Aisha’ Profiled in the October 2012 Issue of Black Enterprise magazine.
THE WORK I DO
Former political fundraiser now focuses on policies affecting LGBT people of color
After a decade as a political fundraiser for members of Congress, Aisha Moodie-Mills shifted her attention to civil rights issues in 2009 when the fight for same-sex marriage came to the District of Columbia. As president of the Campaign for All D.C. Families, she became a key strategist leading the district to become the sixth jurisdiction/state in the country to extend marriage rights to lesbian and gay couples. In her current role, Moodie-Mills now fights as a policy advocate—influencing legislative bodies to adopt laws and policies—for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) people of color.
President and CEO of Synergy Strategy Group, a boutique fundraising and political consulting firm
Moodie-Mills holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in business administration from the University of Maryland, College Park
How she got the job:
In 2010, Moodie-Mills and her newlywed wife, Danielle, an environmental education lobbyist, came up with the idea to create the Fighting Injustice to Reach Equality initiative (FIRE) as a think tank that worked to eliminate social, health, and economic disparities faced by LGBT people of color. Instead of trying to launch it as a stand-alone organization, the duo brought the idea to the Center for American Progress (CAP), subsequently garnering $250,000 in funding from the Arcus Foundation. Moodie-Mills went to work at CAP and launched FIRE with the release of the initiative’s inaugural report, Jumping Beyond The Broom: Why Black Gay and Transgender Americans Need More than Marriage Equality. “This project is evidence that if you have a really impactful idea, are passionate about it, and have a solid plan to sustain the work, others will support your vision.”
On a day-to-day basis, Moodie-Mills writes and publishes policy reports and issue briefs, and educates and makes recommendations to policymakers. In addition to working to change federal policies, she works to expand and diversify public discourse. This includes delivering messages through media and strengthening the ability of local grassroots organizations to advocate.
Driven by passion:
While a policy analyst at the Center for Education Reform in 2000, the politically conservative environment caused Moodie-Mills to shift gears. “The fate of education policy at that time was going to be determined by whoever won the presidential election,” she says. “That made me realize that I wanted to be the person who was helping the right people get elected because that would trickle into who was making policies I cared about.” She went on to serve as regional finance director at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and as executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus PAC before founding the Synergy Strategy Group in 2006, a political and public affairs consultancy, to help build relationships between minority-owned businesses and the government. Through her firm, she also served as political adviser, private–sector liaison, and campaign fundraiser to more than 50 members of Congress, including six senators. “I’ve always been most passionate about helping people who have been traditionally marginalized have a voice in the policymaking process,” Moodie-Mills says. “Those wealthy, well-connected people and corporations are the ones who know how to get access, which is why there’s often a disconnect between the policies that are passed and the actual needs and interests of the people that they affect. And my goal is to bridge the gap.”
Being analytical is a key component at work. You need to understand how a bill becomes a law and how public policy is created and interpreted beyond just legislation. Moodie-Mills cites, for example, getting protections for LGBT employees. “Generally, it is going to be the black trans woman who is going to be discriminated against the most in the workplace or fired, which is legal in 28 states. We have been working more than a decade to get Congress to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. But in the meantime, the Obama administration has internal policies to provide protection to federal employees in the workplace.” Storytelling, however, may be her greatest strength. “You have to be able to explain to decision-makers about who is really being affected by policy. You have to make it relevant to real people and tell the stories of real people’s lives to illuminate policy. That is what changes hearts and minds, and also drives policy change.”
Her wedding day. Moodie-Mills and her wife were among the first same-sex couples to receive a marriage license in D.C. in 2010. The media coverage elevated the couple to celebrity status and role models in the black and LGBT communities. They talk about political policy and culture issues on their blog, three LOL (www.three lol.com). Moodie-Mills also takes pride in her appearances on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry show. “It was the first network to really address black LGBT issues [such as the NAACP’s support of marriage equality]. We were able to create visibility where there hadn’t been. There is no such thing as special LGBT rights. No one is asking for anything more than everyone else already has. It is about equalizing.” —Carolyn M. Brown