Updated: Mar 18
When you meet Gladys Harrison, candidate for congress in Nebraska's second district, three things come to mind. First, you see the wisdom of a woman tempered by life. Second, you see a person who is not easily swayed by nonsense or ideology, but someone who looks for pragmatic and reasonable solutions to real problems. And, third, you see a woman who loves her family, loves her community and loves her life. There is no mistaking it. She is a woman who knows what she is about.
Gladys is the manager the her family's nationally renown restaurant, Big Mama's Kitchen and Catering. A 4th generation Nebraskan, she learned her work ethic the old fashioned way. She started working for a wage at age 14 and hasn't looked back since.
Right away Gladys makes it clear why she's running. "There's too many people left out," she says. "Washington is full of career politicians, five star generals and big money. There's not enough good people, you know normal people, to look out for the interests of everyone."
She says, "Over the last few decades, the American dream has become un-achievable. The voices of the working-class and middle-class have been drowned out by lobbyists and special interest groups. Combined with the astronomical cost of health care, the burden of student debt and the lack of jobs that pay a decent wage, many Americans to have to work two or even three jobs just to make ends meet."
Gladys takes immediate aim at what she views as corruption in the political process. "The decision making process in Washington is making our lives harder not better ," she says. "What they do has more to do with money, greed and selfishness, than trying to do what's right for the people."
In her approach to Health Care, she makes it clear that we need to work together, rather fight for a plan already written in stone. She believes Medicare for All goes too far, but firmly believes everyone needs to have health insurance. "Too many people can't afford coverage today," she says. "The money just isn't there." She elaborates on the fact that the health care system, as it currently exists, allows the various health care businesses to "prey on the people who have the least. How can insulin move from $15 to $300 over the span of just a few years? People who need help should not be the very last consideration of business," she says.
Her native North Omaha is a concern that rarely leaves her consciousness. She applauds the public and private partnerships that have made steady progress in recent years, and was responsible for creating the magnificent new location for Big Mama's Kitchen. Located on the second floor of the Highlander Neighborhood development at 2112 North 30th Street, the entire experience is a testament to what good people working together can accomplish. "All it took was creativity and smart business people putting others before themselves," she says. "If we invest in these communities and find creative ways to make things happen, we can turn them into win-win situations for everyone."
Judicial reform follows closely in her discussion of North Omaha. She carefully explains to me how things really work. African Americans are frequently pulled-over for no other reason than being Black; over and over, they're forced to undergo overly ridged processes and punishments for no other reason than being Black; they're exploited by the system itself for no other reason than being Black; and they're unfairly incarcerated for extraordinarily long sentences for no other reason than being Black. "Everyone in North Omaha is connected to this discrimination in some way," she says. "It impacts on everything we do - our entire belief system."
Asked about how she was going to beat Congressman Don Bacon, Gladys says, "He's not from Nebraska. He's not listening to the people. He's not reaching out to work with the other side. It shouldn't be about competition. It should be about working together for the good of the people. He's not doing the job." She's got that right.
Photo provided courtesy of gladys4congress.com.