The 2023 North Carolina General Assembly session is now underway, and Cardinal & Pine is conducting interviews with several newly-elected state lawmakers in order to help their constituents get to know them better, ask about their priorities, and serve as a reference point for their time in the General Assembly.
In November, Democrat Kanika Brown was elected to North Carolina’s 71st state House district in Forsyth County. Her platform focuses on access to healthcare, affordable housing, reproductive freedom, and preserving public education.
If someone were to visit Forsyth County for the first time, what’s a place or activity you would recommend they try out?
The Quarry that’s on Reynolds Park Road and Salem Lake.
Great place where you can hike and kayak. You can have events there and you can go for a walk trail at the quarry. You can go to the golf course. That’s the first place.
What do you love about North Carolina?
Oh, the people, the mountains that we have here. It’s just a great place to live. It’s not fast-paced. A lot of people come here to settle down, to retire. It’s just really great to be here. The education system here is good.
If you’re in the business world, we have a lot of business activities and opportunities. And we have great administration in the city of Winston-Salem – especially with our City Council and our commissioners and our state representatives and our senators, we really make things happen here for all the people.
What inspired you to run for public office?
The people – I saw there was a need for opportunities, as far as resources for our youth and recreation centers, our schools, our communities.
If you come through here now in Winston-Salem and you go on to Waughtown Street, graffiti is everywhere. I want to get that stuff cleaned up because nobody’s going to come and invest in communities that look run down. It should not look like that here in the city of Winston-Salem.
We need a beautification project. And that’s one of the things that I advocated for while I was on the campaign trail. We have to get this place cleaned up and make people feel like, “Ooh, this is a good place to live,” and give our youth and our kids and our adults a sense of coming home to some pride. I want people to think “It looks good over here. I enjoy living in this community.”
If someone didn’t know much about North Carolina, what’s something that you think would surprise them about our state?
There’s just a lot of opportunities here, depending on what city that you are going to and what city you decide to live in. The Toyota plant coming to Greensboro is going to produce a lot of jobs there.
I tell people, “If you decide to move to North Carolina, do your homework. Do your research on every city in North Carolina. Decide, ‘Hey, will this work for my family?’” I think those are the first steps that you would have to look at to see where job opportunities are, where resources are that’s going to work for yourself and your family.
You’ve talked about how that’s something that’s been a part of your life from a very young age. What are some of the causes that have inspired you throughout your life?
Well, we’ll start with gun violence. That’s one. I lost my cousin. She was beaten to death. She was shot for the first time by her first husband.
The second time she was beaten to death by her fiance. So that’s one of the causes that I’m really advocating for – preventing gun violence.
The second is, women’s rights. I’m very passionate about that. I think [abortion is] a woman’s choice. Have faith that that woman would make the right decision for herself. No one can tell a woman what to do. I think that’s between her and her doctor.
Another cause with mine is our environment. We have to get our environment to where it needs to be, where people know exactly what’s going on, what mold looks like. We have brown spots in our communities and that needs to be cleaned up as well.
Another thing that I am passionate about is disability, people with disabilities. They get left out a lot. Funding is cut from them a lot and first sometimes, and I would like to see that restored. So I advocate hard for people with disabilities because if we don’t speak for them, who will? They continue to get left out of resources and that’s something that doesn’t need to happen.
What are some of the gun violence reforms that you would like to see?
When we have a victim that files for 50B, to a lot of our abusers that’s out here, that’s nothing to them. That’s just a piece of paper to them. They could care nothing about that. What research has shown us is that they get the paper, they go right back out to the victim’s house and a lot of the time they kill the victim and sometimes the kids as well and the family members there. What I would like to see happen is that once they get served that 50B, I think they need to have a tracker on them.
Editor’s note: A 50B is a restraining order designed specifically for victims of domestic violence. If you or someone you know needs help contact the local domestic violence agency in your county.
That way we can save the victim’s life and our kids and family life as well. If they’re in the proximity where the victim lives the tracker is going to go off. They’re going to get a call. “Why are you there? You need to leave that area. You should not be over there.”
That’s one of the things I would like to see change as well.
As far as gun violence, I think if they get caught with a gun, if they’re a felon, they should not get a bail. No bail at all. You’re a repeat felon. That’s probably a lot of them anyway. A lot of them are the ones that continue to commit the crime. They get charged, they put them in jail, they bail and they come right back out. That needs to change. We have to have tougher laws because this isn’t working.
As you know gun violence is on the rise. And I believe in the Second Amendment, I totally endorse the Second Amendment. I think everyone has the right to protect themselves.
