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Q&A with Jamilah Nasheed

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2019 edition of The Missouri Times Magazine.

After more than 12 years in the General Assembly, Sen. Jamilah Nasheed is headed into her final year in the state Senate. We sat down with the senior lawmaker at her home in St. Louis this fall for the cover story of the Fall 2019 edition of The Missouri Times Magazine.

Below is a conversation between The Missouri Times (TMT) and the senator (JN), with responses edited for clarity. Read more about Nasheed’s life and legacy here.

TMT: When did you first decide to enter politics?

JN: I can go way back to when I was a kid. My grandma was going to be evicted from her house because I had too many violations. The management team said, “If this little girl can get so many signatures, we’ll let you stay.” I had to literally go knock on everyone’s door and convince them to sign a petition to let my grandmother stay in the projects, and I got all those signatures. 

TMT: If anything can be said about you, you’re not afraid to stand up for your convictions. What gives you that drive?

JN: That from which I come. I came up in a rough and tough environment. The conviction I have when it comes to the indigent and the poor and the impoverished is in direct correlation of what I had to experience. So not only can I sympathize, I can empathize. 

TMT: What do you see for the future of the Democratic Party in Missouri?

JN: I think it’s going to eventually shift back to the Democrats [having some control], especially now that you have Clean Missouri and you have to draw those lines. I think it’s going to be more of a balancing act. 

Democrats need to run more candidates. They need to be able to be more competitive. And they need to have a universal platform where it’s open to everyone. I think Democrats are like that to some extent, but I think if a person is pro-life, why wouldn’t you let them in? 

TMT: What do you hope your legacy as a state lawmaker is?

JN: I’m a fighter. I’m a hard worker. At the end of the day, I want my legacy to be that I fought extremely hard for the indigent and for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. 

TMT: We’re sitting here in your home surrounded by awards. Are there any, in particular, that stand out to you? 

JN: The Harris-Stowe State University (Harriet Beecher Stowe Award; 2016). For 150 years, they were not able to have a graduate program. I championed legislation to give them a program. 

And the Annie Malone [Turnbo Legacy Award] stands out. She’s one of the first African American women to become a millionaire. She owned an orphanage in St. Louis that’s still operational (Annie Malone Children & Family Service Center), and we put money in the budget for Annie Malone. That’s important to me because of the history.

TMT: Any advice for newcomers? 

JN: For all the newcomers, the young people who are coming into politics, I would highly recommend they study the rules and try to build relationships. I would tell them to work across party lines and don’t ever sell your soul to the devil. Certain things you don’t compromise. Just be who you are and never let the title define you. Go with your heart; don’t let this get to your head. 

TMT: What do you do in your spare time?

JN: I like to shoot pool. I used to skate a lot. I like to go to the movies; I love to read; I like to walk my dog, Lima. I like to listen to jazz, and I love listening to the sounds of nature. 

TMT: What is your favorite food and restaurant? 

JN: I love pasta — fettuccine with mushrooms and spinach — and baked salmon. And I love Taco Tuesdays. My favorite restaurant is Alexandros in Jefferson City or Sameem Afghan Restaurant in St. Louis.