There’s a Black woman running for vice president who has worked tirelessly for decades on behalf of others, challenged powerful figures, and is unapologetic about her career and identity.
Kamala Harris might have immediately come to mind as this candidate, but all of this also applies to Angela Nicole Walker, who is running for VP on the Green Party ticket. But not only is Walker a Black woman, but she is a bisexual Black woman – among many other things.
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In an exclusive interview with LGBTQ Nation, Walker talked about standing by her convictions while being an out, third-party candidate. She has long identified as bisexual, although she says the term pansexual also fits because she is attracted to trans and gender non-conforming people as well.
She has many identities that make her who she is, including – among other things – being an introvert, an Army veteran, a “relatively young” grandmother of five, an accomplished activist, a Southerner, astrology hobbyist, and a vegetarian (“I can’t really claim Vegan,” Walker admits, “because I have leather work boots… and there’s still honey in my cabinets.”)
She is one of a handful of Black people – let alone out Black women – to run for the second-highest executive office in the country. This is Walker’s second consecutive run, putting her alongside Angela Davis as two history-making, out Black women to run twice for the vice presidency.
Even though the Green Party (Howie Hawkins heads the presidential ticket) is mired at barely perceptible levels in national polls and only on 28 state ballots, Walker is unbowed.
“I never expected that there would be the same amount of media attention or fanfare [as Harris’ nomination],” she told LGBTQ Nation. “That’s not new. So had they did anything different, I would have been completely shocked.”
Willie Mae Reidt
Florence M. Rice
Willie Mae Reid
Shirley Jean Masters
Ezola B. Foster
The Left has BEEN running Black women for VP. It's the Democrats who act like this is a new thing. #Green2020
— Angela Walker (@AngelaNWalker) August 12, 2020
Incredibly, Walker is running for office while maintaining a full-time job as a dump truck driver. While that may sound like a ploy to come off as relatable, it really isn’t. When asked what her co-workers’ reactions are to her running for a nationwide office, she laughed: “I haven’t told them.”
Trying to wrap my head around that, I follow up, “Do you think any of them have any… idea?” To which Walker responded, “They might… if they do, they’re not going to come up to me and ask me about it!”
Walker is definitely not your typical candidate. When asked what her day-to-day life is like, she pauses. “Y’all gonna be so bored, I swear,” before explaining that she gets up between 4:30 and 5:30 AM for shifts that could be “anywhere between 10 to 12 hours” before coming home and fitting in two campaign meetings a week, interviews, and cooking.
The first bit of info she shares with us is not about any policy, but her trucker handle. After previously telling supporters that she wasn’t going to share it, she unveils the nickname: “Trouble.”
It’s important to bring diversity to a Presidential ticket, which is why I am so excited that @AngelaNWalker agreed to be my Green VP candidate. An African-American truck driver, she has been on the frontlines of the struggles for social justice and equality for decades. #DNC2020 pic.twitter.com/4bOcgJMmTJ
— Howie Hawkins (@HowieHawkins) August 20, 2020
In this election, the “trouble” she may find herself in couldn’t be more daunting. The Green Party is campaigning under less than favorable circumstances.
In 2016, the party’s nominee, Jill Stein, gained more votes in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin than the margin by which Hillary Clinton fell short to Donald Trump, potentially costing Democrats the White House. This caused an intense backlash against Stein and the Greens, as they had positioned themselves as true progressive alternatives to the moderate Clinton.
Stein’s previous contact with Russian leaders and her never-completed effort to force a recount in Michigan led to investigations and unsubstantiated claims by Clinton that she was a “Russian asset.”
In the end, Stein earned about 1.4 million votes – 3 million less than the Libertarian Party, and 200,000 less than other independent candidates. Clinton came up short by around 60,000 votes to earn the electoral votes of those three states, despite winning the popular vote by more than three million. Despite expert conclusions that the Green Party was just one factor in Clinton’s shocking loss, the perception that voting Green will cause a Democrat to lose again persists.
Experts note that voters are less likely to protest vote in 2020 since Trump has earned the enmity of a majority of Americans and can no longer count on a complacent opponent or electorate. (Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee, has a majority of the support from third-party voters in 2016, polls indicate.)
