By Brian Goins
Jennifer Vannoy has learned along the way that being complacent about the state of the world doesn’t bring about change.
It takes action, and she’s doing that by running for office.
Vannoy, who is a realtor for EXIT Realty, began her passion for volunteerism years ago. Born in Milwaukee, she has lived in Middle Tennessee most of her life. She began volunteering with Tennessee Equality Project in 2006, and became a volunteer training coordinator for the organization.
In late January, she announced her bid for State Representative for District 34. She’s running against Republican incumbent Tim Rudd.
“It’s been a yearlong process,” she said, adding that it started with the 2016 election.
She stayed up all night on election night, with tears streaming down her face.
“Like so many of us did, I fell into that state of fear and ‘What’s next?’” she said.
She took action. She searched for ways to get involved and found the Women’s March on Washington.
When she realized that she wouldn’t be able to attend the event in Washington, D.C., she helped organize the Women’s March in Nashville.
“I showed up to that first meeting and I said — excuse my language — ‘I’m really pissed off,’” she said. “Not just at where we are, but my lack of involvement in our community and in our political power structure.”
She volunteered to be the media coordinator for the Women’s March in Nashville and within a week was one of the lead coordinators. The event was a success.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “That day was probably one of the best days of my life. Then, it was over.”
She took a day to rest and began thinking about what was next, which was “pretty much moving into Legislative Plaza.”
She attended meetings and started watching the bills go through.
“I realized how many of the bills that were being introduced were at their core, quite hateful,” she said. “I was just appalled at the time, the resources, the money that was being spent on discriminatory or hateful policy.”
As each of these bills were introduced and began moving through, she started reading, analyzing and asking questions.
“What I really found,” she said, “was that without equal representation in the legislature, pretty nasty things happen to a lot of really good people.”
There are a lot of people in our government fighting for us, too, she said.
“Those of us with more progressive views — I think we are the ones who really have family values at our core,” she said. But we can’t be drowned out by the fearful legislation, or let ourselves be lulled into thinking we shouldn’t stand up and be heard.
“We had reason to believe we were on a state of progression, because we were in a lot of ways (during the Obama years),” she said, but added that for every step forward, we also have people who get fearful.
“They truly believe something will be taken away from them,” she said, “and that’s what we have to work really hard to turn around. We don’t want to take anything away from you.”
She credits her experience volunteering with TEP with opening her eyes quite a bit.
“The more I got involved with TEP, it was like these little pieces that open your eyes and your mind,” she said. “You start seeing the difficulties and the problems, and once you’re coming from that perspective, you have a choice to make. You’re at a fork in the road.”
She admits that she stayed at that fork in the road for quite a long time, but ultimately chose action. “You can either go back into your little world, and you can ignore and live in your happy little bubble — or you can get out there and do something about it.”