Odessa Kelly Explains What ‘Defund the Police’ Really Means

That’s what drives me to stay engaged when change feels impossible. It’s okay to be frustrated, but don’t let it deter you from the challenge of building the country you want.

4. If you could snap your fingers and change two things about politics in the United States, what would they be?

Enact Medicare for All and get rid of Citizens United, like I’m Thanos!

5. If you’re elected to office, what specific actions would you take on the climate crisis?

I’m an ardent supporter of a Green New Deal and I’m ready to throw my weight behind the bill. We’ve already seen the toll climate change is taking on Tennesseans – we lost 20 people to the Waverly floods of 2021, and 2022 was one of our hottest summers on record. And let’s be clear: The folks most impacted by this crisis are poor communities of color. We’ve got to invest in climate-resilient infrastructure, carbon-free renewable energy, and a just transition, because like it or not, the climate crisis is here.

6. Name one public figure you admire and why?

Jemele Hill: She understood the possible consequences of being an unapologetic Black woman on national television and didn’t let that stop her from speaking truth to power. She dragged Donald Trump on ESPN and stood by her statements even with her career at stake. That, in my eyes, is some real hero ish! 

7. What is your stance on reducing funding for police departments and the term “defund the police”?

Communities become safer and healthier when they have the resources they need. More police doesn’t equate to safer communities — if that were the case, the United States would be the safest country in the world. It’s all too clear that Black and brown communities are over-policed and underresourced, resulting in so many of our friends, loved ones, and neighbors being victimized by the criminal justice system. 

“Defund the Police” is a loaded term that has given the Republican Party a lot of fearmongering ammunition to attack us with. All it really means is “Invest in Community.” Our bloated police budgets are absorbing taxpayer dollars that could be going towards programs like health care, education, community centers, and other critical social infrastructure that actually reduces crime and fortifies social safety nets, and creates safer, healthier communities. 

We are so focused on systems of punishment that we never prioritize systems of healing. The day we no longer need policing will be the most joyous and precious day in American history. I pledge my allegiance to building that America!

8. What’s your pop culture guilty pleasure?

Definitely scrolling through Instagram Reels. I love watching them and I really like making them. I plan to start a TikTok as soon as I can find the time.

9. What is your plan for addressing the student debt crisis?

Make public colleges and universities tuition-free and cancel all student debt! Of course, I’m glad that President Biden forgave $10-20,000 in student loans, but we can do better than that — and for many of us, Black women especially, that barely made a dent in our mountain of debt. The student debt crisis is a legitimate crisis. It’s trapping millions of people in vicious interest cycles and keeping an entire generation locked out of building generation wealth. We need total reform, and that’s the fight I want to bring to Congress.

10. How are you engaging young people specifically in your campaign?

We know that when young people vote, progressives win. That’s why our team is working with students on campus at Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt, and other schools in the district to get young people registered to vote and fired up about the election. That means championing policies that young people care about and that will impact their quality of life, like racial and LGBTQIA justice, women’s rights, raising the minimum wage, student debt cancellation, policing, and climate action.

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