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Gabriela Santiago-Romero

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Class of 2022 BEQ Pride LGBTQ Leader Under 40
(She, Her) is 29

What do you believe is your responsibility to this moment in history?

I believe my responsibility at this moment is to bring back hope for our local politics. We are all sick and tired of electing people who do not care to show up or serve the residents that have elected them. I believe it’s my job to change hearts and minds, to engage residents, and bring them along during the governing process. I’m incredibly excited to get started and to prove that we can have leaders who love and care for us in office.

From About Gabriela 

Gabriela Santiago-Romero is an immigrant from Mexico, raised in Southwest Detroit. She’s spent her whole life fighting for justice and brings her core value of putting people first to local government.

Gabriela’s love for her community has led her through many paths that include supporting young girls of color through leadership programs such as Girls Making Change, leading statewide policy change with local electeds like Senator Chang and, most recently, directly serving constituents’ needs by connecting them to resources and creating mutual aid paths in collaboration with other leaders in the community.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck her community, Gabriela connected with local leaders to form a mutual aid fund that has created lifelines of resources for people hardest hit by the crisis. This resource allows low-income families to pay bills and secure food during this time.

In her own words, “Growing up an immigrant in poverty in Southwest Detroit has forced me to see and learn things the hard way. I know our family isn’t the only one in our community that has experienced these struggles. Too many families in our community have struggled to make ends meet, have been pushed out of their homes by foreclosures and have struggled to get to jobs or school due to the lack of reliable public transportation.”

As a dedicated leader, Gabriela became Student Union President during graduate school at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. She was the first in her family to pursue higher education and graduated with a master’s degree. After grad school, she continued her education at Harvard Kennedy School in the Executive Education Certificate Program in which she received training from qualified social justice leaders while also gaining a global perspective on issues that impacted communities like hers.

In addition to serving on the Detroit City Council, Gabriela was the Policy and Research Director at We The People Michigan, a state-based movement organization. She pushed for statewide policy change that centers communities’ basic needs in partnership with multi-racial grassroots organizations in Michigan. Gabriela values the importance of relationships; that is what Detroit has taught her – that with community anything is possible.

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