Proud to represent
To the Editor,
Since before I announced my candidacy for state representative, I’ve been in awe of the historic seat I am humbled to now hold. During my campaign, I promised the voters of the 11th Suffolk that I would use this seat to center the priorities of this district–which also means giving a voice to the most vulnerable, marginalized, ignored people in our Commonwealth. In my opinion, it is a core responsibility of whoever is fortunate enough to represent this community, because we know as well as anyone what it feels like to be unheard.
After being sworn in on January 4, I, along with my colleagues, had a few weeks to read, write, confirm support for, and file our legislation. Among those I am proud to have sponsored are bills that seek to protect renters from discrimination, address healthcare inequities, and promote youth development in working class communities like ours. Last week, one of the bills I co-sponsored, HD 3822, attracted significant national attention. This particular legislation was written at the request of one of the most ignored groups of people in society: incarcerated individuals and their families. It sought to allow people in prison to voluntarily donate organs and bone marrow to family members and loved ones in need of treatment. Presently at the mercy of our criminal justice system, they lack a clear pathway to do that. After speaking with my colleagues and supporters of the bill, I, along with three other state representatives of majority-minority districts across our state, sponsored a bill hoping to establish that pathway.
The bill in its original form included reduced sentencing provisions for donors, which we are in the process of removing to prevent dangerous and unethical incentives. My co-sponsors and I are currently working with Prisoners’ Legal Services of Massachusetts and other criminal justice reform advocates as we edit and amend the bill to improve it further. The truth is that some communities are more impacted by this legislation than others. Chelsea has the highest respiratory illness rate in the state, and Chelsea and Everett also face higher levels of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. There is also racial inequity in the speed in which Black and Brown people are able to obtain life saving treatment. African Americans, for example, spend an average of 1,335 days on the kidney transplant waitlist compared to an average of 734 days for whites. Thousands of Massachusetts residents are currently on the organ donor waitlist, and their chances of finding matches increase dramatically if they have family members in their donor pool. It is no secret that people of color are at a higher risk of unjust incarceration, which effectively removes them as an option for a loved one seeking life-saving treatment. That means that many people who suffer from a high chance of organ failure also have a higher chance of their potential donors being locked up. That is wrong.
Addressing this inequity was always the goal of this legislation, and ﬁling the bill was only the start of a much-needed conversation. I’m grateful for all the input I’ve received which has shed light on ways to make it better. As always, I look forward to working with constituents, activists, and stakeholders to continue this conversation and address other issues that impact Everett and Chelsea–like affordable housing, healthcare equity, and food justice.
State Representative, 11th Suffolk District