Q&A with Malcolm Kenyatta, Candidate for US Senate

Malcolm Kenyatta LGBT

I am backed by multiple unions and every progressive organization that has decided to weigh in on this race. My support of elected officials spans all across the commonwealth

This is the next post of our 2022 primary election season series ‘Political Q&A’ with progressive candidates throughout Pennsylvania. Candidates can be anywhere in Pennsylvania running for any level of office. Please note that these are not necessarily endorsements, more of an opportunity for candidates to connect with the LGBTQ community, progressives neighbors, and others with an interest in Western Pennsylvania. If your candidate would like to participate, please contact us pghlesbian at gmail dot com. We welcome candidates at all levels of government across the entire Commonwealth

By participating, candidates are saying that they

  • must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
  • identify as pro-choice
  • must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results

I have not met Malcolm Kenyatta, but I’ve followed his political career from this end of the state. I was quite intrigued when he announced his bid for the Senate and really wanted him to participate in this series. It is very important that an out gay Black man is running for federal office in Pennsylvania. It matters that we listen to what he has to say. I hope this Q&A gives you insight into his vision for Pennsylvania.

Name: Malcolm Kenyatta

Pronouns: he/him

Office Seeking: US Senate

How do you describe your identity? I am a gay Black man.

Tell us about your district. What is a hidden gem most people might not know about? I grew up in the 181st District in North Philadelphia, which I now represent. North Philadelphia is steeped in Black culture and history. It was once a center of commerce for Black Philadelphians. It is home to Progress Plaza where my district office now resides which was the first Black owners shopping plaza in America founded by the late great Leon Sullivan.

Tell us about the first LGBTQIA+ person you knew and what impact they had on your life. The first person that was queer that I knew was Wanda Sykes. She was open about who she was at a time that was not common. She did it as a proud open lesbian and it is incredibly powerful that she is honorary cochair on my campaign and can be someone I can look to for advice and support. Seeing yourself reflected, especially on tv, is incredibly powerful and provides a permission structure to be who you are when you see others being who they are.

Please tell me about your familiarity with the LGBTQ community in Pennsylvania.  As a gay man, I have always been active in the LGBTQ+ community.

I’m the sponsor of the bill to remove anti-marriage equality language from PA law which is more important than ever now.

Based on this, what do you understand to be our top LGBTQ concerns and priorities for the US Senate? How will you respond to those priorities? We must pass the Equality Act. Now that Roe is very likely being overturned, we should not think that the Republicans won’t be coming after marriage equality and other LGBTQ rights. I will be the loudest voice in the Senate on all of these issues. 

Are you absolutely committed to a fully inclusive Equality Act (including gender identity)? Would you vote for a version that focuses on sexual orientation and not gender identity? Yes. I would vote for any bill that protects members of the LGBTQ community but I would not want to support an Equality Act that does not include gender identity. 

There are currently 11 openly LGBT members of the 117th Congress, all of whom are Democrats. Two are senators and the rest are House representatives. You would be the 12th. What does this mean to the average LGBTQ person living in rural Pennsylvania? It means we will have a voice for them in DC. Until we have the kind of representation in DC that reflects America, passing the kind of legislation that we need to protect our LGBTQ community will continue to stall. It’s not lost on me that I’d be the first openly gay man to serve ever and I won’t take that lightly. 

The threats of ‘religious liberty’ laws and exemptions target both LGBTQ rights and women’s rights. Pennsylvania has no law protecting marriage equality, second-parent adoption, nondiscrimination, or similar important rights. If SCOTUS overturns or waters down Roe v Wade and the ‘penumbra of privacy’ protecting us, what do you anticipate happening in Pennsylvania? This is why this election is so critical. If Roe is overturned, as we were made aware of, and the Republicans control the governorship in PA, they will pass anti-abortion and anti-lgbtq legislation on day one. If they take back either or both chambers in DC, we can be sure that codifying Roe and passing the Equality Act will not happen. I’m the sponsor of the bill to remove anti-marriage equality language from PA law which is more important than ever now.

Philadelphia has had a disproportionate amount of trans fox, especially Black and Latinx trans women, fall victim to the campaign of terror in our nation. In the past year, Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania documented five homicides of BIPOC trans folks, including teens. What will you do in the Senate to address this growing violence targeting the trans community? Safe communities are one of the most important things that the government has to deliver to families. My detailed 3 point plan outlines what I think needs to be done. We have to address poverty, underfunded schools, and jobs without dignity, which increase desperation that leads to crime. We need to pass stalled gun legislation that I am cosigned on in Harrisburg. Which include measures to combat ghost guns, lost and stolen weapons and background checks. These should all be passed on the Federal level. We need a whole-of-government response to treat this like the crisis that it is. I’ve also sponsored hate crime legislation to make sure our Black trans siblings who experience threats or violence are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. 

In a recent debate you said “We can move to a clean energy future, but we have to tell people how we are going to get there.” How are we going to get there? We are going to get there by being bold. We can’t continue to kick the can down the road on this extremely important issue. I am the only candidate in this race that has called for a moratorium on new fracking and an end to tax breaks to big polluters. We have to start making investments in wind, solar, geothermal and build out the green union jobs needed to make it happen. Big polluters are making record profits while leaving us to hold the bag.

Voter turnout is a significant concern, especially for municipal/local elections. What advice would you offer to organizations and groups concerned with turnout in Pennsylvania? We have to have candidates running who inspire people and are connected to the concerns we have. Educating voters about the issues is paramount. We also need to push to protect our democracy by doing things like pushing for easier ways for folks to vote, creating election day as a holiday and much more. 

How can supporters get involved with campaigns while practicing social distancing and other protocols?  Campaigning during a pandemic has really changed a lot. Volunteer programs such as texting and phone banking play a key role in safely reaching voters.  We have also been able to successfully implement clear covid protocols for our volunteers and supporters in guidance with healthcare professionals which has been helpful for us.

Tell us about your endorsements.  I am backed by multiple unions and every progressive organization that has decided to weigh in on this race. My support of elected officials spans all across the commonwealth. You can see a full list of my endorsements at www.malcolmkenyatta.com/endorsements.

Finally, what are three reasons people should vote for you/support your campaign? I’m in this race to make sure the basic bargain is accessible to all folks. That’s good jobs backed by a union, the ability to go to the doctor and to afford the prescription you may need, and to go to a safe school and get an education. For LGBTQ+ particularly, our trans siblings, this is more than out of reach. We have to change it by passing the equality act, PA LGBTQ Civil Rights Act.

Please list your social media accounts and your donation links.

FB, IG, Twitter: @malcolmkenyatta

Thank you, Malcolm.

To participate,

  • you must be an LGBTQIA+ ally
  • identify as pro-choice
  • you must affirm that President Joe Biden won the 2020 election and that you accept the certified Pennsylvania’s election results

Other Q&A’s in this election cycle series. You can read previous cycle Q&A’s here. Responses from this election cycle are listed below in the order they were returned by the campaign.


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