BUILDing Strong Foundations

Equity Leaders Action Network Fellow Wins Race for Mayor in Lamar, South Carolina

1/15/2018 12:00:00 AM
Posted by: Build Initiative

By Mariana Florit, Communications Director at BUILD Initiative 

A year after Donald Trump was elected as the 45th president, record numbers of women ran for office. Ten months before the 2016 election, only 1,000 women reached out to Emily’s List to consider running for office or getting involved in other ways. But since the 2016 election, over 22,000 women have connected with Emily’s List. People of color, LGBTQ, immigrants, refugees, and non-Christians made up the list of winners in the 2017 elections. And at the BUILD Initiative, we are proud to say we are partnering with strong leaders to be voices for equity in communities.


In Lamar, South Carolina, Equity Leaders Action Network (ELAN) fellow Darnell Byrd-McPherson (above) was elected as the first African-American woman mayor. In an age where public discourse and identity politics would have us believe that we are at odds with our neighbors, Darnell’s running platform was simple: she wants to unify the community.

As the Executive Director of Darlington County First Steps, Darnell lives her passion for children. She attributes her life’s work to her mother, Doris Byrd (pictured at left). Doris was a trailblazer as the first Black woman to serve on the Town Council. She had a strong sense of what it meant to care for and support children. “I watched my mother throw birthday parties for children when their parents couldn’t afford them. She made them clothes. She was a part of the community, and even though she was very soft-spoken, the community listened to her.” Doris opened the door into early childhood and politics, and left Darnell with a principle that she applies to her work every day: people are part of solutions in any community. “If there is a problem, let’s fix it. Don’t come to me complaining. Start a commission. Join the task force.”

Darnell attributes part of her recent success in the Lamar mayoral campaign to the influence of the Equity Leaders Action Network. The ELAN has been working since 2015 to advance racial equity in early childhood systems. ELAN fellows have sought to promote equity in the areas of health, early learning and family support as well as to influence state-level policy. “The ELAN opened my eyes to all of the issues that people face. It has had a direct impact on how I lead and do my work.”

The Equity Leaders Action Network is building strong leaders for equity by:

  • Increasing the ability of each ELAN fellow to influence others and take actions that lead to the reduction of inequities, e.g., targeted funding, policies, programs for racially diverse children, their families, and communities.
  • Increasing the ability of ELAN fellows to reduce racial animus by managing difficult conversations, and creating opportunities to interact with racially diverse beneficiaries.
  • Increasing the ability of fellows to communicate about inequities in state policies, programs, funding, and services with targeted recommendations that measurably reduce inequity.

Darnell’s work in the ELAN has had a significant impact on changing men’s health outcomes and in building racial equity into state policies. Read about this work here.


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1 comment(s) so far...
    • Jan 15 2018, 6:50 PM Carolyn Lucas
    • Very impressive. Darnell I believe great opportunities are ahead for our community through your compassionate, hands-on leadership. Wishing you the best!

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