As this is her second run on a non-major party ticket, Walker has no reservations about those concerns.
“I’ve been getting attacked for that since 2016 – and my answer has been the same,” she claims. “Rather than waste your time telling me I shouldn’t run or support a third party, why don’t you redirect your energy and tell your party to give you candidates that people don’t have to vomit to vote for? My interest is the people,” she expresses.
Citing people that didn’t vote at all on the Presidential ballot in 2016 – close to 45% of registered voters – she says, “If we’re talking about a group we were targeting and most interested in, it would be those non-voters.”
Walker’s unflappable approach to running for office is informed by the Black liberation theory she learned growing up in Milwaukee.
“I grew up in a really lower-class family, I grew up poor – but who, in 1980s Milwaukee who was Black didn’t?” Walker recounts.
She was a quiet and artistic teenager before she was “activated,” as her friend described it, by a teacher in summer school.
“I mean, this was supposed to be an Algebra class, but she was completely radical… and I realized, ‘Yes, revolution. Yes, reparations for my people. This is it.’ I started out as an education major because I believe in teachers [and] I believe education is absolutely a tool for liberation. I believe it is necessary.”
Exit polls proved Dr. Jill Stein didn’t “spoil” the election. The electoral college did.
Why don't Dems lead on a popular Ranked Choice Vote election to replace it?
— Angela Walker (@AngelaNWalker) July 5, 2020
After graduating high school, Walker ended up in the Army Reserve: “This Army recruiter pulls up next to me, and goes, ‘How are you going to college?’ and I said, ‘begging, stealing, and borrowing, I guess.’ They said, ‘you want to join the military?’ I was like, ‘sure, why not!’
“Seriously. I’m a Sagittarius Moon – I will try anything once.”
What was her experience serving in the military in the early 1990s as a Black bisexual woman under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? She says that Sam Greenlee’s novel The Spook Who Sat by the Door, is the most similar to her experience.
In her words, the fiction is about “a token Black person for the CIA [that] goes through the training and does the learning and excels at all that… but what he’s doing is taking all the things that he learned and teaching them to street gangs in Chicago… with the intention of basically overthrowing the government.”
She says between laughs, “When I ended up joining the military, that was in my mind. I’m not going to say that that was my intention, but I will say… it was on my mind.”
Walker believed that the entire military system was “bull,” but she completed her tour of duty anyway, surprising her family. She describes learning military combat techniques such as disembowelment, saying “I hope I never have to do this to any living being.”
“Someone asked me on a Livestream the other night, ‘What’s your military record like?’ And I was like…you know, if you expected something, like, 5-star, general ranks, little pins, and medals for meritorious service – baby, that ain’t me. I did what I had to do as a reservist. That was it.”
From there, Walker went to school, and in 1993 she transferred to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, where she has family as well. She initially studied education, then switched that to her minor and began majoring in history, to avoid the feeling that she was “painting herself into a corner.” Toward the end of her studies, she had to get a job that would help her make ends meet, so she applied to work at an independently-owned county school bus company.
“I felt like I had been cheated!” she explains. “When I sat behind the engine of that big diesel engine, there was no hope. It was absolute love. No one had told me about that…and I dropped out of college, and I’ve been driving ever since!”
At this point, Walker was already a mother to her daughter, Epiphany. She settled into the bus driver life – then the 2000 election came to Florida. Taking part in the push for the entire state to recount their votes in a monumental moment of crisis in America became her first major foray in political activism, years before Black Lives Matter came along. From there, she would become an opponent of the war on terror and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
By 2011, Walker returned to Milwaukee, where she became an active part of the ‘Occupy’ movement. Eventually, she took to an offshoot called Decolonize The Hood because many non-white people in Occupy “felt that the systemic concerns that we had were not being addressed.”
Walker then became a driver for Milwaukee County Transit, and after joining the chapter of the Amalgamated Transit Union, became their Legislative Director for two-and-a-half years.
Walker would eventually gain her community’s respect – and the people she led in her union and activism became more and more euphoric about her.
