Black History Month is upon us, and with that comes the call to recognize black excellence in our communities as well as all over the world. Over the next two weeks, we’ll be highlighting a sample of notable black leaders in Arizona who are helping the state to make strides towards better education, better financial decisions, and a better way of life for us all. Whether it’s engaging in the political process, running education initiatives, or leading a successful nonprofit, these five black leaders have all done their part to help create a stronger Arizona.
We begin our first installment with Reginald Bolding, a Democratic Representative of Arizona’s 27th district.
Reginald Bolding stands as the current sole black member of the Arizona House of Representatives. His difficult upbringing led him to see obstacles that prevent youth from flourishing, which in turn led him to take this issue on as one of his main priorities in the House.
Bolding received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati, where he placed among the top of his class. After graduating, Bolding was offered a full-ride scholarship to law school, but he turned it down in order to join Teach for America and travel to Arizona. In Phoenix, Bolding sought to help underserved students by becoming a special education teacher.
Soon after, Bolding founded a nonprofit organization to help students from low-income communities access internships to top Arizona companies. This would later lead to the founding of his next nonprofit venture, AZ Coalition 4 Change, a program that seeks to involve minority voters in the state through voter registration and civic engagement. The group recently launched an initiative called Get Woke and Vote, which seeks to increase voter registration among the state’s minority community.
In 2015, Bolding was elected to the Arizona House and quickly became a ranking member of the Arizona House Education Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. He also serves as vice-chair of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators for the Western region and is chair of the Arizona Black Caucus.
While in the House, Bolding advocated for issues of education, criminal justice reform, and civil rights issues. He introduced a bill that would ban suspensions for kids in pre-K through 2nd grade, and took the lead in making changes to the AZ Driver’s Manual to provide instructions on how to behave during traffic stops. Bolding says these changes are intended to help bridge the gap between law enforcement and his constituents.
Due to his legislative achievements and efforts to bolster the black community, Bolding was chosen to deliver the main address at the 2017 NAACP Freedom Dinner. He spoke on the event’s theme of being “Steadfast and Immovable,” emphasizing the need for clear messages that empower communities through cooperation and understanding.
We hope Reginald Bolding’s story inspires you to get out there and create change within your own community. Having diverse voices take part in our political system results in a more inclusive society that values every citizen. Even if you’re not looking to run for office, you can get involved in a multitude of ways that help move your community forward.
Stay tuned for the next installment in our series of black leaders shaping the future of Arizona.