Erika Stotts Pearson is currently sitting in a familiar position. Two years ago, she decided to take on Tennessee’s 8th Congressional District, as part of a historic wave of Black women that decided to pull out a seat at the table and run for office.
Ultimately, Stotts Pearson, who secured the Democratic nomination in 2018, did not win the general election, losing to now-Rep. David Kustoff. Now, all that stands between her and a rematch between Kustoff is the August 6th primary, and Stotts Pearson is as determined as ever, if not more so, to make a difference in her community.
It comes naturally in a way, as Stotts Pearson comes from a family of successful community leaders in the state’s Shelby and Fayette counties, and has long been active in serving her community in several ways, including as a clergy member and as an educator, as the co-founder of the Memphis Academy of Health Sciences, a public charter school in Shelby County.
It also comes from a deep-rooted belief that a lot of the issues currently facing Tennesseans and the rest of the country, shouldn’t really be a matter of party politics.
“There are so many [issues] that we should not draw party lines on, [like] our military veterans, our elderly, our children, even women’s health issues. Those issues should not be anything that’s drawn down lines. Those things are bipartisan,” Stotts Pearson told ESSENCE in an interview.
Of course, being an educator herself, education is at the top of Stotts Pearson’s list of priorities, as well as social justice reform, two issues she says are interconnected.
“It’s cheaper to educate than to incarcerate,” Stotts Pearson said bluntly. “I have my charter school and we’ve been here 30 years, and we’ve been able to successfully educate at-risk children.”
“We do know when we pour our resources and efforts and talents into our people, we can create successes and we can stop industrial prison complexes,” she added.
Women’s issues, such as pay equity, as well as quality health care in general are also matters that the business owner and entrepreneur, who is one of the few female, Black sports agents in the country.
The healthcare issue is of particular concern, given that a growing number of Tennesseans, including children are uninsured, an issue that Stotts Pearson believes can be resolved.
“It’s something that the politicians [are] very capable of getting under control. We just haven’t done it. So, I’m the next wave of leadership that will get it done,” she said confidently.
Stotts Pearson, who constantly references her “she-ro” Shirley Chisholm, points out that women have “always known the issues,” and although she didn’t get a chance to make it to the 116th Congress, she’s not showing any signs of backing down any time soon.
“The incumbent that currently sits in [the seat] is a Trump supporter. He’s not engaged in our district” Stotts Pearson said. “People are going to vote for me because I’m accessible, and they know that I’m not for sale. They know I really spend time engaging them, and putting out focus groups and surveys so that we can get down to the bottom of what they need.”