“One of the things that [organizers] always talked about – is that there are root causes,” Walker remembers. “One of those things, particularly is that you have systemic racism. You have this pervasive system that is constantly disenfranchising Black people, and taking away the resources our communities most need, and they’re…remorseless about it.”
So when the election for Sheriff came around the corner, Walker “got drafted,” primarily by her late friend Rick Cassell.
“It’s very similar to what I ran on with the [Socialist Party of the USA] SPUSA, and it’s what we’re running on now…If you want to attack crime, first you must attack poverty,” she explains.
We stand for the rights of folk all along the LGBTQIA, gender-nonconforming and nonbinary rainbow. Check out our policy papers at https://t.co/eicnWlqg13.
— Angela Walker (@AngelaNWalker) September 14, 2020
Her opposition was Sheriff David Clarke – a Democrat, but more immediately known as “the fella on Fox News that wears the cowboy hat and really does not like Black people, even though he himself is Black,” as Walker describes him.
She ran as an Independent and “got 20% of the vote” against Clarke, “which blew everybody away – myself included,” she exclaims. “That run caught the attention of the Socialist Party of the USA.”
Walker was introduced to Emidio ‘Mimi’ Soltysik, who was nominated as the SPUSA’s Presidential candidate in 2016 after their convention in Milwaukee. Soltysik became one of her “very dear friends”, but he passed away in June of this year from liver cancer.
“I want to lift him up, always,” she says.
With only ballot access in Guam and a few other states, the Soltysik-Walker ticket earned 4,000 votes.
So after the “exhausting” exposure of that campaign, Walker began her life anew and swore off electoral politics.
“I was done – ‘we ain’t doing this again, don’t ask me!’ I moved to South Carolina, I started as a substitute teacher when I moved here, and got back into driving, which I love, and… I was good!”
Walker settled in Florence, SC, where she currently lives – alone, except for her pets – and took on her current job as a truck driver. Then, it happened: “I got a call from Howie…”
Howie Hawkins is an “Original Green”, being one of those present when the U.S. Green Party first formed in 1984. A one-time member of the Socialist Party as well, Hawkins has become one of the most familiar Green Party politicians after attempting increasingly successful runs in New York state for Governor, and other local seats around Syracuse.
As several minor parties decided to band together in solidarity, he received both the Green Party’s and Socialist Party’s nominations for President this year – and he needed a running mate.
“Howie’s someone I know. We’ve been on panels together, we’ve been at talks together – this is not someone who is unfamiliar to me,” Walker explains. “When he asked me it was like, I had to think about it for half-a-minute.”
What spurred her to say yes, this time on a bigger platform?
“I have an ancestor altar, and I had to look over at them like…really? Really?” she admits through chuckles. “You had to send me this thing? I was good! But, you know when something was put into your life for you to do. There are times where you just can’t say no, and not be able to live with yourself.”
Both parties announced Walker as Hawkins’ running mate, formally nominating them on July 11.
“At this moment, there is a rebellion, there is a pandemic – the response to both from this government has been criminal and ridiculous,” she accuses. “People need to hear what we’re offering, and they need to understand that they have another choice, and if it has been handed to me to be one of the messengers for that, I don’t have the right to say no. And so, here we are.”
While the Green Party have previously claimed access in over 30 states for this fall, they have already lost several legal fights in some places, namely Walker’s native state, Wisconsin. Many of these trips to court puts the Greens, represented by Republican lawyers, on the same side as independent candidates such as Kanye West, a late runner in the election that is also receiving assistance from Republicans to gain ballot access.
Yet, the Libertarian Party has had virtually no challenge to gaining ballot access, outside of Texas. They recently announced they expect to be included in all 50 state ballots, in addition to Washington, DC.
Even beyond the ballot issues, the Green Party has faced many obstacles in this year’s campaign that reflect their vulnerability.
First, non-major parties were dealt an even more consequential blow by the recent Supreme Court decision, Chiafalo v. Washington – a rare unanimous one – which decided that it was constitutional for states to penalize or replace faithless electors in the electoral college. That means that in states that already have these laws in place, electors will face fines (and in the future, possibly jail time) for voting against what the state’s results dictate.
