Kendra Hicks may have been born in the Bronx, but her heart is in Jamaica Plain, the only neighborhood she remembers. After moving to JP as an infant and years of supporting and participating in many community organizations, Hicks has positioned herself as a candidate for next year’s District 6 City Council race.
District 6 covers West Roxbury and Jamaica Plain, as well as portions of Roslindale, Roxbury, and the Back of the Hill.
“We are just so many different types of people,” Hicks says of the district, where she has already done several meet-and-greets with voters in the neighborhood. She said she appreciates that the neighborhoods offer “just enough city, but just enough green space” as well. “The mix of cultures and the mix of people in the district make it so that there’s really something for everyone,” she said.
As a first generation Black Dominican woman, Hicks was raised by her immigrant mother and has been a community activist for many years in Jamaica Plain.
“I didn’t think I would run for political office,” she said. “I didn’t go to fancy schools,” she added, saying that she once believed that was a requirement to be an elected official. She said she turned to elected officials like Felix Arroyo Sr. and Chuck Turner as role models.
“For me, the political conditions have shifted so dramatically and many leaders in the city have paved the way for others to continue the work,” she said. “Throughout the years I’ve been able to experience the beauty of this district. The story of this district is really about powerful interest coming into the community and resisting that.”
As a teenager, Hicks was active with organizations like Spontaneous Celebrations and Hyde Square Task Force, and she has participated in the Wake Up the Earth Festival for many years.
For the past five years, she has also been the Director of Radical Philanthropy at Resist, a “national foundation that funds grassroots groups across the country who do not have access to traditional streams of funding because of the radical nature of their work,” Hicks explained.
She said her work in fundraising has taught her about philanthropy, and she said that they way it’s working now “is not equitable for those in need.” She said the goal is to be able to give “more voice and more power to the people who are most impacted.”
Hicks said that this is a huge part of her campaign for City Council, along with strengthening democracy to make it more “participatory.”
She said that “to me, I feel like I have not only the professional experience, but a really unique vantage point in my personal experience that will allow me to create policy that works for the most people.”
As a Boston Public Schools graduate and a mom of an autistic son who attends BPS, along with her other work in the neighborhood, “I think that I’m so intimately connected with the organizing work and intimately connected to the cultural work that’s happening in the neighborhood,” she said. “My life has unfolded in a way that’s made a lot of things visible to me.” She added, “these are all things that inform who I am.”
Hicks said that as a City Councilor, she would advocate for equitable, safe, and affordable homes and education, and she believes every aspect of City government should be viewed through a “racial justice lens.”
She said that the plethora of development happening right now in Jamaica Plain does not meet the needs of the neighborhood, and that as someone who has “lived through a displacement wave in the neighborhood,” her family is one of the few who have been able to stay in Jamaica Plain.
“Racial equity work, for me, needs to be embedded in everything that we do,” she said, including housing, protection for workers, and education. “All fo those things are racial equity issues—that’s how I see them and that’s how they’re going to show up on my policy platform,” she said.
Supporting small businesses is also important to Hicks. “We haven’t previously had enough resources for small business owners and workers,” she said, which has only been made worse by the pandemic.
A lot of focus has been given to small businesses recently as many continue to struggle due to the pandemic. Hicks said that “the need for these businesses to stay open and survive is because we haven’t done a good job of canceling people’s rent.”
She said creativity is needed and businesses need financial resources to be able to keep their businesses open and support their employees as well as their families.
“I continue to just be moved by the huge amount of support we’re getting both in JP and in West Roxbury,” Hicks said of her campaign so far.
She said she’s been “doing a lot of fundraising,” as well as working on her policy platform. She’s also been hosting “Neighborhood November” events with community members to learn about what’s important to them. She said that there have been more than a dozen so far, and there are more to come. She said that seven events have already been planned for December.
“We’re going to have to get creative about how we run a campaign in a pandemic,” she said.
She said she realized there is a lot of work to be done with neighbors moving forward, including “organizing peer to peer conversations” and “culture shifting work that needs to happen in the district. How do we move people? How to mobilize the district? As an organizer, that’s my wheelhouse,” she said.
She added that District 6 “can’t afford to have representation without action.”
For more information about Kendra Hicks and her campaign and upcoming events, visit hicksfordistrictsix.com.