“The fight to end the inequalities of our racist criminal justice system is personal to me,” said Keeda Haynes on what drives her to earn a seat in Congress.
A formerly incarcerated woman runs to be 1st Black woman in Congress from Tennessee. https://t.co/JdjAIdmEkQ— ABC News (@ABC) August 1, 2020
The 42-year-old progressive Democrat Keeda Haynes, if elected, will be the first black congresswoman to represent Tennessee’s fifth district in Congress. Haynes, in the upcoming August 6 primary election in Tennessee, will be challenging Democratic candidate Joshua Rawlings and the 17-year career of Democratic Congressman Rep. Jim Cooper.
Two weeks after graduating a degree in criminal justice and psychology from Tennessee State University, Haynes was sent to federal prison to serve three years and 10 months on charges of conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a crime she says she did not commit. She was dating a man in Nashville for a few years and began accepting packages for his shop and later found out that those packages contained marijuana, Haynes shared on ABC news. Upon her release in 2006, she set her mind to be a public defender. She accepted the role of a legal assistant to the lawyer that represented her case while being in law school at night. This decision to become a lawyer rooted in the stories of struggles women in prison are experiencing with their public defenders, she told CNBC Make it. She graduated from law school in 2012 and became a practicing attorney in Nashville.
If the votes will turn in her favor, she hopes to shed light on the criminal justice system, economic justice, and healthcare justice. In an interview, she shared that these critical issues that affect people need someone in Congress that will act upon it. She shared with ABC News that prison did not deter her from doing something for her community, and she wanted to tell young Black girls who aspire to be like her in the future to stay focused because they can make the impossible possible.
She is currently the legal adviser of a nonprofit organization in Tennessee that provides support, education, and advocacy to families impacted by the criminal justice system called Free Hearts. Keeda Haynes hopes to deliver to all pressing issues that surround her community once elected and she aims to be the first African American female from her district that went to Congress and got things done for people in Tennessee. She added, being the first means nothing if you’re not going to fulfill the duty of the position that you’re the first in.