Woman to Watch: Tonya McDaniel

Tonya at March for Our Lives

McDaniel pictured Center, volunteering at Good Samaritan Ministries

In the summer of 2011, Tonya McDaniel lost her 22-year-old son Trayvon McDaniel to gun violence. “It was unbelievable and heartbreaking,” she said. “He was such a happy person. Sometimes our children just fall in with the wrong crowd. I still can’t believe he’s not here.”

The Forsyth County Chapter of Moms Demand Action reached out to Tonya to offer support. The organization was created to demand action from legislators, state and federal; companies; and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms after the deadly Sandy Hook shooting. “They helped me tremendously,” said McDaniel. The group created a poster project that featured photos of Trayvon and too many others who lost their lives to gun violence. Shortly thereafter McDaniel began working with other women in the community to hold local, state and national leaders accountable.

As she began working with other families, she learned about the deaths in the Forsyth County Jail and that is when she decided to do something! Link: Recent deaths call attention to medical care in the Forsyth County jail. McDaniel said that there has been little or no explanation for the numerous deaths occurring in the Forsyth County Jail at the hands of the private contractor responsible – Correct Care Solutions. One published report tells of Jennifer McCormack, a pregnant woman who had recently detoxed from opioids, who experienced a heart attack in the Forsyth County jail in September 2014. McCormack slipped into a coma and died at Baptist Hospital a couple days after her family made the decision to take her off life support. A medical examiner found that McCormack’s heart attack was caused by dehydration. According to a Winston-Salem Journal article, “A wrongful death lawsuit filed by McCormack’s estate against Correct Care Solutions alleges that McCormack was unable to take medication prescribed for opioid withdrawal because of nausea, and that she received only one dose of Zofran, an anti-nausea medication during her stay at the jail.”

This and other deaths are under investigation by the State Bureau of Investigations, but for McDaniel and other moms in the community— it’s not enough. “It’s one of the many reasons I entered the race for Forsyth County Commissioner. Not enough is being done to hold the Sheriff’s department and other agencies accountable.”

McDaniel has been an active member of the community, working diligently in several community organizations. She had already served as NC State Executive Committee Member (Forsyth County), NAACP 2nd Vice Chair-Lifetime Member, Top Ladies of Distinction, Inc., Winston-Salem Chapter Political Action Committee, Chair, National Association of University Women (Winston-Salem Chapter), National Women of Achievement- (Kernersville Chapter), Union Baptist Church-Social Action Committee, Chair and American Business Women’s Association. As a volunteer she has organized countless rallies, marches and even facilitated a session featuring local congressional women—she was comfortable on what she calls the ”sidelines.”

As the goddaughter of state legislature Earline Parmon, McDaniel is an alumnus of Winston-Salem State University. In the Spring of 2008, she entered Winston-Salem State University to learn, and “Departed to Service” in the Spring of 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Public Administration. In 2016, Tonya graduated “In Truth and Service” from North Carolina Central University where she received her Master of Public Administration.

McDaniel said that the late Parmon and the ram culture nurtured a spirit of community service. McDaniel managed Parmon’s successful 2012 campaign for state Senate and saw herself as someone who works behind the scenes. Although McDaniel has plenty of experience managing other people’s campaigns, she said one moment earlier this year crystallized her decision “to get off the sidelines” and make her first run for elected office. It happened during the Women’s March at Corpening Plaza in downtown Winston-Salem on Jan. 20th. An organizer handed McDaniel a sign bearing the likeness of legendary civil rights organizer Fannie Lou Hamer that said, “Tired of being sick and tired.”

McDaniel has filled her campaign with young women from Winston-Salem State and across the community who believe that it’s time to demand accountability from local, state and national politicians. “As a woman and mother, I knew it was time to move beyond the sidelines. We need to send a message that it’s not about experience. We need accountability and experience we can trust!”

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