Uduak Nkanga: Young trailblazer
Uduak Nkanga was born and raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. After becoming interested in politics during high school, where she attended a magnet school and was able to take classes surrounding law and policy, she graduated from the University of North Texas with degrees in Criminal Justice and Political Science in 2020. Her education and experience in the political realm then led to her campaign for a seat in the Texas House of Representatives, District 113.
Growing up, Nkanga states that she was not necessarily influenced politically by the environment she lived in and the people around her. It was not until a Texas State Youth Government Program that Nkanga truly became exposed to politics. During this program, she was able to visit the capital each year and get the opportunity to create and argue bills. This program sparked a lasting interest in politics for Nkanga and led to her taking classes on law and policy during high school. Nkanga also sought guidance and inspiration from her mother, who, while not involved in politics, helped influence Nkanga through her dedicated work ethic. Through her mother, Nkanga was able to learn the value of hard work and perseverance, both of which are well needed in the realm of politics.
Nkanga continued to stay involved in politics after her high school experiences. When she was accepted into college, she was accepted through an internship with the St. Louis University Law Program. Through this internship, she worked in the law sector, allowing her to see how law and politics intertwine. She also worked on the presidential campaign in 2020, making her one of the youngest members of the campaign team. Nkanga also served as president of a forming chapter of the National Congress of Black Women in Dallas, which was a community-based organization, and volunteered as mentor for a youth program, Just Say Yes, which aims to help youth achieve successful and healthy futures. Through her experiences and work in her college years, Nkanga proved to be someone who loves to help and work with her community, which is needed in a leader. She finds it important to use positions of power as avenues for equity, instead of personal gain, which should be the basis of representative politics.
Nkanga always figured the next step for her in her political career would be to run for office but she had to make sure that she had the correct support and that it was the right time for her to run. Both things came to be when she ran for the Texas House of Representatives, District 113 in 2022. Outside of it being the right time and with the correct support, Nkanga’s faith played a big role in her feeling ready to run for office. Nkanga states that her faith and God helped her realize that it was her time to run and this made her feel much more confident in her decision to run. While Nkanga did not earn a seat in the Texas House, she says she would not change a thing about how she campaigned, as her goal during the campaign was to run fully as herself, led by her own beliefs and choices, and she did just that. Her focus while campaigning was more how her campaign would and could impact the local community around her, rather than earning a specific title, and this helped to positively impact people not just in Nkanga’s district, but outside of it.
When asked what she believes to be the biggest issues facing her community right now, Nkanga stated that she sees the detachment between elected representatives and the local people they represent to be the largest issue. When she was campaigning for the Texas House, one thing she really made an effort to do was make sure she was listening and acting in a way that truly represented what the people local to her community believed and wanted. Nkanga states that she does not see this with other elected representatives and that this is an issue because it will lead to public policy that does not accurately represent the community, which is the whole idea of representative politics. Nkanga also sees the rising cost of living in the Dallas area to be a major issue facing the Dallas community, as it has risen at a higher rate in recent years, pricing many people out of the areas they call home.
Nkanga now serves as a policy associate for The Afiya Center in Dallas. The Afiya Center is a Black-led organization that specializes in providing resources to Black and Trans women. Their primary focus is their HIV programming and reproductive freedom resources. By providing resources, educational services, and more, the Afiya Center works to provide reproductive justice and freedom for all who enter the space.
When asked about the greatest milestone in her career, Nkanga states that she sees her milestones less as one specific event and more as the progress she has seen in her career so far. Being 23 in politics is not an easy thing, Nkanga says, as people often use your age against you, throwing it in your face as evidence that you are not experienced enough. Nkanga says this is why she is so proud of the work she has been able to do so far in her career, as she has been able to be in situations and rooms that most people as young as her are not able to be in at this point in their careers.
If Nkanga could impart one piece of advice for anyone wishing to pursue a career in politics, she said it would have to be “Do not walk in fear.” By avoiding self-doubt and walking without fear, Nkanga advises future political hopefuls to be confident and firm about their beliefs and goals, as that is the attitude that will make you successfully achieve them. It is clear from her numerous achievements at such a young age that Nkanga has truly lived her life by those words and will continue to do so.