I’m Quentin, but most of my friends just call me Q. So let’s go with that.
I was born the 6th of 7 kids to Cornelious and Alexis Anderson in San Francisco, California. Our family was extremely transient early on in my life, as we quickly moved from place to place throughout my childhood—including stints in Memphis, San Diego & Puyallup (WA)—before settling down in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2003.
I originally attended Belaire High School before transferring to the now-defunct East Baton Rouge Arts & Technology School, an innovative charter school that was located in downtown Baton Rouge. Prior to the transfer, I’ll admit it: I was a pretty bad student. Entirely distracted and disinterested as a result of a one-size-fits-all teaching model, my parents quickly recognized that I was, at best, running in place in a traditional school setting and that I needed a different approach to engage me more effectively. After transferring to East Baton Rouge Arts & Technology School, my grades dramatically improved as did my integration into the Baton Rouge community. It was there that I led our school’s first ever Christmas House, a one-day event where the school opened up its doors to our least fortunate neighbors and invited them to “shop” for holiday items for their family during a time of the year that otherwise would have been extremely difficult for them. During this time, I was also an early participant in youth programs like City @ Peace, Wordplay, and an inaugural member of the Baton Rouge youth poetry slam team that competed nationally. After improved academic performance and a greater confidence in my understanding of my learning style, my parents finally transferred me back into the traditional school system, where I ultimately graduated from McKinley Senior High School.
I then attended Louisiana Tech University in Ruston, Louisiana where I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Political Science with a minor in Journalism. But during this time a unique opportunity presented itself to me—then-Senator Barack Obama was clearly ramping up his political operation to launch an improbable presidential campaign and I wanted in. I took a year off from my undergraduate studies to latch onto the campaign in whatever capacity I could. I started as a persistent-yet-effective volunteer for the campaign in New Orleans, helping to collect voter information during the Essence Music Festival and catching the eye of the campaign field staff on site. I quickly earned an invitation to the campaign’s organizer training camp at the campaign’s Chicago headquarters where I pestered anyone and everyone within earshot that I was looking to join the campaign and I’d be willing to scrub the bathrooms if that’s what it took to get my foot in. The campaign ultimately extended an offer for an unpaid internship in their digital department at headquarters where I proudly embraced tedious tasks such as responding to voter emails, helping with website graphics, and copy editing online press releases.
As exciting as those undoubtedly consequential tasks were, I wanted in on the real action on the ground. Not to mention, I needed a paycheck. I had taken the internship in Chicago completely understanding 1) they weren’t going to pay me and 2) I was going to earn myself a paid gig on the campaign. I had a finite timeline as I was living in pricey Chicago on the strength of tips I’d saved during my time as a waiter and busboy the previous summer—it wasn’t going to last long. Just as my money was running out, however, I finally earned a paid gig as a field organizer for the Obama campaign in Missouri, leading their organizing efforts during the Democratic primary in St. Louis as well as coordinating organizing efforts on the college campuses in the state as well as volunteer efforts to help out in neighboring Iowa ahead of the all-important Iowa caucuses. We ultimately won both Iowa and Missouri in the primaries and I quickly returned to Louisiana Tech to complete my degree—on time, I might add, and only on account of tenacity and my ability to earn summer college credits each summer from Baton Rouge Community College.
After graduating from Tech, I earned my law degree and graduate diploma from Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University, where I served on the law center’s Academic Committee, worked as a student attorney at the Capital Area Alliance for the Homeless, taught legal studies courses through the Street Law program at two local public high schools, and built the law center’s first ever online textbook exchange called The LEXchange. While in law school, I founded Anderson Creative Strategies, a sole proprietorship that works with small businesses and nonprofit organizations develop professional branding and digital communications strategies. This was a result of my years of experience in graphic design and web design that I’d cultivated since high school.
Unfortunately, upon graduation, I struggled to find employment and spent the next three months homeless while I anxiously and aggressively scoured the local job market, eventually taking a position as Campaign Manager at Capital Area United Way, responsible for government and nonprofit accounts in Southeast Louisiana. Mercifully fired a year later and continuing to struggle to find work in Louisiana, I reentered politics, working for NextGen Climate Action as the Regional Field Director of La Plata County in Colorado during the 2014 midterms, supporting and organizing on behalf of pro-environment and pro-sustainability candidates.
Following the 2014 midterm elections, I accepted an offer to become the Campaign Director of Voices of Youth in Chicago Education to lead a statewide advocacy campaign to end the school-to-prison pipeline in Illinois while restoring equity in school discipline. Working with high school youth from across the state, I led the effort to pass Senate Bill 100 in 2015—which was signed into law later that year by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. The bill sought to end the disproportionate application of exclusionary school discipline to students of color and students with disabilities while encouraging the use of more restorative practices to address conflict resolution. The bill passed with major bi-partisan support and went into effect during the 2016-2017 school year.
Following the successful SB 100 campaign in Illinois, I—again—struggled to leverage my previous success into work in Louisiana and ultimately accepted a position with the clean energy nonprofit organization Groundswell where I led marketing and communications efforts for the organization as it rebranded itself to better focus on communities of color and working class communities, constituencies I’d had plenty of experience and success communicating to in the past. Working with former White House sustainability guru Michelle Moore, we pioneered the equitable community solar model—an innovative approach to addressing energy equity that leverages the benefits of community solar into dramatic savings for low-to-moderate income households.
In 2016, I founded The Justice Alliance, a nonprofit organization committed to developing data-driven policies that fundamentally address issues of equality and social equity in Louisiana. This was the love child of the work I’d done in Illinois and my desire to take those experiences and the skills I’d gain leading the SB 100 campaign and apply them to my home state, where many of those same problems were just as evident and required the same urgency in addressing them.
Today, I’m just an average guy who remains deeply in love with my hometown of Baton Rouge and my home state of Louisiana and I’m committed to doing everything I can to showcasing its greatness to the rest of the world. Whether that’s through my work with The Justice Alliance or other activities throughout the state, as I recently told a friend “God made no greater soil than that which Louisiana was built upon.”