Meet MCKAYLA wilkes
I was born in Washington D.C. at the Greater Southeast Community Hospital, now known as the United Medical Center. My father had unexpectedly passed away months before I was born, leaving my mother in the difficult position of raising their child alone.
I intimately understand the trials and tribulations facing low-income families in the Fifth District, and across the nation. My younger brother, sister, and I were raised in Suitland, Maryland, where money was scarce and my family relied significantly on welfare benefits like TANF, SNAP, and WIC. My extended family — particularly, my aunts — provided much -needed support raising me and my siblings, enabling my mother to take classes, become an I.T. professional, and provide a brighter future for her children.
In the late ‘90s, my family moved to Waldorf, bringing us closer to the extended family that had played such a crucial role in my upbringing. The differences I noticed between the schools I attended before and after the move, from facilities to extracurricular opportunities, left a lasting impression. I understand that lower per-student spending on children from poorer communities can make a significant, negative impact on a child’s future, and that the federal government needs to take immediate action to address the inequalities in funding for public schools in our struggling communities.
On September 11th, 2001, my world was shattered when my beloved aunt, Sharon Carver, a civilian employee at the Department of the Army, was one of the 125 victims of the attack on the Pentagon. The tragic loss of my aunt, who had played a crucial role in supporting my family and helping to raise me and my siblings, affected me deeply.
As a teenager, I struggled to make sense of the world and began acting out, skipping classes, and running away from home. Between ages 14 and 17, I was in and out of juvenile detention for my behavior. I witnessed firsthand how our criminal justice system fails to support and rehabilitate troubled youth, instead allowing mistreatment and humiliation. Juveniles who have entered the justice system — many of whom have endured trauma, neglect, and abuse — are made to view themselves as hopeless and irredeemable, and too often fall into an endless cycle of marginalization and incarceration.
I continued to interact with the criminal justice system in my late teens and early adult years, experiencing the disproportionate impact the law has on poor and working-class people of color. Like many young adults, I experimented with marijuana. However, like too many other young black and brown individuals, who are nearly four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, I faced punishment instead of guidance and support. When I couldn’t afford to pay traffic tickets, my license was suspended, despite the fact that I needed to drive to get to work in order to pay off the tickets.
However, despite the challenges I faced earlier in life, I did everything within my power to turn my life around. I have worked diligently to create a brighter future for myself and my two amazing children. To support my young family, I found work as an administrative assistant for the Department of Defense. I even enrolled in community college to improve my credentials and future prospects for my young family, inspired by my mother’s example.
Despite the difficulties that come with raising two children on my own, attending school, and working a full-time job all at once, I still find time to be an involved member of my community and a local activist. I am a passionate advocate for Waldorf’s homeless population and have taken it upon myself to temporarily shelter individuals struggling with housing insecurity within my own community. I marched alongside thousands of Marylanders in the March for Our Schools in Annapolis, demanding increased funding for Maryland’s public schools. I have rallied outside Congress in protest of the Trump administration’s proposed gag rule, which would make it illegal for Title X health care providers to tell their patients — primarily low-income individuals — how and where to receive safe, legal abortions.
As your representative in Congress, I will continue to provide an inspiring example of how to juggle single motherhood, activism, and service. I will offer fresh leadership and much-needed perspective as a young, working-class woman of color. There is more at stake than just whether our representative has a D or an R next to their name: Our children’s future, the health of our communities, and the livelihoods of working families are all on the line.
Without a doubt, our political system has been and continues to be dominated by corporate money and lobbying. As your representative, I will work to serve the interests of everyday people, listening to the concerns of my constituents, instead of the political and economic elite. Right now, your representative’s ear is turned to the powerful lobbying sector in D.C. It’s time to prioritize the concerns of working families in our district. We need a clear voice for bold, progressive policies, not a mouthpiece for corporate interests that slow down meaningful change to preserve their bottom lines. We need a representative who cares more about amplifying the voice of the people, rather than silencing their criticism in order to hold onto power and maintain the status quo. We need a representative who hears our voices, feels our pain, and lives our struggles.