For the entirety of my childhood, I dreamt of being a dentist. If you don’t know me personally, you would think that being a dentist would “fit me” well: I spent a majority of my time, when I wasn’t in class, in some form of dental office, whether I was having a check-up for my braces or being fit for yet another retainer. However, it is rare to actually become what you want to be at age six; luckily, I learned early-on, during my time in high school, that my body has an impediment to blood (you know… one of those people who pass out when they see it).
When you can’t see blood, you surely can’t become a dentist; even a simple flossing would leave me passed out over my patients. You would think a realization that the career you’ve had your eyes set on for almost a decade would make anyone feel lost and confused but, oddly, I had a gut feeling that I faced a greater calling. I never thought I would become a public figure in politics. Major aspirational change, right? But within a year of my realization, I would become the unintentional face of millennial political power in my hometown.
My name is Brooke López and I am the Founder & Executive Director of the Lone Star Parity Project, a nonpartisan publication dedicated to sharing the stories and research of women in Texas politics with the goal of seeking parity. I was inspired to co-found this non-profit after running for municipal office in Texas at the age of 18. I grew up in the small town of Wylie, Texas – a conservative community just northeast of Dallas. To paint this picture – when I first moved to Wylie, I joined a population of only 9,000 people. Up until my sophomore year in high school, our town had only seen one notorious murder throughout its 150+ years of existence. In 2012, we faced our second murder – but this one? This death hit close to home. Literally.
On a cold morning in March 2012, I awoke to the news that my good friend, Nahum Martinez, had been shot to death by two of our classmates only a block from my home. I was mortified yet full of anger: how could this happen to someone so kind and thoughtful? Throughout the coming months, I had to begin wrapping my mind around death and loss. By the finality of the murder trial, both murderers were charged as juveniles and received sentences that would release them from prison by the age of 21. As you could imagine, I felt justice hadn’t been served to myself, Nahum, the Martinez Family, and the rest of my community. In pursuit of justice, I began working with local legislators to propose gun control bills that would prevent this from happening to another person in the State of Texas. Quickly, I was exposed to the partisan uphill battle that is politics: it was difficult to plead my case to legislators who didn’t support gun control measures. I tried to garner the support of my friends and neighbors by visiting local meetings, presenting this bill door-to-door, and talking with anyone who would listen to me long enough to hear my story. Unintentionally, I had thrown myself into the political scene of North Texas.
Word began to spread that I was a force to be reckoned with. Different organizations and news outlets started to place me on a platform large enough to share my story. Soon, I had gained the attention of my hometown and neighboring cities; people started to listen. Folks started to tell me that they hoped to see my name on their ballots one day. Little did they know, I would file to run for office as soon as technically possible. I decided to run for Wylie City Council at age 18.
In short, my journey into the world of campaigning was difficult. I faced criticism from various directions: I was told that I was inexperienced and that I needed to “wait my turn”. The worst criticism came from places of discrimination. During a “meet-and-greet” event, I was told that my skin was “too brown” to represent this community and that my citizenship needed to be verified because I am Mexican. Soon followed comments about being a young woman – I was asked whether my hormones would affect my decision making. I was shown a side of my community that I had never seen. And while my campaign for city council was not victorious, the worst loss of all was my loss of self-esteem following the election.
After spending some time for self-reflection, I reoriented my goals to help other young minority women, like myself, who aspire for political office, into positions of power. I was on a mission to regain my self-esteem by creating an opportunity for other young women to become politically engaged. In response, I co-founded the Lone Star Parity Project to begin sharing the untold stories of women and femmes in Texas politics. Through a combination of storytelling and research, we are painting the curated pictures of what political success looks like for women in each corner of Texas; a campaign for office in Dallas will look drastically different from a campaign for office in El Paso.
If my future self would have told “1st grader Brooke” that she would be a public figure in Texas politics, little Brooke would’ve told my future self that she had spelled dentist wrong. Dreams can change through a matter of circumstance. I’ve been asked many times about my plans to run for office again – I simply say that I have no clue about what is to come but I know that it will be based in social justice and activism.