Originally posted on Alexandra, D.C. on May, 7 2015
I had the pleasure of meeting Antonia through my fellowship with Running Start this past fall and she immediately impressed me. She was a Running Start Fellow during the spring of 2014 and served as an intern for Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH). Not only is Antonia an extraordinary leader in her school and community, but she has taken on the unique challenge of leading a conservative women's group on her campus. One of the goals of this blog is to represent the spectrum of women's voices and their unique journeys as leaders. It is vital that women's voices across the spectrum are represented, and Antonia has ensured this at UT Dallas where she is pursuing her MPA. She is definitely a young woman to watch out for - she is going places!
You were a Running Start Fellow. How did that experience prepare you to pursue political leadership? The Running Start/ Walmart Star Fellowship was an amazing experience. The most significant result of the fellowship was that I was surrounded by young women my age who wanted to run for office and wanted to do it right now. In particular, one of the fellows in my class became my inspiration. Because she wasn’t afraid to pursue her dreams early, I wasn’t as well. Also, since the Running Start team supports me today, I feel very confident that I can make my dreams a reality.
Why do you think its important to have more women in elected office? I could say the typical things and reiterate what I have learned over the years of why more women should pursue office. That there should be 50/50 represenation from both sides. But for me, I think that it is more about having equal opportunity. I believe there shouldn’t be any barriers that keep women who want to run from running and winning. I don’t think just any woman should be in office, just like I don’t believe just any man should be in office as well. I want the right man or woman to represent the people of America. I do believe that the more women in office there is, the more talented women will run.
Tell us a about your current leadership roles. What are your positions and what inspired you to pursue these roles? Currently my leadership roles are mainly in my community. In January, I was sworn is as Republican Precinct Chair for my precinct. I am also the founder and president of the Network of Enlightened Women chapter at my university. Both roles require me to be a leader and promote conservative values and beliefs. I knew that I wanted to be more involved in politics in the local level. After following my peer’s direction, I realized that being a precinct chair would enable me to learn the ins and outs of local politics and get the chance to network with the movers and shakers of my county. With NeW, I founded the chapter after realizing that there was no outlet for Republican women to voice concerns and their beliefs on my campus. I wanted there to be a balance of organizations available. All of the all female empowerment groups that focused on leadership and politics were all very one sided. I wanted to bring another perspective and voice to the table.
What woman has been your biggest inspiration and what do you admire about her? My mother has really been my biggest inspiration. Despite her hard upbringing in Nigeria, she has always led me and my siblings with love, warmth, and strength. My father went to prison when I was 7, leaving my immigrant mother alone and without a partner. She has raised my siblings and I extremely well and has shown me the power and love of a strong female role model. I know I can do anything on my own because of her. Independence is deeply instilled in me. I attribute that strength of one through my mom’s own example.
You are an active member of NeW. What is New and how has that contributed to your desire to lead on campus and beyond? NeW, The Network of Enlightened Women, is a conservative group that allows women on campus to voice their beliefs, values and through that gathering empower each other to pursue leadership roles in their community and on campus. At its core, it’s a book club, where we gather together to discuss the conservative response to radical feminist doctrine. NeW-UT Dallas just became official in late March. We are the only active politically conservative group on campus and the only of its kind, also focused on women. Because of this, our group is not always welcomed. And we have had to stand up for our beliefs several times in just a couple of months. My fellow officers are all underclassmen and I feel as the oldest I have a duty to the girls to train them, uplift and empower them to lead through our organization but also to inspire them to speak up and lead in their lives and for others.
What advice would you give to your 10 year old self? My 10 year old self was very focused on what others thought of her. I feel that I still have work to do in regards to that, but I have come to embrace the fact that I am unique. I mean, I am a young, black, female conservative. Not very many of us. And some people don’t like that about me. I didn’t get to where I am today, blending in though. I wish I could tell my 10 year old self, that it is okay being the only black girl in AP classes. The only one that looked like me, sounded like me, acted like me. Because being unique can take you to two paths if you choose. You can either let it overcome you, or you can let it empower you to do new and great things. I decided on the latter. But it took a lot of time and heartache to get to that mindset.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to other young women about pursuing their dreams? Be self-aware, early and grab ahold of that. Being self-aware is actually a strong trait and necessity of being a leader. Do whatever you can to learn as much about yourself as possible. Studies show that men know their strengths and weaknesses pretty early on. Women have some catching up to do in that regard. We can do it very well when it’s about others, but ourselves, we tend to ignore. Take a Myers Brigg test, figure out what you like and don’t like, be honest now. Because it will only help you hone in on what God has put you on this earth for. And believe me, its for great things.
What is your career ambition? My career ambition is to run for U.S. Senate in 2030. I want to be in public office. As a liftetime Girl Scout, public service has been instilled deep within me at an early age. I know it doesn’t pay the bills. But it is where my heart follows. And in that service, I know that I want to lead.
And for fun... what is an interesting fact about you? I would love to teach English in South Korea before settling down. In college, I studied, International Political Economy and became the Korean Studies expert in the Asian Studies department. It all started with my love and fascination with the South Korean culture. Their food, TV dramas and language! I try to practice Korean whenever I meet someone with Korean descent. The picture is when I met South Koreans at a church in Lebanon during a mission trip. And no, there are not many there. So I was pretty excited.
Where is she now?
Antonia Okafor has been fighting for liberty as soon as she realized what liberty truly was. A former Democrat, Antonia had her “come to Jesus” moment just two years ago when a friend introduced her to the Liberty movement. In 2015, Antonia made a permanent mark in the second amendment community, when she became the Southwest Regional Director for Students for Concealed Carry, where she advocated for the passing and successful implementation of the concealed carry on campus in Texas law known as, “campus carry."
In the past year alone, she has continued to work in the Liberty movement in other issues important to her. The need for criminal justice reform is probably the one issue she cares about most. Last year she shared her gut-wrenching personal storyabout the repercussions of mandatory minimums and the war on drugs with Rare, a libertarian/conservative news outlet. During Rand Paul’s presidential run, she took on the role as the first Texas Coordinator for Students for Rand, where she rallied up the grassroots on college campuses across Texas to get out the vote for Rand Paul. The National Rifle Association (NRA) took notice of her activism and had her star in one of their “Freedom’s Safest Place” commercials, a national campaign that highlights the diversity of NRA members. A current graduate student at the University of Texas at Dallas, Antonia shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to being a leader of our LOLA chapter in Dallas, she also will be embarking on a new adventure where she can continue to highlight and advocate for principles that are important to the liberty movement and its future success as an opinion contributor for IJ Review.
You can check Antonia out during one of her regular guest appearances on The Blaze and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
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I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!