BBC & NPR Political Analyst Drexel Heard has accomplished quite a lot for himself over his amazing career. For one, he’s the youngest Black Executive Director of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. Two, he’s previously worked on former President Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign. Three, he’s the first black Community Vice President for Stonewall Democrats Los Angeles.
Oh and he’s a proud gay man who also happens to be absurdly handsome. So many checkpoints! Drexel has been a pivotal voice over the past year when it comes to many prevalent topics like Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 and the Presidential election that is hours from happening.
We wanted to chat with Drexel ahead of what will be a historic day tomorrow to get his two cents on the matter as well as his own personal story leading up to now, when he decided to come out, the ups and downs of being black & openly gay in the political world and so much more about this amazing guy. Take a look.
What inspired you to want to get into politics?
I was always interested in civic engagement, and as a kid who grew up in a military family service to others is something that’s been a part of my life for forever. I’m also a HUGE fan of The West Wing and I’m sure, like so many, it was a show that really inspired people to be interested and engage in politics.
Did you come out before, after or during your career began to thrive?
Well before. I was out to a few people in high school, had my first boyfriend at the same time, but it was all very under the radar. It wasn’t until college that I really started to come out to a few people, and then after that it just was what it was and I didn’t really care how people took it. You got what you got!
What has been the peak and pit of being black & openly gay in politics?
I will say this, being black is hard, being gay is hard, being both has it’s challenges in any industry. My experience is one that’s not uncommon to so many black males in politics. When we walk into a room, whether a campaign office, city hall or the state capital we’re exactly that FIRST – Black.
It’s not until people figure out who you are or who you represent that people MAYBE consider taking you seriously. So that’s the pit, right? On the other hand, I’ve been personally fortunate to live in a state where LGBTQ leaders like Harvey Milk, Sheila Kuehl, John Perez, Scott Weiner, Mark Gonzalez and more have paved the way for those of us who are ready to serve our community, our allies, and those who we fight for every day. Anyone in any political position should be using it to help people and advance the causes and issues that do exactly that. I want to be able to use the platform I have, while I have it, to support uplifting black voices, LGBTQ voices, and the voices in our generation.
What has this year meant to you with everything that has gone on regarding BLM & COVID?
The pandemic this year has absolutely devastated the lives of so many families across the country, and so many of my friends in industries that may not recover fully for years. It’s hard to watch friends and loved ones struggle to deal with this and not know what’s coming next.
In my own personal life, we’ve made necessary adjustments to get us through the pandemic. This year also brought us to the peak of the BLM movement. I think people keep forgetting that we’ve been talking about the role of law enforcement, reimagining our communities and how little regard for Black life has been every year since Tamir Rice, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and others were just the peak of 2020.
I have two younger brothers, and a brand new nephew, so seeing those young Black boys have their lives cut short because of nonsense, piss poor leadership, and a lack of empathy is hard. “Loving thy neighbor” isn’t just for a handful of people or a specific religion, it’s a principle that has to include Black lives, Black Trans Lives, those with disability, those who lack the healthcare they need, and those on the frontlines fighting to keep everyone alive. 2020 has definitely been a reckoning for all of that. It has defined how we move forward as a nation.
Let’s talk about this election. Do you think it’s going to be a tight race or a blow out on either end?
There’s an election? Haha! As I type this, over 80 million Americans have already voted early. More Democrats than Republicans, but that doesn’t mean anything until we count every vote.
It’s 50/50 on what’s going to happen on Election Day. Early vote numbers look good for Democrats up and down the ballot, but that shouldn’t stop people from voting because they think we’re going to win. As returns come in for races for US Senate, that will give us an indication of where things may be at the presidential level statewide, so that’s something people should definitely be watching.
What are the best words of encouragement you can give to the LGBTQ community if Trump is re-elected?
Our nation and our community has been through worse and we’ve always prevailed. As they say, it’s always darkest before the dawn. If we don’t manage to keep our heads up, those who want us to go back to segregated lives or back in the closet will win. We can’t let them. So take a few days, or a couple of months, regroup, and together we’ll figure out what’s next.