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Black History Month: Rep. Leslie Herod is an unapologetic champion

Author: Gabrielle Bryant - February 7, 2018 - Updated: February 7, 2018

Rep. Leslie Herod, D-DenverRep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, outside the state Capitol. (Photo by Gabrielle Bryant/Colorado Politics)

State Rep. Leslie Herod is my legislative spirit animal. Unapologetic about her work, yet fully committed to making things happen and willing to cross party lines to get the job done.

She’s is a champion of the people. Crafting legislation that focuses on the folks who are often forgotten or mislabeled. Like many other Americans, she was raised by a single mother who was dedicated to her career as an OB/GYN and inevitably pushed a young Rep. Herod into becoming a caretaker. She grew up with a half-sister who bounced in and out of incarceration. Despite all of this, she’s shaping up to be a Colorado politics rising star and ended up with a brother who’s now a doctor.

Through osmosis, Rep. Herod was anointed to be a chingona.

Instead of allowing the weight of her rocky foundation to immobilize or keep her from running in the first place, she used them it motivate her and drive the policy she creates.

“Your story is not only a part of who you are, but it’s a valuable asset when making public policy. You don’t need to be a perfect cookie cutter person to serve in these walls and in fact, you shouldn’t be.”

This became evident when she and State Representative Faith Winter passed a “tampon tax amendment” aimed at menstrual equity in Colorado jails. The two worked to amend the 2016 budget to direct $40,000 toward providing free pads and tampons for women. Prior to, inmates would have to prove medical need for pads or cough up $7 for tampons from the commissary. A blind man, or woman, could see that this needed to be addressed but the cause needed the perfect savior.

The fight began after Rep. Herod visited an institution and merely asked inmates what they needed. To the surprise of some, it wasn’t access to Wi-Fi or even softer beds, but it was as simple as must-have feminine hygiene products. Menstruation is already a hush-hush topic and gets worse once you enter a jail or prison, especially if you don’t have the funds to pay for these necessities. The question is, “What if her sister had never been incarcerated and she failed to use this as fuel to help other women?

The same goes for legislation she and State Representative Brittany Pettersen are championing that would provide safe spaces and proper medical attention for addicts to use in a supervised setting. Both lawmakers were closely impacted by their mother’s drug use and is using that to catapult policy this legislative session.

Rep. Herod understands the value of not only being a vociferous advocate for the people she was born to represent in her work at the Capitol, but also elevating voices in the community that typically feel left out of the political framework.

At the start of February, she held an Open Mic Town Hall at community hub, Coffee at The Point in the heart of the historic cultural district. The standing room only event was filled with lawmakers, artists, community activists and neighbors alike. One-by-one, some of Denver’s most well-known and radical spoken word artists took the mic to express their frustrations, opposition and rebellion against “the system.” All while, Rep. Herod mix and mingled with the crowd and shared anecdotal accounts of what motivates the work she does.

The room was much like my Facebook feed. Vibrant, millennial and full of inspirational messages. Definitely not your grandparent’s town hall.

Whether she’s making an appearance at a community event or a house finance committee meeting, you’re getting the same Leslie. Fearless, focused and forward-thinking.

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant

Gabrielle Bryant is a freelance journalist, host and Emmy Award-winning politics producer. You might recognize her TV work from "Colorado Inside Out" Friday nights on CPT12.