Then, key supporters are pulling away, at least for this year – and urging the Green Party to step aside. A group of over 170 environmentalists urged voters not to vote for them, which has weight with those concerned with the Greens’ most championed cause, climate change. Even the Rhode Island chapter has pledged not to put the Hawkins-Walker ticket on their state’s ballot (“that’s being dealt with internally,” Walker asserts.)
Then, there’s the Georgia Green Party, which came under fire and face threats of being discredited over their announcement that they adopted the “Declaration on Women’s Sex-Based Rights,” an effort championed by anti-trans politicians. The threats of discreditation came from the Greens’ Lavender Caucus, who attempted to reconcile with the Georgia branch, but was denied. Hawkins officially denounced that decision, declaring, “Trans rights are human rights.”
Trans rights are human rights. Trans patients & their doctors have a right to determine care without govt interference. @gagreenparty should reconsider its recent positions that counterpose trans rights to women’s rights & oppose medical treatment for trans youth.
— Angela Walker (@AngelaNWalker) February 27, 2020
As if things hadn’t been tough enough for the campaign, they announced that their press secretary, Kevin Zeese, passed away on September 5.
Of course, Hawkins and Walker are well aware of the decreasing odds. In previously speaking with the Guardian, Hawkins admitted that “what would really be a big victory would be if we got 5% of the vote.”
Walker agrees that that’s possible for their campaign – but she’s not trying to settle, either. “Howie is very much a realist; he looks at obtainable goals. For me? It’s about what I want. I want the White House. I want us to win.”
Walker cites the already incredibly bizarre 2020, noting that this election comes 100 years after Eugene Debs, a fellow Socialist and one of the most successful third-party candidates in history, came close to earning 1 million votes in 1920. “At the very least, I believe we will get that 5%,” she states.
While those are certainly bold expectations under the circumstances – and to some, treacherous, considering what that would mean for the prospects of Democrats – Walker stresses that this isn’t a ploy for her in any way.
“I need people to understand, this is not a cosmetic, issue-raising run. There are a lot of other things we are accomplishing with this, but ultimately? I do want to win it.”
Well, what would a Walker Vice Presidency look like? Like a true Green Party member, the first thing she brings up every time when it comes to policy is reversing climate change.
“Putting the Green New Deal in effect, to start reversing that, because we have no time with this. This is not something we can kick down the road on that,” she presses. “We have to act on that now.”
— Angela Walker (@AngelaNWalker) March 31, 2020
After that, Hawkins’ and Walker’s first 100 days would focus on “freeing political prisoners, ending the detention of migrants around the country with family reunification where possible… disbanding ICE – which personally gives me a lot of pleasure – and getting treatment to those who need it with Medicare for All.”
In addressing the coronavirus pandemic, their administration would implement a test, trace, and isolate program and a 4-figure monthly guaranteed income for each American.
In terms of LGBTQ policy, the ticket would hope to reverse religious freedom laws by amending the Do No Harm Act to take away the “freedom” to discriminate. They would combat bullying by “setting a tone” as leaders and issue guidance across schools in the country to ensure they are LGBTQ-friendly. The campaign has been especially upfront in supporting trans rights – specifically calling for rescinding Trump’s ban on transgender people in the military, and supporting both the LGBTQ Equality Act and gender-neutral markers on government-issued IDs.
How does Walker specifically plan to move policies such as these through the Senate?
“I would employ as much diplomacy as I am capable of,” she replied.
Noting that her election would spell a “complete flipping of the government,” Walker would ask senators, “All of you, at some point, want to be re-elected where you are. How does it serve you to stand, or continue to stand, against the will of the people?”
In fact, all things considered, she has fairly positive words to say about her competition, especially Senator Harris.
“I think it’s important that people understand that as a Black woman, in this country, you will never see me publicly down another Black woman,” she tells me. “I’m not gonna do that. I think at the end of the day, there’s no necessity to go mudslinging. Our policies speak for themselves.”
