On Ron Dellums: Teaching Us Passion For Justice
“Have fire in your belly for something greater than you!”
Many years later, these words continue to resonate with me as I consciously make an effort to ensure that the choices that I make both personally and professionally reflect the essence of what the Honorable Ronald V. Dellums so eloquently taught me over the years.
I had the honor and privilege to work alongside Ron Dellums during his Oakland mayoral campaign and Administration in 2006 through December of 2010. Those years were critical in my professional development and I quickly realized that the trajectory of my life completely changed the day that I decided to join Latinos for Dellums. At that time, I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to work closely with one of America’s most legendary and effective Congressional leaders and later become his chief of staff while he proudly led the City of Oakland.
Ron Dellums was my political mentor and friend. He was instrumental in paving the way for so many up and coming leaders who transcended politics, including me. He helped me understand the power of coalition building and the importance of civic engagement while he challenged me to think globally and beyond politics.
At one point, I contemplated running for office but decided that I did not need to be an elected official to make a difference in my community and beyond. Because of him, I had the chance to view the world from a different perspective and I developed the courage to challenge the status quo in my own way. He taught me how to be a compassionate and effective political strategist and I have been able to use that wealth of knowledge in my current profession.
Ron always said that we all have the social and moral responsibility to make this world a better place and I am committed to doing that and will continue to pave the way for others just as he did for all of us! I am proud to be a part of Honorable Ronald V. Dellums’ legacy and his legacy will continue for generations to come. May he continue to rest in power and glory!
Marisol G. Lopez
“There are many ways in which the wisdom and legacy of Ron Dellums will continue to live on through me to my kids. However, there is one thing that always sticks out for me when I think about Mayor Dellums. He used to say (paraphrasing here, because he always said everything best): “When you’re in a room with a group of people who have no idea how to proceed, act like you do and you’ll become the leader.”
I don’t always live up to that comment, but I also don’t think he meant that to be a leader you have to be the loudest or most aggressive. No, when I had the privilege to work for him at Oakland City Hall, he would always make it a point to be the best listener in the room. A number of times, I saw him enter a room with two groups at the far end of opposing spectrums (often times these were groups that couldn’t even look at each other, let alone speak to one another). He would start the meeting by making some eloquent remarks about why we were there that day and then he would cede the floor and just actively listen to everyone (he wouldn’t even take notes). Once everyone had the chance to present their case, he would summarize the differences and moderate a discussion to get both sides to compromise on a way forward — something the opposing groups may not have even thought possible before the meeting started. That, I would argue, is true leadership.”
I choose these pics that show him being him. Not a Council member, a Congressman, or a Mayor but an ordinary man who did extraordinary things, who never forgot where he came from or who he was. And who became like family and made us his other family. Family Over Everything.
Life on occasion brings us, people, in our orbit, who shake the earth. Ron Dellums was one of those people. After joining one of his task force groups, his relational ability to the people became apparent. He made himself available and listened to our concerns. Often inviting us to give input on issues affecting the community, he was not dismissive of our voices and listened with a compassionate heart. He invited me to several events that allowed me to see and hear the perspective of all members of our beloved community.
Harsh words and uncompassionate voices did not keep him from standing up for what is right and just. When the angry voices of congress did not want to stand up for the oppressed people of South Africa sought to silence him, he still stood strong. He taught us what leading with your heart and love looks like. To meet people where they are is a special gift, and he did so with ease and grace. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to work with him for those four years. This warrior for the people is not forgotten, and his imprint leaves us a legacy to carry on the fight for justice and mercy. Thank you Congressman/ Mayor Dellums for the mark you have left on so many of us. We will not forget.