“People of color are doing so much that’s building movement work and yet we’re not compensated fairly for our time, our effort, or the emotional labor that we’re putting in.”
2016 Kairos Fellow Irna Landrum of Daily Kos shares why it’s so critical to create racial equity in the world of digital campaigning.
Irna Landrum had been an organizer for almost two decades before she applied for the Kairos Fellowship in 2016. Born in New Orleans, she’s lived for the past 14 years in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she has worked as the director of a childcare center, a labor organizer, and an electoral campaign organizer, before establishing a career doing, as she put it, “block by block, neighborhood-based community organizing.”
Landrum is also a writer and artist. The Kairos Fellowship, she said, came at the right moment for her, a time when she was ready for a mid-career shift and looking for an opportunity to integrate her creative passions with her desire to fight for justice. “Kairos was an opportunity to keep integrating the parts of myself that are a creative writer and the parts of myself that are down to kick the ass of White supremacy,” she said.
Landrum was placed with Daily Kos, which hired her as a full-time campaigner and writer shortly after the fellowship ended.
“What I’ve most enjoyed so much about Daily Kos is that they knew that I came in with an eye towards campaigning and getting our community involved in campaigns that focused on issues of racial justice,” Landrum said.
She’s been able to do exactly that, running campaigns on the Dakota Access pipeline and other key issues, and in her role as a writer, penning wide-ranging pieces on everything from Black voter suppression to her personal reaction as a Black queer woman to the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Landrum credits much of the reason for her positive experience to her supportive team at Daily Kos, and she pointed to one moment in particular that exemplifies the support that she received from other staff — the day that it was announced there would be no indictment of the officers who shot and killed 24-year-old Black Minneapolis resident Jamar Clark.
“I live in Minneapolis, so it was impacting me in a particular way,” she said. That day, her boss asked her if she wanted to create an online action in response to the non-indictment, with the full support of the Daily Kos team. “I said I can’t do an action, I’m just sad,” Landrum remembered. “And he said, ‘Do you want to write about it?’ And so I did.”
While the writing came more naturally for Landrum, there was a steep — and fast — learning curve as a campaigner. “I had to learn really quickly how to strategically target an action,” she said. Landrum is most proud of the campaign she’s led at Daily Kos to engage members on stopping the Dakota Access pipeline.
“I feel really proud of it for a number of reasons, and one of the reasons is how much sense it makes to our community. They knew this was important, this was dire, and that we had to get on board,” Landrum said. It was especially important, she noted, because the Daily Kos membership, which tends to be overwhelmingly White, is “sometimes not all the way there when it comes to issues affecting Black and Brown people.”
The Kairos Fellowship, according to Landrum, is a necessary intervention to create racial equity in the digital campaigning space. “If this community was doing what it needed to do, we wouldn’t have had to be so excited about Kairos,” she pointed out.
“People of color create a lot of the content that people use to support their campaigns and the narratives they’re building,” she said. “People of color are doing so much that’s building movement work and yet we’re not compensated fairly for our time, our effort, or the emotional labor that we’re putting in.”
Landrum pointed out that without the opportunity that the Kairos Fellowship provided, Daily Kos would not have hired her directly, given her lack of experience in digital campaigning. “Kairos is an opportunity to look into a career that uses everything you’re already doing, and will fairly value it. And you get to do that with the mentorship and support of other POC who have done this, and you get to do it with far more support they had when this field was just developing.”