Why We Run: Myya Jones

At just 22, Myya Jones has stepped up to run as the mayor of Detroit. Below, we talk to her about her decision to run — and what she hopes to achieve for the people of her home city.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m from Detroit. I grew up in Detroit, I graduated from public high school here. I went onto Michigan State, where I just graduated. I got my degree in business and I minored in Arabic, but I did all other kinds of things. One thing in particular that influenced me: I went to DC to intern with Congress. That really exposed me to the greater government system. I had never really thought I was interested in politics before, but I realized that my involvement with student government at Michigan State was the same thing. I’d been doing it for awhile.

What were some of the big differences between the way student government worked and Congress did?

In student government, we got a lot more stuff done. We were more efficient and effective. Of course, we got in arguments and everything, but it wasn’t like in Congress. We weren’t really stuck in our ways. We were flexible about what should happen. Whereas in DC, a lot of Congresspeople — they would argue about a lot of things and it was like a dictatorship. In student government, you couldn’t be a dictator. You would be petitioned for removal if you weren’t getting things done, so people just got them done.

What motivated you to run for mayor?

We see a lack of representation from Blacks and particularly Black women in office. So that was important to me. Also, the police shootings that continue to happen with no indictment. I saw that lots of people didn’t know who their councilmembers or state reps were — I didn’t know, either, before I was really exposed — but they know who their mayor is. And if you want to have a big influence on people, you have to go through what they know. So that’s my strategy. I wanted them to see what was happening and be able to have a certain kind of voice. Let them have a say in changing this.

How has campaigning been so far?

It’s been really, really, really busy. I was still in school when I started campaigning. I was still in Michigan State and finishing up my classes and driving back-and-forth to Detroit, to make sure I was going to events. I was just doing so much. And it was so exhausting, but so worth it. Talking to students. Talking to people who are in the inner cities. Everything. It was very fun.

Any particularly stand-out moments?

Oh yes. Everytime I see a young woman and her parents, and they tell me: “Yeah, my daughter. She’s seen you and she was so inspired.” It’s always the women and the people who are in the inner cities, who say they don’t vote, but they want to vote for me. People want people they can vote for. They don’t want to vote for the same old people who aren’t going to help them. So, giving them a different candidate to vote for, one who represents a different voice. That’s really good.

Did you get a lot of push back from people about your age?

I feel like it’s more positive than negative. For the people who are negative, they just ask me questions and I answer them. And they’re always so surprised. They aren’t expecting me to be able to answer certain questions. But I let them know I do have the knowledge and the background — not just to learn, but to handle certain situations and policies and ideas. I can move people. I can inspire them to really want to make a change in society.

Are there any moments you’ve been particularly challenged by?

Always, yes! The running out of money, for one. Those are some moments. But then running a campaign and not working is hard for me, because I don’t have an influx of cash. But I have parents who are taking care of me. So that’s the hardest thing, but I’m getting through it. I only have a month left for now. So that should be over with soon.

More than anything else, I’m just hoping to inspire more people to want to run for offices and be involved in the political system. Volunteer for a campaign, work in someone’s office, get engaged in social action — that’s really important. Those are my main things. I am really hoping that we can make it past the primary, so that we really make an impact on the people who live in Detroit and who live in inner cities, I want them to feel like they can get out and do something.

What’s the one thing you wish you knew going in?

It’s very similar to campaigning to be school president, but you just need way more money. I would say: just don’t be afraid! Don’t be afraid to run. Don’t be afraid to go out there and talk to people. You’re never going to have every single thing — whether you want to run for office, open a business, or go out for a job. You just have to do it and make sure you’re working as hard as you can. Don’t be frightened. Use your voice to do all the great things you can do, that’s the important thing.

Win or lose, people want to be inspired. They want to see people going out and trying to do hard things.