Lisa Matthews voted for Barack Obama. But just the once. The daughter of an African American mother and Puerto Rican father, the 47-year-old grew up in one of the roughest neighbourhoods of Camden, New Jersey, a struggling former shipbuilding port on the Delaware river.
“Camden was predominantly black, poor, a lot of welfare recipients, single parents, and crime. Big drug trade. My father was in the military, but he left the family when I was five. My mom was a single mom at the age of 23. We lived on food stamps,” Matthews says. “I had two of my cousins killed there in the city, and my stepbrother was murdered as well. My uncle was killed by an unknown shooter in 1987. It was a tough place to grow up.”
Like her mother, Matthews became a single parent at 23 and worked several jobs to stay afloat. But her absent father’s time in the military had planted a seed. Her parents were posted around the US and to Britain, and her mother talked about other places with wonder. Matthews carried that with her. “My sister and I were very interested in the world, in other cultures,” she says. In her 20s, a friend encouraged her to move to Concord, North Carolina, where she got a job in a bank. Now she lives in a large house in a plush suburb where we chat over tea and Jammie Dodgers (she still loves all things British). She’s wearing her politics on her T-shirt: “President Trump 2020, Keep America Great”.