Chances are if you have met Yinka Faleti it is because he is the Democratic nominee for Missouri Secretary of State. As the old saying goes, “still waters run deep.” Yinka Faleti is the perfect expression of that saying. When you meet him he is reserved but beneath it all he is a man of tremendous character. Those close to him know him as a child of God, a husband, and a father of four charming children. During his interview with DELUX you can hear the joyful sounds of his 10 month old daughter faintly in the background.
“I think about what kind of future she can have, what opportunities she can have, what kind of Missouri she will live in, you know it motivates me to help make it the kind of Missouri that we want. A Missouri that’s more inclusive, a Missouri which allows all of her citizens to vote without artificial barriers without unnecessary hurdles without impediments.”-Yinka Faleti
Running for Secretary of State is not a decision that one makes overnight. Examining the moments that led to this point is an insightful look into who Yinka is as a person. This story beings in Lagos, Nigeria and makes its way to the United States. Yinka attended the US Military Academy at West Point, and graduated in 1998. He was commissioned as an officer in the US Army; to later serve for two tours in Kuwait around 2001. Once he returned home that August he thought, “Great all our soldiers are back and mission complete.” As we all know that next month of September is one we will never forget. Yinka returned back to Kuwait after 911; and if you ask him he would count himself lucky to be a part of a small group of people who could defend our country during that time in history. Fast forward to 2004 and he leaves the Army, as a Captain, moving to St. Louis to attend Washington University Law School. Yinka came out of law school to work at Bryan Cave, LLP as a litigator.
The work he did in products and commercial litigation was exciting but Yinka felt his call for public service beckoning. The call pushed him to become a prosecutor in the Circuit Attorney’s Office in St. Louis. During his time as a prosecutor he helped victims of crime; those who were abused or assaulted. After a few years Yinka came to the realization that he loved getting justice for victims but there had to be a way to prevent the crimes. An investment in our youth and their early childhood education could prevent some youth from choosing that life of crime. The United Way of St. Louis is where he would test that concept as Senior Vice President of Philanthropic and Community Services. Even after leading his team to raise $300M he recognized that our region faced so many challenges.
It was the murder of Michael Brown where Yinka first had the thought of running for office. The Ferguson commission produced not only the 200 page report but also the non-profit Forward Through Ferguson. Compelled to solve the underlying socio-economic conditions that led to the murder of Michael Brown; Yinka led as the Executive Director to Forward Through Ferguson. This is where he discovered the greatest way to impact racial equity, education, transportation, criminal justice, housing, healthcare, and economics.
“I began to realize that many of the issues we were working on, when we pulled the thread back on those issues it went all the way up to a state level. The funding formula for education is set at the state level. Health care/ Missouri Medicaid expansion, prior to August 4, was a state level decision. I needed to get to the state level and specifically for Secretary of State because that’s where the fight is for democracy in our state.”-Yinka Faleti
The Republican Party in Missouri has been executing a voter suppression playbook passed down as a part of a national effort. This playbook includes gerrymandering, purging of voter rolls, voter intimidation, modern day poll taxes, and restricting access to voting. Secretary of State Jay Aschcroft has been contributing to the problem through his support of Voter ID laws and Show It 2 Vote’s failed response. African Americans in this country are no strangers to fighting for the right to vote. In the past few years that fight has taken a new form. Yinka would provide insight to the role a Secretary of State can play to encourage civic engagement.
“Secretary of State’s offices is one that people may have heard about, but that most people don’t know what it does… Secretary of State sets many of the rules, conditions and funding for voting and elections throughout Missouri. [Also] it sets the language for ballot initiative petitions like Medicaid Expansion, like Clean Missouri, like medical marijuana, like raising the Minimum Wage…”-Yinka Faleti
It is so very important for us to elect a Secretary of State that is people focused. When our Senators, Representatives, or Governor don’t have our best interest at heart we have a powerful mechanism through the Missouri constitution. Where if one gets the required signatures we can vote on the measure through the ballot. The Secretary of State is in charge of making sure that language is clear and fair. Additionally, the Secretary of State can set rules that would make it easier for people to be able to vote and engage. In May our state legislature passed a measure to allow voting by mail due to COVID-19. Our current Secretary of State was pushing for notary measures; which often times cost a small fee.
“So the $5, $6, $7, $8, or, whatever. For some people, you know … that may be all they have to feed their family, or to put gas in their car to get to work, or help pay for child care…So, in essence it’s a poll tax. This is why it’s important to have a Secretary of State who actually believes in voting rights.”-Yinka Faleti
Yinka firmly believes barriers to voting makes it virtually impossible to make the changes we want to see. If others who hold our ideals are restricted that hampers representation from President all the way to the local Mayor.
If we look back to 2008 there was another bright black man, with a funny name, who was able to make history. St. Louis is not the south side of Chicago; and Missouri was south of the Mason Dixon line. At times this State can feel more like the south than the Midwest. In 2017 the NAACP placed a travel advisory for African Americans coming to Missouri. With all of our progress we have to ask if Missouri is ready to elect the first African American statewide?
“Early this year in O’Fallon, Missouri a young man named Jalen Thompson, who had been a high school senior, organized with his friends and others, a march that had between some 2000-3000 people. Where Jalen, as an African American teenager, was arm and arm with the white police chief of O’Fallon, MO. O’Fallon is over 90% to 93% white and yet you have thousands of people marching for Black Lives…”-Yinka Faleti
Yinka points out several leading indicators one being the march in O’Fallon led by Thompson or thousands of people taking to the streets in Springfield, MO marching for black lives. Over the summer in 2020 we have seen this type of dynamic all across America. In urban areas, rural areas, and the less diverse areas in our “Red” state we have seen the rally around issues that matter to communities of color. A win for Yinka would be a win for the black community but it would also mean so much more. Missouri has been a state since 1821 nearly 200 years, and there has never in the history of the state been any African American elected to statewide office. If done this November Missouri and the United States would turn the corner in the right direction.
“We would be seen as a state that is ready to hear the voices of all of its citizens no matter the hue, no matter their position in life, no matter where they are, no matter how much money they make, no matter their heritage, it would mean that Missouri is ready to move into the 21st century, Missouri is ready to take a leadership role. Because the power of that example is not just about me and my family.”-Yinka Faleti
Yinka for Missouri just released a beautiful ad that captures the essence of what a victory provides. The thirty second video is reduced to a brief few seconds where his son is looking up at him taking an oath to protect our country’s constitution. The endearing glance his son offers would be replicated by young African American boys and girls, and children of every heritage across this state. Maybe that child has an uncommon name, or perhaps English wasn’t their first language. A victory would allow that child to look up and say, “Hey, maybe I can be Secretary of State one day.” Yinka trusts a victory would allow not only the children of this state to believe in the promise and potential of Missouri, but the children in the country to believe in the promise and potential of America.
This is the most consequential election of our lifetimes. This election is not just setting the course of our state and country for the next four years. It is setting the course of our state and country for the next 400 years. This is the inflection point when the story is written, 2020 will be the inflection point in the arc of the history of our state and our country… We can’t take it for granted that we can save our democracy, we need to work for democracy, democracy demands participation.”-Yinka Faleti
The story of Yinka Faleti has just begun and his call to public service is one that reaches to those who have been disenfranchised. Yinka hopes to speak to the people who are marginalized and deterred from voting. If you have ever wanted give up; or have said, “I am going to sit this one out” then you need to get active. Yinka Faleti will appear on the ballot this upcoming Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. Polls are open from 6am until 7pm CT. For more information on voting contact your local election board.
For more information on Yinka or the campaign visit https://yinkafaleti.com/