Citing that they’re the only party offering the Green New Deal (“the real one, the undiluted one”), reparations for African Americans, an economic bill of rights, and nuclear disarmament, she believes “this isn’t about personality – this is about policy.” She’s tired of the fact that “we treat politicians like rock stars.”
She mentions that the Libertarian Party ticket of Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen did extend congratulations to the Green ticket, and that Cohen specifically reached out to her, which she describes as “a very gracious thing” for him to do. Libertarians and Greens have a few policies in common, like calling for the decriminalization of marijuana and ranked-choice voting, and they do support each other when challenged by the major parties.
“But as far as the ‘major parties’ [reaching out]? Yeah, right,” Walker snickers.
Walker does not take issue with people that feel they have to vote Democrat this year – but she wants voters to know they have “leverage”, and she pokes fun at the notion that Biden and Democrats, once in office, could be ‘pushed left’ into accepting more progressive policies – “let me know how that goes for you,” she thinks when she hears that, also mentioning the similar atmosphere around Clinton’s candidacy and how that turned out.
Make no mistake – she knows how important this moment is, too.
“The policies that I’m helping champion are not esoteric concepts to me. This is my life. When people are like, ‘We have a lot at stake’ – I’m like, ‘and I don’t? I live check to check. Who are you talking to?’ I mean, my savings are cool for me, but most people will look at [them] and go, ‘Oh, really? That’s cute. How quaint.’”
In the end, as strong-willed and persuasive as she may be, what truly separates her from the competition is that she seems like one of the most human candidates for office you could ever talk to. She’s not “a member of the club,” and likely never will be. For example, she doesn’t pretend to know much about technology, noting that she was unfamiliar with Trump’s favorite propaganda tool Twitter, where he has made lying and denigrating into art forms.
“All of a sudden, there was a little blue checkmark on my campaign account. I didn’t know what that meant, I didn’t…but I guess that means something to people? I had no idea.”
Like the average person, she has been limited to seeing her family via Zoom or Google Duo throughout the pandemic.
“My youngest grandson is about to be 7 months old, and we were on a video call yesterday and he was reaching [for me] through the phone. I saw him and started crying.”
She keeps herself around an inner circle “of amazingly badass friends.” And the secret weapon that may be keeping her motivated?
“You know…I have a crush! I have a crush that, they bring me a lot of joy that’s… just mine. That’s helpful,” she gleefully shares.
Walker obviously didn’t let out all of the juicy details, but she did exclusively share that “they’re very well informed. They’re not an organizer, [but] they could be… but they do their own thing.”
What will Walker do in the almost certain scenario that their ticket doesn’t win the election? She’s okay with it, as long as people are reminded that we’re “more powerful than they’ve been taught to think they are.”
“We keep building. We keep working,” she explains, regardless of which ticket comes out atop. “One of the biggest things that I was excited about in this campaign is our emphasis on building left unity and solidarity. I think going forward, no matter what happens in November – unless I am into the White House – this is what I’m personally going to be working on.”
She’ll continue her work as a truck driver, and return to her preferred “very private lifestyle,” while continuing to “bring honor to the work of Black women on the left who are fighting against a machine that tells us in many ways, we don’t even have the right to exist.”
The lack of recognition for her work and leadership could be discouraging, but for Walker, it’s another reality of living proud and outside society’s conventional expectations. It’s also reminiscent of the reality of other marginalized people, especially bisexuals.
While she’s completely gotten used to being ignored and forgotten, Walker isn’t letting that stop her, and she can look to her predecessors for encouragement.
“In all the pictures I took for the campaign, I’m wearing Shirley Chisolm earrings. That was an intentional choice, to lift her up and honor her, to invoke her assistance with this work and, to remind the world that we ain’t new to this. We’ve been doing this.”
She compares her experience as a bisexual woman to being a socialist, in that people assume erroneous things about both until they get to know people who do identify in those terms.
“I’m often being put in positions to have those conversations with people because a lot of times they just don’t understand,” she explains. “I think that being able to speak as a member of the community is helpful. Good representation for our communities is helpful.”
“I think it’s just one more intersection that I stand in as a human being because it’s part of who I am.”