle, and cousins.
Devotions and worship were our way of life. We had devotions every morning before daybreak and evening before bed at the same time. From devotions, I learned I am to serve others. I am to love as I have been loved. I am to work hard, and the rest will follow. Surrounded by French speakers, I picked up the language. I finally felt safe, but it was time to travel to America. My aunt’s last words of advice to me were, “Kartumu I want you to remember that regardless who people are or what they have, nobody is better than you.”
We landed in Saint Paul, MN reuniting with my mommy, brother, grandmother, familiar and unfamiliar friends and family. Going to church made me feel at home. The first day of school my mother advised me, “If you don’t understand something ask questions.”
I started my education at Maxfield Elementary where I was held back because the school was unsure of my educational level. That motivated me to work hard. The next school year I was in my proper grade level. I was teased for being different, but I explored and learned my surroundings. When my family moved to the East Side, I attended Hazel Park middle school. I interacted with many different cultures of children with and without similar stories as mine. As my understanding of the culture, systems, and structures evolved I started to feel their impact on my life.
Graduating from Johnson High School, I was excited to start college at the University of Minnesota School of Liberal Arts with dreams to become a lawyer.
Trying to enroll myself, as an independent student with a scholarship was frustrating. I remember pleading with the administrator at the front desk. I insisted that I was living on my own but she repeatedly stated that they needed my parent’s tax return to register me for classes. I asked for her supervisor and a minute later, I was able to register and start school. This taught me to fight for what I know is right. After completing my first year of college, I became homeless again and then pregnant. Knowing I was in charge of another life, advocating became a part of my life. Advocacy for myself and my child helped me navigate through many trials and tribulations. Working in a variety of industries show me the importance in building relationships and understanding people better. In 2009 after the birth of my third child, I made a choice to further my career in the health field by earning my AAS in Health Information Technology at Saint Paul College.
In 2016 I discovered a community radio station on the East side; 104.7 FM WEQY. I was extremely excited because I grew up listening to 89.9 FM and it informed, empowered, and educated me about my community. I saw this station as a great opportunity and investment in building my community in St. Paul. I took on many leadership roles at the station filling my cup of knowledge. I worked directly with the District Council, nonprofit organizations and the city government. I indulged in every opportunity to learn and develop my understanding of how things work in the City of Saint Paul. I took great pride and satisfaction in a name given to me by our station manager, “The Minister of Information”. I engaged with my community through many different channels using the information I obtained including outreach to small businesses, educating community members about development opportunities and resources, fundraising, and working with many organizations to help bring community members together. My most memorable activity was bringing the community out to watch the Black Panther movie. I also activated my voice for those who weren’t informed or invited to the numerous professional diverse environments I was entering.
I then took a job as a Canvas Supervisor with MN Voice, a non-partisan civic engagement organization that allowed me to be directly involved in the democratic process as more than a voter. Learning and gaining a deeper understanding of our system is a tool I had been longing for. I was then chosen as a Fellow for the MN Voice Fellowship Program; an educational fellowship that allowed me to be a part of a community of people educating and providing the tools and pathways to change for all.
“Advocacy for myself and my child helped me navigate through many trials and tribulations. “
My experiences and relationships I’ve built throughout my life have taught me to be open to others.
I’ve gained a wide perspective and awareness of my community. My family affectionately calls me “the poor man’s lawyer” because I am a fierce advocate for others and myself. The lack of community involvement on decisions that directly impact our daily lives in ward 7 and most importantly our children and their future is why I am rising up. The majority of my major life experiences have taken place in Saint Paul, MN. Saint Paul is my home.
The adversity I faced as an immigrant from childhood to adulthood propelled me to navigate the culture, systems and structures of our society. Overcoming homelessness as a youth & young adult, being a single parent of low income, experiencing lack of opportunities, depression, discrimination and mistreatment from different people regardless of color has thought me to meet people where they are at. These experiences have turned me into a resilient, hardworking woman. I attribute my perseverance to my Creator. I understand that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to finding solutions for community. I will diligently represent everyone in our community leading with transparency to ensure trust in our city and policy makers. I will advocate for your views, your choice, and your voice, with dignity and respect. We the people hold the power. Let’s activate our power for our children and generations to come.
Change begins with us.
Vote Kartumu King as your 1stchoice for City Council, Ward 7.
Let Us Rise