Arizona Rep. Reginald Bolding, of the 27th District, never saw himself in government; in fact, growing up, he never even knew of the grandiose decisions the state legislature made every day.
Raised in a neighborhood that lofty government offices often ignored, his goal was simply searching out ways to rise above.
“In my neighborhood, it was never about the government. It was about getting the good grades that open [more] doors [out],” he said.
Despite this, Bolding was always centered by a civic heart, a natural need to be a voice for the voiceless leading him to one of his earliest encounters with government and leadership: high school class president.
However, he hadn’t truly seen the glow of civic duty until he was invited to work at a political rally in Cincinnati by a college mentor: one hosted by and run for then U.S. Senator Barack Obama.
There, as he held the coats and purses of attendants, he noticed how the handsome, intelligent Obama worked the room and dazzled the guests: a humble spark had been lit.
Bolding learned more about politics as he continued to work for more campaigns. Still, he indulged his civic sense in the most personal, direct way he knew: he became a teacher.
Bolding moved to Arizona around 2007 working as an educator within the South Phoenix community observing the neighborhood’s similarities to his own: kids that struggled, nonexistent resources and lives that would only be changed by people who cared. Lives that would only be bettered by having a connection to the real decision-makers.
“I knew I could be the best teacher in their lives, but [what about] once they left my classroom?” he says.
He researched the state legislature, those who were making decisions about education that directly affected the lives of students like his own, and decided to run: the teacher who could make a difference in government.
He lost in 2012, but came back and won in 2014 and again in 2016.
As a representative with a teacher’s heart and a civic servant’s abilities, it was only natural that Bolding would become a focused voice for those dejected and discouraged by a new federal administration.
“For the current administration, it is unfortunate that they give [this] perspective for students or kids to hear…to hear [this] message from our highest-ranking official that they do not matter, it is disheartening,” Bolding said.
Now, his voice as a representative has risen in volume; a strong ebb to support the emerging dissent surrounding the Confederate monuments within the nation and Arizona. These are literal and metaphorical monuments that occupy names of highways, schools and sit starkly on government property.
Small remarks have often been made about this country’s troubled history and its subtle appreciation of the Confederacy’s superiority complex and civil fight for enslavement.
However, events occurring such as the one in Charlottesville, Virginia, and a President who essentially refused to denounce white supremacists has catalyzed a stronger opposition toward these monuments.
For Bolding, it is clear what these monuments are: glorification. It is also clear that he has become an Arizonian voice for those who are shamed or hurt by the continued presence of them in places like the Arizona State Capitol. He believes that they might belong in a museum, but not on public grounds.
“[It is clear] that the confederacy stood for the devaluing of people of color…and I think it appalling the government would [implicitly] support such a concept…and I don’t think it appropriate to ask these [descendants of ancestors who suffered injustice] to pay taxes for highway monuments or trophies in recognitions of the confederacy and what it stood for,” he insists.
The calm nature of his voice may belie his inner strength and core for social justice. However, his colleagues note the power of his purpose and what he stands for.
“Bolding has put forth a voice that has been absent. [He is] clearly a rising star. Very eloquent, very smart and very passionate. He can go anywhere he wants frankly,” Arizona Rep. Rebecca Rios, house minority leader, said.
Bolding wants to continue to his efforts. He maintains that his passion for community and equity has always been why he ran for office.
When asked about the recognition he has gotten for his more recent outspokenness, Bolding appreciates the flattery but has no initial intention of capitalizing on it. He sternly says that he is where he can help most now.
But, this doesn’t stop others from noticing how his projected future could go.
“I think Reginald Bolding’s career is limitless. I look forward to his progression and will support him in whatever office he chooses to pursue,” Arizona Rep. Diego Espinoza, Latino caucus chair, said.