Izzy Smith-Wade-El is ‘living the American dream’ as Lancaster’s first Black, queer state representative

With Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” echoing in his car speakers, Izzy Smith-Wade-El spends the day before Election Day driving around Millersville Borough, knocking on doors and trying to get a last word out to voters, most of them college students.

He drives through the Millersville University campus, a hub of his childhood, where his mother, renowned educator Dr. Rita Smith-Wade-El, shaped young minds and founded the African American studies minor.

He points to the education building, where he spent most days in the child care center. There’s the gym where he used to hone his jump shot at summer basketball camps. Brooks Hall, which houses the gym, is probably going to be torn down, Smith-Wade-El says, but most of the campus still looks the same to him.

The campus buildings and old-growth deciduous trees loom as large as the shadow of his beloved mother, whose influence left a lasting mark on Lancaster County and her son.

“My mother taught me to format APA citations and to throw a punch,” Smith-Wade-El says. “Sometimes, I say I was raised on campus. I got exposed to a lot of academics early on.”

In her day, the late Rita Smith-Wade-El was a member of activist groups like the Black Panther Party and Students for a Democratic Society. She grew up in a segregated Washington, D.C., and spent her life fighting for change.

A change came Tuesday night for her son, who defeated Republican Anne Rivers to win a seat in the state House, representing the 49th District in sou