Sharing the Work of Community Transformation
As State Rep for the 15th Suffolk/Norfolk district, the needs of our communities are at the forefront of my mind. I find inspiration in the many examples of transformation in my neighborhood and beyond.
For example, a few blocks from where I live, Mildred C. Hailey Apartments, formerly Bromley Heath, is one of our district pioneers in public housing. A host of tenant leaders represent the struggle of generational transformation, dismantling injustice with love, hope and the old-fashioned community organizing that never goes out of style.
One constant over the last 5 decades has been generations of powerful women who make incredible sacrifices to mobilize the power and beauty of tenant organizing. Wendy Polanco, who leads the Mildred C. Hailey Tenant Organization (MCHTO) alongside exec teammates Josefina Osorio and Yolanda Torres, is no exception. She embodies the transformational leadership I so love about our district. Wendy moved from New York, because the medical care her son needs is better here. Despite complex responsibilities within her family, she pours her time, talent and treasure into mobilizing tenants, partners, and friends of this vibrant JP community that has been evolving in its design and political landscape over 70 years.
Recently, the MCHTO partnered with Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC) and the Boston Housing Authority to win one of our district’s four grants from Boston’s Community Preservation Act tax. The community will build a pedestrian-safe (shout outs to Councillor O’Malley and Will Poff-Webster for that) intergenerational community play space near Martha Eliot Health Center.
This is a perfectly-timed project, as Urban Edge and The Community Builders work with JPNDC and Wendy’s tenant leaders to plan a tenant-driven renovation of the development, and Hyde Jackson Square Main Street businesses work with community leaders to expose the myriad treasures of our historic neighborhood to all JP and beyond. Wendy affectionately calls this initiative “Lovin’ Jackson Square.”
These organizing works of beauty have not evolved apart from pain and struggle. In the same communities, we’ve suffered violence, loss, and the pervasive impacts of the opioid crisis. I’m proud to represent residents who face this pain together, bringing our best to the work of restoration. It’s a timeless interplay really – the dance between struggle and transformation. When we dance together the effects are profound.
Transformative projects like MCHTO’s take on many forms across our district. From the Back of The Hill CDC to the Jamaica Hills Association, our neighborhoods are filled with passionate advocates and organizers. From attending Chinese New Year, Black History Month celebrations at Mission Park, to Environmental Assembly with Brookline High’s Environmental Action Club, and honoring MLK Jr. with Friends of the Roslindale Library (to name a few), it has been my great joy to meet with champions of justice across our district communities and learn how I can support and bring resources to their work.
In our district we struggle together, and we celebrate together. In this dance I think we find the change our generation hungers for. It’s an honor to serve you not only in the State House, but also here where we live. I look forward to sharing the journey.
Find office hours locations and sign up for regular 15th Suffolk/Norfolk district email updates at electnika.com. Nika also posts periodic photo journals on Facebook. Rep. Nika Elugardo represents 15th Suffolk/Norfolk District