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Tennessee state representative addresses diversity, her experience at Saint Mary’s

| Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Tennessee representative London Lamar (’13) sat down with students, faculty and members of the Student Diversity Board (SDB) of Saint Mary’s on Tuesday evening. Lamar, the state representative for District 91 of Tennessee, spoke about her experience at Saint Mary’s and the work she has done since she graduated.

During the dialogue, which continued during the keynote address in Carroll Auditorium, Lamar described her journey. She began engaging with politics after former U.S. president Barack Obama was elected president during her senior year of high school. She said this prompted her decision to major in political science instead of engineering, which was her previous goal.

“To see a man who looked like me get elected to the highest office in the land … really was life-changing for me,” she said.

During her time as a student, in addition to completing minors in sociology and intercultural studies, Lamar was the president of the Black Student Association (BSA), which at that time was known as the Sisters of Nefertiti. She also served in leadership positions in SDB and founded the College Democrats of Saint Mary’s during the 2012 general election.

“I started this club and I invited everybody,” Lamar said. “Regardless of … party [affiliation] I wanted you involved.”

The College Democrats of Saint Mary’s helped 10% of the student body register to vote that year, she said, in addition to hosting events such as watch parties.

Lamar said she is proud of the work completed by the club she founded.

“[I was able to] lead girls to be more active and bring more fair representation to campus in a time when there wasn’t any,” she said.

Throughout her career, Lamar said she continually worked hard to motivate young people to vote and to get involved in the political sphere. 

“Young people are the majority and we are not using our power,” Lamar said. 

After she graduated from the College, Lamar moved back to Memphis and ran several candidates’ political campaigns while interning at a political firm. She then served as president of the Tennessee Young Democrats and worked with other organizations, including as a policy associate for SisterReach.

On Nov. 6, 2018, she was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, where she serves today.

Members of the audience responded enthusiastically to Lamar’s message.

“London is a student of color,” senior Jazmin Herrera, president of SDB, said. “Sometimes when you’re here it can be really discouraging as a student of color — how hard it can be to fit in, to prove yourself. Hearing other people’s stories once they leave Saint Mary’s, like how we should use that to our advantage to prepare us for our futures, is what we should take away from their messages. These kinds of talks help prepare us and motivate us to keep going.”

Senior and SDB vice president Bella Tillman said she was also excited to attend the discussion.

“[I enjoyed hearing] how [Lamar felt] Saint Mary’s … prepared her for her position, and how she got her position as a State Representative,” Tillman said.

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