Erika Alexander didn’t just play a bright, talented politically astute attorney Maxine Shaw on the hit television show “Living Single,” she is in fact a bright, talented, politically astute woman on a mission.
Alexander stomped through Detroit for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Saturday, Aug. 27, making appearances at Democratic National Committee offices around the metropolitan Detroit area. “I’ve been a political surrogate for Hillary Clinton for nine years. And I have had the great honor to travel with her, and the many women I have met along the way have taught me about hope. Our man from Hope was Bill Clinton and our man of hope is Barack Obama,” says Alexander.
But while the popular actress and activist enjoys the role of “political surrogate” for the Clinton campaign, and she exercises her celebrity to get the first woman elected to the White House, her own life was far less privileged than the lives of many celebrities on the political stage. “I am a regular girl from Flagstaff, Arizona. Both of my parents were orphans … when we were living [in Flagstaff] we did what we could to make ends meet,” explains the articulate actress. “We were the working poor. We used to dumpster dive and make things to sell to people. I started working at five years of age knocking on doors to sweep a porch or take out trash. But we had dreams,” she continued.
Alexander readily recognizes the similarities in life experiences that unify women across race and cultural lines. “Black women are the most educated group in America. They also are the least promoted and the most underpaid, and black women see Secretary Clinton as a fighter. What she goes through [black women] go through every day, and they admire her for getting up and fighting every day like they do.” A Clinton presidency would be an epic achievement, marking the first time in 227 years of American history that a woman would lead the nation. “I know Hillary Clinton is sometimes viewed as a brash woman, but that’s the kind of woman that raised me, and the type of women I grew up with — black and white, ” asserts Alexander. “They were used to speaking their minds, they were used to being underestimated, they were smart and they were tough and a lot of times people didn’t like them.”
Alexander’s commitment to improving the quality of life for Americans, particularly black Americans and women, extends beyond her own life experience as a black woman and she understands Clinton’s appeal to African Americans. “My background makes me feel very vulnerable inside [of the election process] when they talk about mass incarceration, poverty, entrepreneurship. Don Lemon asked me if celebrities should speak out, and I said ’that’s madness to even ask that.’” Alexander said resolutely, “Celebrities from Stevie Wonder on have lent their voices to speak out and change the world.”
So while pollsters and political pundits across the country are zeroing in on the traces in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and worried supporters are hoping [Michigan voters] “show up and show out” to continue Obama administration legacy, Alexander concedes that the 2016 presidential election is a particularly import one. “The 13 percent of this country [that is African American] is the consciousness of the world. African Americans are no joke and wherever we are is where the world should be. Black lives do matter and we are going to bar the gate from the barbarians. This is a turning point for black Americans and the world,” she concludes.