Marquita Bradshaw pulled off one of 2020’s biggest political upsets when she won the Democratic nomination for retiring U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander’s seat, besting a well-funded candidate supported by national Democrats while spending less than $25,000.
The general election was a different story: She lost handily to the Republican nominee, Bill Hagerty, who is now in Washington, D.C., as Tennessee’s junior senator.
It was her first run for office, and though she’s not ruling out another in the future, she’s returning to her roots for her next chapter. A veteran of environmental justice and labor organizing, Bradshaw has established a new nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization, Sowing Justice. Its goal, she said in an interview, is to work with communities across the state on environmental justice projects. That could include helping community groups raise money, develop communication plans and run voter education and registration efforts. Sowing Justice will offer grants worth between $500 and $3,000 for their community partners.
“I met so many amazing communities during the campaign that wanted help, and now I have a vehicle to be able to deliver a way that empowers communities and gets people to become high-info voters that are civically engaged,” she said.
For now, the work is focused on Tennessee, though in some cases projects could bleed into neighboring states. The organization could expand its reach beyond Tennessee if it meets fundraising and growth targets, Bradshaw said.
Sowing Justice’s founding board members include Bradshaw’s mother, longtime Memphis environmental justice activist Doris DeBerry-Bradshaw, as well as A. Philip Randolph Institute President Kermit Moore, Erica Owen, Moriesha Doby and Anthony Moore Jr.
Bradshaw said her nomination — the first major-party statewide nomination of a Black woman in Tennessee — was “a door opening,” and that people persistently ask her to run again.
“I have not ruled out running for anything,” she said.
The focus for now, though, is Sowing Justice.
“The foundation of health and safe communities really comes from people being more civically engaged, and that is what this organization is doing: finding a way for people normally left out of the process to participate fully,” she said.