You were talking about the environment, making sure people know what mold looks like. Is that something constituents have talked to you about?
So we’re dealing with an issue now with affordable housing– I was talking to some ladies, a group of people, and one of the ladies came out, “Ms. Brown, we have mold all in our room. That’s a problem. We have roaches.” One of the babies, they couldn’t figure out why the baby was crying. They ended up taking her to the doctor and they found out the baby had a roach in the ear. We are dealing with issues like that. It is really bad.
We have another issue where we have property developers, where they come in and they build affordable housing X, Y, and Z but then they don’t maintain them. That is a problem. And I feel when they do horrible things like this to the people, they should not get any incentives, any tax breaks, not anything.
Another problem we see is that landlords are starting to not accept housing vouchers. What it’s doing is causing people to move to another city that does accept those vouchers. We have to do better when we’re talking about affordable housing – we see the homeless rate is going up, rent is going up, it’s a problem.
I also feel strongly about the benefit cliff, which is, let’s say for instance, someone is working a job, they receive government assistance, Medicaid, food stamps for themselves and their children. Then one day maybe they get a raise and it might be a dollar over what they’re supposed to make in order to receive that support. Immediately their food stamps, Medicaid, and whatever else they get, is taken away. I would like for them to extend it at least four to six months, to give people time to get on their feet. If assistance is immediately taken away, how can that family survive? They cannot. They will continue to stay in poverty and be on the system.
I’m about growth and prosperity and people cannot grow like that. It ends up being a curse instead of a blessing. That’s something that we have to go in and change. I’ve seen so many people upset and hurt by it. One lady, she was like, “I had to give back my raise because if I didn’t give back my raise, I’m not going to have food stamps to feed my children.”
When Roe v. Wade was overturned last year, what was your reaction to that?
Oh, that was an upset for me. I’ve said before about abortion bans: “You are not going to stop abortions. The only thing you’re doing is stopping safe abortions. That’s all you’re doing. People will go right back to doing abortions back in their home.”
That is the reason why we had to put in safe abortions in the first place because of what was going on. Women were losing their lives during those abortions. Now that it’s determined by the state – that should have never happened. North Carolina right now is where people can come to get abortions, safe abortions. We have to keep it that way. We have to continue to fight for it and advocate for it.
I was at a facility about a couple of weeks ago for a visit, and the doctor was like, “When we come here, sometimes we have people that have traveled from different states, they’re just waiting in the car, just waiting to be seen.” Some people say, “I don’t think abortion should be needed X, Y, and Z.”
And my question is, “Okay, so are you going to babysit? Are you going to help pay some bills? What are you going to do? Are we going to raise taxes? Do you know about this person’s mental health?”
We don’t know about their mental health, we don’t know what’s going on with their body, if they’re able to take care of a child. These are some of the questions that you ask them, they can’t answer. A lot of the people, they cannot answer.
What were some of your favorite moments in the classroom in public schools?
Seeing their smile on the kid’s faces. The teachers are so dedicated to teaching. It was just a different atmosphere then, compared to now. We didn’t have all what we have today with the violence against teachers and bullying. We didn’t have that back when I was a TA teaching back then. Today we have a lot on our hands.
I take my hat off to our teachers out here that’s trying to do a job and the pay isn’t good. A lot of them are going to different states just to get paid more money to make it.
And we also have teachers that are working overseas now, international, getting higher pay, benefits. We need them. And I tell the teachers that all the time. “I just thank you all for your work and your support and your service, because we couldn’t do it without our teachers.”
And we have to listen to our teachers as well. We have to back them, listen to their issues, listen to their concerns, and move forward.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Watch how you treat people and watch the words that come out of your mouth. Watch the company you keep and work hard. Don’t be lazy, don’t be average, don’t be mediocre. Run your own race. Don’t look at somebody else. No. You have to run for yourself because everybody has a different path.
If you had a day where you could do only exactly what you wanted, what would that day look like?
Oh my goodness. Reading a good book. Oh, boy. A good book. I’d spend my last dollar on a cowboy hat and a book. I’m good if it’s a cowboy hat and a book. I’m good to go. And some nice soft jazz music.
Is there anything else you would like people to know about you?
I’d love for you to come take a visit to Raleigh [at the state legislature], come and visit me. Let’s sit down, let’s talk. Have a conversation. When I’m in town, you want to reach out, please do. Let’s have some coffee or tea. I’m a tea drinker. Somebody might be a coffee drinker, but that’s fine with me. I love to hear people’s concerns and their issues and what can we do to make things better? And I tell people, “If you bring a problem, also have a solution to the problem and let’s figure out how we can make it work to help the people.”
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