I grew up in the diverse, working class Hillside neighborhood in Duluth. I first knew that politics mattered when I attended a protest with my mom at a school board meeting to stop the district from closing the public high school in our neighborhood. The high school not only served our family, but the majority of Duluth’s low income families, students of color, and Native youth. When the school stayed open as a result of the protest, I saw the power of communities and elected leaders working together to find solutions.
After graduating, I came to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota, where I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts & Dance. In 2005, I moved to Northeast Minneapolis because it reminded me of the neighborhood where I grew up. To make ends meet I worked as a server earning minimum wage, piecing together multiple jobs to pay my rent as I pursued my passion for the arts. As a young actor and dancer, I felt at home here among the community of artists and enjoyed performing in warehouse spaces in the area.
In 2011, I joined Occupy Homes Minnesota to fight unjust foreclosures against some of the largest banks in the country. Our organizing helped families win negotiations with their banks to help them stay in their homes, and we successfully fought for the passage the Minnesota Homeowners Bill of Rights that protected families from predatory lenders. In 2013, I joined the team at Project 515 to win marriage equality for same-sex couples. As a staff member at OutFront Minnesota, I was part of the coalition that strongly advocated for passage of the Minnesota Safe & Supportive Schools Act, the most comprehensive anti-bullying bill in the country, which became law in 2014. While living in Northeast Minneapolis, I have served as Vice President and Secretary of my local neighborhood association.
I collaborated with the Land Stewardship Project in 2012 to change city zoning laws to allow urban farming and market gardening in Minneapolis. Through this work, I was one of the co-founders of California Street Farm, which grew produce for community members and area restaurants. High school students, who participated in the Step Up program and were employed by California Street, gained valuable urban agriculture experience and learned about community activism. Currently, I serve on the Homegrown Minneapolis Food Council, where I work in partnership with other members to expand our ability to grow and distribute more sustainable foods.
Working with city officials on urban agriculture, fighting foreclosures, and advocating for youth and families, I have seen firsthand how we can solve problems in our city when elected leaders listen and proactively collaborate with community members. Too often, members of our city council have maintained the status quo instead of championing the change we need.
Through my years of experience creating positive change in our city and state, I realized that we need strong advocates at City Hall who will not only listen, but work with communities to proactively create the progress we need to move our city forward.
Jillia is a development and communications strategy consultant and works with Twin Cities-based social justice and nonprofit organizations. She lives in the Windom Park Neighborhood with her partner, Monica Meyer, and their beloved dog Romeo.