Organizer, Bus Rider, Artist
By Dameun Strange, Campaign Organizer
Growing up in Washington, DC, in a family that lived on transit—either the bus or walking—I did not have a need for a driver’s license. In fact, for a very long time I lived in a five-generation household in which there was only one person who had a license and a car. We simply didn’t need it. We could walk to a grocery store or a drug store. We were a short walking distance from bus routes that could take us to pretty much any part of the city. Some of my fondest memories as a child were taking the bus with my great great grandmother (yes, great great); she was a very busy woman even in her old age, and the bus was how she did her business. As I grew older, the bus became how I did my business. I grew up in Columbia Heights, DC, and we didn’t have the luxury of the Metrorail. When that was designed, it was not for the people who actually lived in DC like my family and I did. The Red Line was built to shuttle suburbanites from Maryland into the city for work and then back. Likewise, the Orange and Blue Lines were built for Virginia’s suburbanites to do the same. The Green Line, which does serve people living in the city of Washington, would not be built until almost 20 years after the Red Line opened. So, I was a DC bus rider, and that was fine by me; service was pretty frequent, and I could get to most places in plenty of time. And, with the introduction of the Walkman in elementary school, I had my very own soundtrack for those longer journeys.
In 1991, I moved to the Twin Cities to attend Macalester College in Saint Paul and became a Twin Cities bus rider. Long waits for buses and colder weather almost tempted me into buying a car pretty early on. But being a poor college student and then starving artist/organizer, I never really thought the expense of a car was worth it. I have been primarily a mass transit user, a walker, or three-season bike commuter for most of my 22 years in the area. I stick to warm-weather bicycling because I don’t do well in the snow. So one might ask: why did I choose to make my home in such a cold, cold, very cold place? My other passion—aside from organizing—is the Arts, and I quickly learned that the Twin Cities area is one of the best places in the country when it comes to having a vibrant arts community. As a musician/composer, I am truly inspired by the number of hard-working artists/activists living in the area.
I am proud to be an artist and an activist. I approach both with enthusiasm. I have been an advocate for the arts, fair housing, voter rights, LGBT rights, and family and economic justice. And I have worked for such organizations as ACORN, Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC), Minnesotans United for All Families, and Grassroots Solutions. I am excited to bring my experience to Transit for Livable Communities as the new Campaign Organizer, and to help promote a balanced transportation system that encourages transit, walking, bicycling, and compact development. Specifically, my role here will be focused on the Move MN campaign for comprehensive transportation funding. I always look at these issues through a lens of equity and access. I am also always happy to have a conversation and I look forward to meeting many of you on January 15 at the TLC member meeting (7 PM, location TBD). There I can introduce myself in person and we can discuss what TLC has planned for the new year. I hope you can join us!