By Haley Wilson
The Birmingham Times
Birmingham’s LaTanya Millhouse, the first Black president of the Alabama Democratic Women (ADW), is already looking ahead to the 2022 midterm elections.
“I want women to become the best Democrats they can be,” said Millhouse, whose two-year term started in January. “[Women] can support voter education, run for office, or be activists. So, being the best Democrats we can be across states is my goal.”
Millhouse, a native of Birmingham’s Titusville community, believes her job is to recruit other women “that are like minded” to help get Democrats elected “up and down ballot” and put women’s issues at the forefront. Those issues can range from Medicare expansion to the availability of feminine products in prisons.
“Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Black women were dying at an alarming rate due to a lack of health care. Well, we all have Medicare expansion. Without Medicare expansion, women of color, particularly, are suffering the most from the lack of health care.
“We want to make sure that [prison officials] think about tampons in prison. [Alabama Rep.] Rolanda Hollis passed the bill a couple of years ago, but it has never been funded.”
The ADW is a statewide organization that originated in Huntsville, Alabama, and received its charter in April 2019. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the group has met virtually, but Millhouse said her future goals are to expand and create more chapters by the end of the year in Jefferson County, Mobile, Montgomery, and other areas across Alabama.
Millhouse, 51, grew up in Titusville with two brothers, a sister, and a cousin. They were raised by her parents, Ola Millhouse and Judge Thomas Millhouse, who first lit her flame for activism in politics.
“Ever since I was born, my parents were heavily involved in politics,” she said. “In the 1970s, unions did most of the field work. … Both of my parents were union workers back in the 1980s. … [Because of their example], I became heavily involved with the union. At the age of 14, I was knocking on doors right beside my parents,” both of whom are deceased, she added: her mother died in 1999 and her father in 2001.
An alum of the former Jones Valley High School, class of 1988, Millhouse went to Herzing College in Atlanta, Georgia, to study business administration and started working on campaigns in 1989.
“I didn’t know I had the option to not vote until I was at college,” she said. “[On Election Day], it was raining, and I was like, ‘Hey, is anybody driving to go vote?’ [I didn’t have a car and the time, and the person answered], ‘Well, you don’t have to.’ … I didn’t understand.
“[On campus], I got involved in campaigns, [and] I thought that was my job. … [I thought] that’s what I was supposed to do: get out and knock on doors.”
After earning an associate’s degree in business administration, Millhouse went to Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Kentucky, where she pursued a bachelor’s degree in political science and government, became heavily involved in the school’s student government association, and as a result attended national political conventions. She also worked on a local mayoral campaign, helping her candidate appeal to young people and win the precinct she oversaw.
Millhouse left school early and returned home to help her ailing parents in Titusville in 1996. Back in her hometown, she became a self-professed “worker bee,” volunteering on different campaigns
In 2004, Millhouse founded the Alpha Omega Group, a nonprofit that aims to promote community involvement, workforce development, and education.
“Through this organization, I want to make sure I give back by establishing programs that will serve to benefit the community,” she said of the organization for which she serves as senior program manager.
Under the Alpha Omega Group, Millhouse has established other organizations, including Power in Heels, a leadership development program for women, and Ties and Tires, a program dedicated to teaching male youth how to dress themselves professionally and change a tire at the same time.
“I thought it would be a cool idea to put on a program like Ties and Tires,” she said. “It’s important to give the youth, especially our young men, the access and ability to develop necessary skills.”
In 2008, Millhouse started Man Cave, a mentoring group designed to provide opportunities for young men in the community.
“As a single parent [to a 22-year-old son], I can lay a solid foundation, but I can’t teach my son how to be a man,” she said. “I founded Man Cave [because] I think it’s imperative for young men to have role models.”
Millhouse is also a former executive director for the Birmingham Black Chamber of Commerce and homeless prevention and rapid rehousing case manager with the Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity.
Her most recent initiative is Brown Sugar, a nonprofit that promotes health screening for African American women.
“During this day and age, all you hear about is tests for COVID-19,” she said. “You don’t hear [as much about] about mammograms and testing for AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases, or other illnesses. Brown Sugar will promote all types of screening among women of color.”
When Millhouse isn’t working with her nonprofits or on political campaigns, she’s excelling in another area—bid whist, a popular card game, particularly in the Black community, that she learned from her mom.
“My family and I are awesome at card games,” she said. “Before the [COVID-19 pandemic], my cousin was actually on the news for being a bid whist champion.”
To learn more about LaTanya Millhouse, visit her on Facebook at latanyamillhouse.