5 Questions for Aiyi’nah Ford

Barbara Jordan
LGBTQ History: Barbara Jordan
October 23, 2020
I Put the Bi in Bitter Director and Actors
I Put the Bi in Bitter is a Light-Hearted Portrayal of LGBTQ Teen Experiences
October 26, 2020
Aiyi'nah Ford

(Photo courtesy of Aiyi'nah Ford)

Aiyi’nah Ford is an eighth-generation native Washingtonian who was born and bred in Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8 and is running to represent ANC 8A06. A Black queer woman who survived everything from domestic violence to stage three cervical cancer, Ford is a passionate community organizer whose experiences inform her approach to people and politics. Ford is also the reigning Ms. Plus America D.C., and the first openly queer woman to win that title.

Since 2012, Ford has been the executive director of The Future Foundation, the only trauma-informed drop-in center for teens and their families in Ward 8. She’s also worked as an activist and organizer to bring about important legislative changes in her community including the passage of D.C.’s first millionaire tax and the negotiation of a Community Benefits Agreement to secure more than 300 hospitality jobs for her neighbors.

 

Describe yourself in a six-word sentence.

I’m the voice, not an echo.

What was the last thing you shared on social media?

I belong to The Original Great Ward 8 Facebook group. There has been a lot of heated debate regarding race relations there. This is to be expected when a 90% Black community learns that the white supremacist organization Proud Boys has a group house in your neighborhood and one of them is running to represent 8A06. I was drained by the weight of what’s happening, how my neighbors are responding, and how some are completely oblivious to the dangers the alt-right can present. I was hurt by the reminder that Black queer women are always carrying something heavy.

This morning, I decided everyone needed to reset in this virtual space. I shared with the group an inspirational video where a Black woman surprises her mother by getting a doctorate. When her mother saw her in the cap and gown … I won’t spoil it. I will simply say that I hope I make my ancestors feel the same way that mom did as they watch me fight for and with my commUNITY.

What do you think is the main challenge facing LGBTQ people in your community?

The biggest challenge in Ward 8 for the LGBTQ+ commUNITY is staying alive. We all know D.C. has the highest [out] LGBTQ+ population in the U.S. However, few D.C. residents know that Ward 8 has the most LGBTQ people in D.C. and the highest number of [reported] hate crimes. The reality is LGBTQ+ youth are harassed at home, in school and on the streets. These youth then seek refuge in youth programs from LGBTQ+ organizations that have parachuted into Ward 8 for coins. Before the big money, they wanted zero parts of these youth. The challenge is Ward 8’s LGBTQ+ youth have become a hustle and that’s costing lives. I consider that more than just a challenge; it’s a crisis. And without LGBTQ+ representation on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, this will never be addressed accordingly.

What is your favorite LGBTQ business where you live?

We don’t have [much] in Ward 8. We have one grocery store that serves over 70,000 people so to go as niche as an LGBTQ+ businesses is a reach. Unlike the multitude of them that you can find in Ward 1 alone. Another reason why I’m running.

[Right now,] Check It is the only LGBTQ+ business in 8A06. It must be said that those young adults own less than 10% of the business entity. So the majority of the profits do not go to Black, queer, native Washingtonians. Once upon a time, 8A06 also had a Black lesbian–owned bar called Cheers at the Big Chair, but the developers raised their rent exponentially and successfully forced them out.

What advice do you have for LGBTQ people running for office?

Before you can even discuss politics, you must develop your own political principles and vote with those. Your principles should be rooted in your lived experiences. So if you have never lived in a food desert, please do not run to represent a food desert. Likewise, if you’re considering a run in D.C. and aren’t from D.C., please let native Washingtonians lead. If you know someone that has been here longer than you, encourage them to run instead of you.

 

 

 

 

Becca Damante
Becca Damante
Becca is a Smith college graduate with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies and an Archives concentration. She has worked and written for non-profits organizations such as Media Matters for America, The Century Foundation, and GLAAD, and loves to write about the intersections between pop culture, politics, and social justice. You can find her at @beccadamante on Twitter.