Yterenickia (YT) Bell is the Senior Advisor of Voting for The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an organization that works to expand voting rights to vulnerable populations. She also teaches social work and social welfare courses at Georgia State University.
YT was also just re-elected to her second term as a Clarkston City Council Member.
“I create laws for the city of Clarkston, the most diverse 1.75 square miles in the country,” YT shares. More than 60 languages are spoken in her Georgia town and YT uses her role to make sure all of her constituents’ voices are heard.
But, she didn’t always see herself in politics. After undergrad, she contemplated law school before ultimately taking a job in NYC with the City Year Program.
In this position, YT worked one-on-one with a 9th-grade student who was reading at a kindergarten level. YT helped the student build her literacy skills and connected her with resources that could provide additional support.
This experience led YT to pursue a Masters in Social Work.
“I moved back home to Georgia. And I actually got into the social work program. I just knew I wanted to help people,” YT explains.
While she enjoyed the one-on-one side of social work, she was passionate about helping more people on a larger scale.
“I knew that had to be through direct policy. So I went back and got a MPP,” YT says.
The Power of Mentorship
With this third degree under her belt, YT was ready to start making meaningful macro-level changes. She was hired as a legislative coordinator for Planned Parenthood and lobbied for reproductive care and access at the state capital.
Around this time, the mayor of Clarkston started asking her to run for office.
“And I said, that’s not for me. I’m just on the sidelines,” YT shares.
Finally, three years later, YT decided to attend a city council meeting. While listening to the discussion she realized the council needed a diverse perspective.
“So in 2017, I ran. And I won my first race,” YT says. “I was excited about the impact that I could have on people’s lives.” As a Clarkston City Council Member, YT has helped provide resources for victims of domestic violence and has brought innovative affordable housing to her community.
She has also focused on the Youth Advisory Committee. “We know that we only do this work for a certain amount of time. And today’s youth are the future for our city. We want them to stay here and we want them to feel invested,” she explains.
YT knows the power of mentorship firsthand.
“I definitely have a lot of strong women behind me that kind of keep me pushing,” she shares. When YT faces self-doubt, she looks for motivation from mentors, previous bosses, and friends, like Congresswoman Nikema Williams and Stacey Abrams.
Not only do these women inspire her to stay in the fight, but they also remind her of the importance of self-care. Her mentors encourage her to balance serving others with serving herself to prevent burnout.
Find Balance and Perspective
Following this advice, YT travels frequently to reset and gain a different perspective on life.
Between the support of her mentors and the unique insights she’s gleaned from traveling, YT has realized the power of her voice.
“Being a Southerner sometimes you’re advised to just sit back and watch not speak up, especially as a Black woman,” she shares. “One of the things that has changed is my desire and my gumption to stand up on my beliefs and not shy away from conflict or people that disagree with me.”
YT’s grandmother also inspires her to continue the lifelong fight for change.
“She was the one that always pushed me and always believed in me,” she adds. “She also advises me ‘you can’t do it all.’ That’s why coalitions are so important to me. That’s why community partnerships are so important to me. That’s why reaching out to orgs that already serve the members of my community is important to me. I’m leaning on them to help me better serve.”
DISCLAIMER: Ms. Bell’s employment location was indicated for identification purposes only.