Rianna Lloyd, 25, isn’t the type to sit back and apathetically watch life go by. As the Baltimore community organizer of Jews United for Justice, Lloyd spends her days organizing social justice work. She leads Maryland’s Equal Justice Under the Law team and the Baltimore Action team.
Originally from West Hartford, Conn., Lloyd began her activist career as a campaign manager in Virginia. She attended Skidmore in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., where she majored in international affairs. She now resides in Baltimore.
“I help build our base and build our power with Baltimore City and County and beyond for a ripple effect to change our communities in the state overall,” she said.
The issues she focuses on were chosen democratically. JUFJ considered potential issues, past concerns, and topics their coalition partners are working on. Then, in October of 2019, Lloyd’s team voted on the top four priorities for 2020: immigrant justice, paid family and medical leave, police accountability, and real criminal justice. They have been working tirelessly to advocate for their ideas, most recently at JUFJ’s annual lobby night.
Tell us about the mishloach manot delivery March 10.
What we did last year was a general message reminding [legislators about the issues we’re working on]: immigrant justice, real criminal justice, police accountability, paid family leave. We pass around hamantaschen; we give it to the legislators and staff. The reason we even do it is Purim fell on lobby night a few years ago.
What is your earliest memory of justice work?
It’s something I’ve always been interested in to some capacity. My parents instilled this framework in me. They were both college professors. … I went to their class and watched a documentary and was very upset about what was going on so they helped me make a fundraiser.
We also used to have a box at Shabbat dinner when I was little to collect tzedakah. We decided where the money went, and [we] would go to wherever that place was, so for one example we went to a food bank. It’s always been really important for my parents to pass on [helping others] to me. It’s something that I didn’t even realize was Jewish. It was just how they raised me.
It sounds like your Jewish identity really influenced your work.
I consider myself very much a workaholic. I worked on congressional campaigns and things that are traditionally not nine to five and traditionally are six or seven days a week.
Shabbat never really meant much to me as an adult. I don’t know if I would have been able to not work on Shabbat. I’m comfortable working a lot and I want to engage with my work so this is what it has to be. But after working that campaign I was burnt out.
But at JUFJ, we don’t work on Shabbat. The organization takes Shabbat seriously, and wants to encourage others to take the rest they need.
So for six months at JUFJ, I was begrudgingly engaging in Shabbat. I was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m not working, what is my value?’
Then I started getting more comfortable with it, and it’s something I really look forward to and feel the benefits of. I get a day off, but it’s also so meaningful that everyone I work with is also taking this time to rest.
How do you approach policy disagreements with peers?
It’s always challenging when so much of my work is relations.
I just step back and consider the relationship overall and what the goal is. I may be comfortable pushing back [in a disagreement] or maybe I just say, ‘I don’t think we’re on the same page,’ and focus on the ways we are. It’s really important to focus on the ways we do understand each other, and that we are on the same page to get things done and move forward.
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