Meet Belinda Drake: Why Being Indiana's First Black Gay Woman to Win the House Isn't All She's About
Belinda Drake of Indianapolis, Indiana sat down with me to tell Gaye Magazine about her ambition to become District 89's House Rep. If you don’t know who she is, trust me when I say you could pick her out of any crowd. With her locs piled high on her shaved head and a sharp choice of a button up and suspenders, I talked with her and got the strange sense that she might be - just might be, an honest politician?
Though Belinda Drake is not officially a house representative, her in-depth relationship with the community, education in political law and science, and her work on the campaign trails for IN Congressman Andre Carson, Indiana State Senator J.D. Ford and City Council candidate Crista Carlino makes her a popular choice.
Once elected, Belinda would be the first openly gay black ‘stud’ to win and take office as State Representative of Indiana House District 89. Being the first of anything usually means bragging rights, but Belinda explained that there was more to her cause than being the "first" of something.
"I legit just want to be an inspiration to that next generation. I want them to say that somebody that looked like them, talked like them, dressed like them, that understood them, that cared - tried. But, I don't want to overshadow the issues that are legit affecting House District 89 and the rest of the Hoosiers so it's like a balancing act. It's really hard because every article is like ' boop - first this, boop - first' and I'm like ah okay. But I talk through it - I don't take every interview for that simple reason too. I'm still going to be the first 'this or that ; but let's talk about the issues."
So let's talk about the issues. Belinda has this belief that you should never come to the table with a problem and not a solution. Her campaign is summed up in the word L.I.F.E So I asked her what were some of the problems of her district, and what she planned to do about them.
"One thing that is specifically hurting my district is the opioid crisis...we have a real issue with finding solutions that are not prescription based to help improve the lives of those in the district. So part of the platform is to legalize and decriminalize marijuana, and with doing so, we can address several things within the district:
We can address the opioid crisis because we'll have an alternative method to address [the] mental health crisis. We'll [also] be able to use some of that funding to address what we call an infrastructure problem...due to weather, we have roads that are just ran down, potholes everywhere, so funding can take care of that as well.
And another thing that can be taken care of, which is my 'e' in LIFE* is equitable education. It's sad that it's part of the platform, [but] let me just be real with you. It's sad. Regardless of which school they go to, regardless which part of District 89 they reside in, they should be receiving the same type of education.
Another thing that is going to improve the lives of everybody in the House of District 89 are improved gun regulation laws. We've lost some youth. To my knowledge, mainly in the African American community, Warren Township, and I have to try to create policy and/or enforce policy and work with those in the state house to try and make sure that we have more strict rules and regulations so that people who shouldn't have guns don't have easy access to them. It shouldn't be just a two step process. We have tests for everything else. Why aren't we testing for guns? It's common sense laws. That's what we're looking to improve upon. By focusing on the things that are affecting the House District 89 as well as improving the lives of the entire state - that should be the main goal."
And Belinda worked in doing that previously. During her candidacy, there was a dark cloud that I just had to figure out. Belinda had originally gone for City Council, but she and another candidate were denied. According to the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper it was because she did not vote in the primaries. So I had to ask about it. After all, if she didn’t vote – why should others?
"Let's make sure we get this one right...they didn't have record of my primary voting record period." - I asked: Did you vote? - "To the best of my knowledge...I believe I have voted in a primary. I voted in this past primary. I have documentation! We could have been certified. We could have still been allowed to run. That was nothing but candidate oppression. That just is what it is. So how do I change that statue or law? You do it as a representative."
It's not surprising that what looks suspiciously like discrimination would happen to a black lesbian woman trying to make a way into the government, but for someone who is all about strength and giving voices, I was curious why Belinda did not push to get back into the City Council. Why go to House of Representative instead?
"City council I would manage the budget for the specific district. Going to the house, working with other state representatives I now get to make sure that policy is in place to make sure that funding is dispersed correctly and that laws and regulations work for everybody, not just the elitist."
As a representative it’s important that what people see is what people get. W.E.B. Dubois had a perspective of the double consciousness, and so I asked Belinda how she viewed herself, how other people viewed her, and how she actually wanted to be viewed.
"In all transparency, I view myself as a black female. I view myself as the one who is very passionate, and I like to say, like, resilient, because I've personally been through a lot but who hasn't, you know? That's life. When I think of myself as a person today at 34 years of age I think of myself as this strong black woman who is just in a little body, but this leads to how other people view me, and I think they see me as a very loud personality. I think they see me as different. Extremely gay, I mean lets be real, but in my day to day interactions I operate close to how other people operate: I go to work, I work on my campaign, talk to my girl on the phone. Like I do normal stuff, and I think people see me as this loud person. Maybe I'm still learning the impact of my voice. I view myself as a strong black woman and a lot of my views are progressive because I serve the majority. How I want to be viewed - I want to be viewed as an equal."
What does that mean though? Everyone wants to be equal, black people have been fighting for equality for years. So what does equal mean?
"What I mean is - I want to be treated with the same respect as you treat someone you love. That's all I try to put out."
Love is all cozy and fuzzy but the government is not known to be very loving. So I started to dig more into where love was a hit or miss - her sexuality. Was it a strength? Apparently.
"I don't think we categorize people politically - yet - by sexuality, but we're getting there. I think that it allows people to know that they have someone who's experienced discrimination, racism, just by their sexuality. So I understand their struggle even if it's not a direct correlation. I understand what it means to not have equal pay, I understand what it means to have nieces and nephews who don't have access to pre-k, just because of the dynamic of who I am as a person. You probably know this from watching interviews, but I don't talk much about my sexuality."
And she was right. She rarely does. Belinda does not fall for the bait of what she calls "identity politics". I became curious of how a representative didn't talk about the one thing that a person may want to see represented - someone who identified as a homosexual. Where was their representative if she never spoke on her own sexuality?
"I'm not in Atlanta. I'm in Indiana. You don't even have to ask. You know that I'm gay. I'm loud and I'm proud, I am a black lesbian. I do love women. Period."
I was surprised about how open she was, how she just shrugged and opened herself up saying it - this is me. But the reality is that Belinda is a black, lesbian millennial. So what in the heck would be the biggest challenge for her when all it looked - you know.
"As a candidate, to be honest, avoiding the identity politics, avoiding being all these - first, first, first, first, first. 'cuz i never wanna blindside the issues that affect my communities. I want it to be about them and not: what I look like, how tall I am, how I wear my hair, or being the first this or the first that. I never want me as a candidate to be more important than the issues that are affecting the people."
As genuine as she seemed, everyone still has ambitions. So I asked her what was in the future for the future house of representative. Most importantly, what was her plan for the future?
"I don't have one. You do what you're called to do. If your community calls for me to run for senator, or governor, or congress, or president that's what you do. Being a public servant is a calling, you don't just get to decide. These are people that want you to represent them, so if they call you to do something - that's just like when I'm in office, when I become state rep - If they call me to do something I don't get to vote based on how I feel, I'm voting based on what my constituents want. If they call me to do something, Imma do it."
Dang. Maybe there is such thing as an honest politician. Vote and see. Election begins November 3, 2020.
Donate to Belinda's Campaign: https://secure.actblue.com/donate/belinda-drake-1