That Girl Meets; Monique Owens, First African American Mayor of Eastpointe Michigan
Oct 06, 2020By Natasha Lee
“Hello, is this That Girl? Its Mayor Monique Owens giving you a call back, I am so sorry to have
missed you.” Her voice is warm and upbeat and I instantly feel right at home. Once the questions start rolling it’s impossible not to notice her attentiveness. She takes her time with each question - pausing before speaking - then responding with a thoughtfulness not generally displayed in the political realm.
Mayor Monique Owens is the first African American person ever to hold the mayoral seat,
roughly two years after her historic entrance as Eastpointe’s first black council member. After spending 11 years working with the Detroit Police Department as a Sheriff’s Deputy, Mayor Owens took an interest in doing more to give back to the community, digging into local legislation for more information. Her rise has certainly been nothing short of meteoric and she’s just getting started. I asked Mayor Owens a few questions about her journey.
You became the first black councilwoman of Eastpointe in 2017. When did you first become serious about pursuing a career in politics? Were you exposed to politics at an early age?
I was never really into politics. I was living in a community where I saw an increase in crime
and I thought, ‘How can I do something about this’? Being a police officer wasn’t enough. There was something in the newspaper saying Eastpointe was looking for a council person. I didn’t know what that was, though I’d heard it in the past, so I looked it up. It intrigued me, and that intrigue introduced me to something I never knew about and I wanted to learn more.
The city of Eastpointe has roughly 32,000 citizens with 40% being black. Were you born and raised in Eastpointe? If so, what was that like? You mentioned that you were a DPD officer, serving as a Sheriff’s Deputy for 11 years. As acting Mayor, is it important to address any policy enforcing some of the racial disparities plaguing the criminal justice system?
I was born and raised on the east side of Detroit and moved to Eastpointe in 2010. Growing up, my grandma would take us to Eastpointe to spend some time outside the city. We would shop, eat and return to Detroit. I always thought it was some faraway place, but it was right around the corner. As a child you are misled to believe that everything is far off. When you become an adult you realise that everything is reachable. As far as racial disparities go, educating people gives them power. Residents need to understand the importance of their votes. Within the United States we face unbelievable racial boundaries. What the people of our great nation need to understand is that it’s our vote that puts unjust leadership into place.
As acting Mayor, I’m inside the system, hoping to fight for equality of all people.
As a black woman, I’m confident you have confronted many obstacles attempting to derail your efforts for change in policy. Personally, I’ve come to recognise experiencing misogynoir as part of the job. How do you combat the anti-black misogyny that you experience?
Any event I attend I absolutely protect myself with prayer. When you’re in a leadership role being spiritually protected is crucial. Seeing some of the things I’ve seen forces me to look at things differently, even racism. When we say ‘racism’ we always think it’s white against black, unfortunately I experience anti-black racism from other black people.
Does that hurt you?
That’s the confusion, we talk about white people and black people and that’s not always so. If you’re in a system where people have normalised what a leader should look like and then you have a leader that looks like you, then you’ve got to deal with that anger. These people are angry and wanted to be free a long time ago but no one told them how or made that possible. They’re angry at you and bring people that look like you and me to bring me down. When I was a council person, I traveled around getting signatures with my daughters, teaching them how the election process goes. I went to this very intelligent African American man’s home and asked him to sign my petition. He said absolutely not because he liked being just himself and a few other black people around. He didn’t want a black leader.
Now that we have learned a little about your initiatives and journey to assuming the position as the first African American Mayor of Eastpointe, share with our audience your role as a woman and mother. Tell us as a mother of two absolutely beautiful twin girls how do you navigate the work/life balance aspect? What was it like having them with you while being sworn in? Do they get to travel with you now that you are Mayor?
The twins (Kameron and Kayden), absolutely learned so much about petitions, voting, balloting and helping others. I asked them if they were ok with sharing their mom with the world and they said, ‘No’. I had to have them there when I was getting sworn in. When I was sworn in it was like they got sworn in too. I have to have them by my side so they can see and remember. Nowadays, unfortunately I can’t take them with me everywhere. Becoming Mayor has changed how we navigate through the world.
Do your daughters want to pursue politics?
Heavens no, LOL! They both are interested in working in a funeral home. I have no idea where
this comes from. However, when I asked them why, they expressed because it's a business that will never go out of business.
Wow, that’s hilarious but true! In your opinion what are the most precious things about being a woman?
I believe I fell in love with being a woman after giving birth to my twin girls. To be actually chosen to be a woman by God is one of the greatest privileges. Also having the ability to feed my children with the nutrients of my own body is the most rewarding experience that I believe a woman can experience.
You are the epitome of what The Female CEO represents which is to Create, Evolve and Overcome. Surely, as a mother, mayor and advocate for all things which represent justice I’m personally proud of your resilience. What encouragement would you like to impart with our audience?
I love what this magazine stands for. I would like to encourage them to be the best that they can be. When injustices and disparities trickle into their lives do not give up, create a way to overcome challenges, be humble and faithful, trust in God Almighty. Also, don’t be afraid to evolve even if that requires you to get out of your comfort zone, change your circle of friends if you need to and find a new normal. Does that make sense?
It makes perfect sense to me. What do you love to do most?
I absolutely enjoy traveling and inspiring others to live a life centred around giving to others. Spending time with my twin daughters is one of the most exciting moments of my day.
Being That Girl is all about celebrating, supporting and encouraging the success of women. What are your thoughts on genuine sisterhood?
I appreciate what being That Girl is about. I think genuine sisterhood consists of loving other women as if we love ourselves. I believe that your organisation embodies what it means to really make women feel like they are invincible. By the way, thank you for my custom t-shirt. I absolutely love it!
I appreciate you! It’s a pleasure to know you. Lastly, what is your next local initiative? You mentioned the importance of educating citizens with not just the urgency of voting but also how voting actually works.
Yes, I intend to educate anyone willing to listen about the roles of the City Council, Judge, and/or Mayor. My goal is not only to teach others about the roles of these positions but to share with them how they can influence their cities with their vote and how to pursue these positions. Citizens are suppressed without knowledge. I am going to educate my citizens to vote for people who care about the overall good of all mankind instead of one race.
Natasha Lee is a visionary, entrepreneur and advocate for all things SHE led. She has built businesses, raised a family and worked alongside some of the most inspirational women globally.
Her #ThatGirl brand is all about strong female leadership, and she wears what she preaches! Have you seen the red lipstick cute T-shirts?! From an early age (She was an 8-year-old DIVA) to the present day, she worked toward her dreams. Natasha doesn't allow anything to hold her back. You can read all about her journey to becoming That Girl here and if you want to ask her any questions drop into The Community
Stay connected with news and updates!
Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.
We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason. Ever.