Roxy Ndebumadu reflects on her journey to Bowie City Council
BOWIE, Md. - Roxy Ndebumadu threw her hands in the air as she strutted around Ruby’s Southern Comfort Kitchen shortly after 9 p.m. on Nov. 7.
Her black Nike shoes barely touched the brown tile floor as she raced in circles around the empty tables and chairs. Volunteers and advisors, wearing custom-made purple T- shirts that read “Re-Elect Roxy for Bowie,” pumped their fists in the air.
Ndebumadu’s smile widened as she clapped repeatedly in her black puffy jacket and completed her final lap, shouting “woo woo” over the sound of cheering.
She followed a team member outside to the patio at Ruby’s, the same spot where she had her kickoff event for the Bowie City Council election two months earlier.
With 50.69% of the vote, 30-year-old Ndebumadu was elected to serve her second consecutive four-year term in the Bowie City Council representing District 4.
“I couldn't believe it,” Ndebumadu said, “it was a very traumatizing experience with people sending out mass lies about you.”
`Hostile’ nonpartisan election
Ndebumadu said during the campaign others running for city council shared flyers and text messages that spoke negatively about her because of her affiliation with the Republican party.
“It was very disingenuous,” said Ndebumadu, “you have a group of elected officials who are trying to capitalize on a national narrative.”
Brandon Cooper, who was a campaign advisor during the 2023 election, and her campaign manager in 2019, said he knew that the 2023 election would be more hostile for her.
“This is a nonpartisan election. We do not run with D’s and R’s. I don't hide the fact that I am a Republican. However, I'm not going to promote it either,” Ndebumadu said.
Taking advice from former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, Michael Steele, Ndebumadu reminded District 4 voters what she had delivered in the previous term and what she was still hoping to accomplish.
Reflecting on Ndebumadu’s 2019 election win, Steele told the Bowie Sun, “Initially, the Democrats on the Council were not as warm and friendly because she did something that hadn't been done since Audrey Scott, and that was to get a Republican elected, a Republican woman elected to the Bowie City Council.”
Steele acknowledged that the city council elections are “not heavily partisan,” but he said in this most recent election there was an attempt to smear Ndebumadu “as a very partisan, right-wing MAGA person ... That’s just not who she is.”
He added, “Her views may be oriented around Republican solutions on some of these issues. But she doesn't have to do it and has not done it in a way in which she offends the sensibilities of voters … or her colleagues in trying to achieve those things.”
She had sought advice on charter schools from Steele, who advocated for statewide charter school legislation in the early 2000s. For the past year, Ndebumadu had been pushing for a science and technology charter school in her south Bowie district. Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, a Democrat, also lobbied in favor of the Friendship Academy STEM charter school, which the school board recently approved to open in Bowie in 2024.
Sharing her trauma and triumphs
Facing uphill battles is something Ndebumadu has endured from the moment she was born. On June 9, 2023, she posted the following on her Instagram:
“At birth, I was delivered with a paralyzed left arm.
At 6, I watched my stepfather beat my mother every night.
At 8, I was sexually assaulted.
At 13, I forged my passport to say I was 16 and started working to pay the mortgage.
At 14, I was told I would never be anything in life.
At 16, I was sexually assaulted again and got pregnant so I tried to commit suicide.
At 18, I was neglected and looked to other things hoping for a savior.
At 22, I suffered a diabetes scare and worked to go from 187 to 133 lbs.”
That's a lot.
At 13 years old, Ndebumadu walked into the human resources office at Six Flags in Bowie eager to help her mother pay for the mortgage to keep their house. In hand, she had a forged copy of her passport, in which she changed the year she was born. She made the three look like a zero so that 1993 read 1990, making her 16 and legally able to work.
With her head down, body trembling, and her heart beating through her chest she handed her papers to the front desk at Six Flags. A few weeks later, she received her start date and returned to the office to get her work uniform and learn how to use a camera.
Ndebumadu was hired as a Six Flags photographer capturing that memorable moment when visitors enter the park.
Donning a neon yellow shirt and khaki pants, Ndebumadu tucked her elbows at her side and peered at guests as they walked by into the park without taking their picture. She watched other photographers engage with guests as they snapped their pictures. When she saw the smiles of guests as they were shown the photos, she stepped into the action.
“I'm helping people create memories,” said Ndebumadu, “I think because of the pain of how I wanted that kind of family dynamic, I found joy in helping them create the memory because I didn't have it.”
When their house was about to go into foreclosure, Ndebumadu called up the mortgage company to negotiate more time to pay. She often spoke on the phone acting as a translator because her mother had a hard time communicating over the phone due to her Nigerian accent.
Trips to Nigeria as a kid
Ndebumadu stepped off the plane in Nigeria with bags in hand and family around her. She piled into a window seat in the car headed to see family.
She noticed a woman with water on top of her head selling her goods to those passing by. Her aggressive sales skills caught the eye of Ndebumadu.
“What if these people had the technology access that we have in the United States to really be able to scale their skill set, or open an e-commerce shop,” Ndebumadu thought.
She graduated from Howard University with a degree in healthcare sciences but her experiences from trips to Nigeria shaped her professional career decision making.
After college, she worked at a cybersecurity startup but soon landed a job at Microsoft. There she met her mentor Fred Humphries, who was one of the first people along with her godmother who recommended she run for political office.
Launching her political career
After taking advice to run for office, she contacted Brandon Cooper, who was the first vice-chair of the Republican party in Maryland at the time.
Cooper said he routinely got requests from candidates in local elections and he would always give them his “test.”
He says it was a series of tasks that mainly revolved around fundraising and grassroots campaigning. “If you can’t get seed money around $10,000 you can't be running,” said Cooper.
Ndebumadu passed the “test” and called back Cooper. A few days later he agreed to be her campaign manager.
Cooper guided her through the 2019 election where she won by 16 votes.
“Her ability to build bridges across parties, and across demographics at all walks of life,” said Cooper. “She really is a cosmopolitan.”
Ndebumadu said at this time she has no interest in pursuing other political offices and is focused on continuing to serve the people of Bowie.
“I think she can do whatever she sets her mind to,” Steele said, “I think the voters, whether it's at a city level, the county level or statewide would be impressed by her.”
Brenda Weissel is a student reporter covering Bowie as part of the University of Maryland Local News Network.
This story was updated Dec. 17 to correct the former title of Brandon Cooper, who was the first vice-chair of the Republican party in Maryland.
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