Past the Politics interview with Mayoral Candidate Toriana Pettaway
Why are you running?
Part of the reason I’m running is because I don’t see myself in this city. I don’t see myself in the
design, the build, or within these places. Where do i go to see people who look like me. Black
and Brown communities should be so much further and i’m just not happy with that. Nothing has
changed. We see the same people saying the same thing over several years we are still talking
about it. These problems should have been dealt with ten years ago. Where is the progress
report? We want see so many disparities amongst people in this city and i’m tired of seeing the
same disparities within the government. Who is Toriana at the core?
First of all, as a person, I’m a woman of God first and foremost. My faith is what grounds me,
centers me, and gives me purpose. I’m a mother. I love my children and I love my family. I’m
someone who’s passionate about serving others in this community. I hear the residents in a way
that they want others to hear them in too. I see people. That’s who I am, I’m the type of person
that wants people to know that they are seen. I would like to be the conduit, or the catalyst, to
make other people feel like they can thrive and prosper. Everybody wants to have a sense of
belonging. I want to operate in a space where I can relate to people and make sure I am my
best self to serve other people. I’m compassionate, I’m discerning. People in my work say I give
too much and I’m okay with that. That’s what I was created to do and I’m not going to change
who I am. I give all of me and it’s to serve other people.
What’s your biggest motivation?
My children are my biggest motivation. My motivation is seeing others who have come before
who have made what I can do possible. I have to have hope that if they prevailed and were able
to find some means of success through all of the struggles and disappointments and were able
to make a way for their family, that I can too. That gives me hope. I have to to continue to do
that for my children my family and friends and the community that i’m passionate about. I’m a
woman of faith and God has me here for a purpose.
Opinion on new jails? Disproportionality in prison sentences?
I don’t think we should be building more prisons. I think we should be reducing prison
complexes. I know the disparities we see in institutions are out of sync. I think how we sentence,
how we police, and have people re-enter into society needs to be re-evaluated. Many of the
folks don’t belong there and they were unfairly prosecuted and I think non-violent crimes
should...I think this needs to constantly be reviewed. The people who brought the unfair
penalties should be re-evaluated and prosecuted. We need an overhaul of the criminal justice
system. Criminal justice is a business. People profiting off of the backs of Black and Brown
people. The inequities in that are another form of slavery and we must name them as that.
How are we going to solve disparities in schools? Student opportunities?
There are several things that need to happen...it’s not just up to schools. It should start within
the home. My parents equipped me with that knowledge that everyone won’t treat you as family.
Parents should educate their children on how to navigate life different for Black and Brown
children as well as White children being aware of privileges that they have as well as how to
speak up when they see things that are wrong...Everyone teaching their children respect and
what equity really is. Awareness also has to happen within the school. We must have culturally
competent administrations and teachers. It can’t be transactional, but a transformation. It’s
operationalized. The curriculum, the policies, and the procedures have to be lived out in
everything done and practiced and rewarded because it’s a lived experience. It needs to be
reflected in the hiring of all staff. And reflection of the children amongst the staff is a must as
well. It’s a collaborative approach.
I have a vision...There’s a gap of an unmet need in this community for youth 12-26. The mall
policy grieved kids, it was one of the last safe zones for kids. You penalize a whole generation
of youth for the acts of a few. Reaching out to a few people to get ahead of afforded me the
opportunity with kids to talk about how we can adjust the policy. How do you counteract
someone trying to implement a policy? We showed the kids a we the people process on a
reversing a policy and showed them how to come together and use the same information to
counteract this action. When I’m mayor, I plan on organizing a non-profit that will incorporate
youth teaching youth, creating their own brand of business for themselves. A Business
enterprise designed by kids and not adults. Planning curriculum and reaching kids who aren’t
being reached. Anyone who is closest to the issues need to create what they want to do. And
you have to have a good facilitator for that. These young folks are lacking belonging and hope.
We don’t invest funds into them. We don’t invest resources into them. We don’t invest in spaces
for them. They need to see themselves in these spaces. I want to remind them that we are all
Madison. If you don’t feel part of the all then you are othered. People want to see themselves
and this is the biggest part of inclusion. It’s time and It requires hard choices, getting
uncomfortable, talking to someone from a different neighborhood. This is everybody’s city.
How can we create a more accessible city?
What I want to focus on is making sure that the community has more access internally including
those who don’t have access to downtown. Why does everyone always have to come
downtown? We need to make the government more accessible. I want our leaders in
government to be more transparent. I want them to know the community. The leaders in
government being able to connect to what local leaders are going through. If you’re a policy
maker and can’t relate to the average citizen, then I don’t want you making a decision for me.
Is Madison a truly ‘progressive’ city?
We’ve had the title of progressive, but I think we’re living in an illusion. We’re progressive when
it comes to dominant construct, but when it comes down to things that matter most to tough
decisions for everyone. We’re living in an illusion. Many people don’t see themselves in the
struggle. YGB Has Just Launched a Movement Fund that rewards partners and makes grants to support social justice work. Learn More and Joing the Movement at MovementFund.com