Massachusetts is a national leader on policy firsts. Education justice is no exception. We were the first state to establish education as a right in our Constitution. As with any worthwhile leadership challenge, the struggle to live out the vision is even harder than the act of codifying it. Today education in Massachusetts is still unequal.
In our district, many agree that structural inequities abound in our public institutions. One stark example: the criminal justice system. The belief that we must not only expose, but also eradicate the injustice embedded in Massachusetts “Correctional” Institutions (MCIs), and in the systems that send people there, is a big part of what inspired my run as state representative. Since assuming office I’ve regularly visited four of our MCIs to participate in restorative justice events, to take a tour of education and jobs training facilities, and, most importantly, to learn from and support political organizing “inside the walls,” as those living there often refer to themselves. The African American Coalition Committee (AACC) is one of a number of inspiring leadership organizations comprised of incarcerated persons.
The next Jamaica Plain Forum will be discussing how to change Massachusetts' official flag and seal, which is regarded as a symbol of white supremacy. "The current flag and seal, which features a Colonial broadsword held in a white hand over the head of a composite 'Ideal Native American,' is one of two state flags in the United States that remains controversial due to its representation of white supremacy," says the Jamaica Plain Forum website. (The other state is Mississippi, which still uses the Confederate Stars and Bars.)
For more than 30 years there has been proposed legislation to establish a special commission to review the state flag and seal, while working with Native American leaders of the Commonwealth to create a new flag and seal. This year state Rep. Nika Elugardo, D-15th Suffolk District, co-filed a bill to establish the commission. Elugardo is one of the scheduled speakers for the April 4th forum.
On January 2, Nika Elugardo was sworn into her first term as the state representative for the 15th Suffolk District. So what's on her legislative plate? Q: Which of the bills are refiles and which ones are original bills being submitted for the first time? Elugardo: Of the 15 bills we filed, two are refiles: H2453 An Act to amend the Brownfields tax credit, and H3282 An Act to prevent unnecessary vacancies in foreclosed homes. The rest were original bills drafted by my team, by advocate partners, or in collaboration with partners.
On Jan. 30th, the Massachusetts House voted against rules that would require the Speaker to give them enough time to read what they’re about to vote on and make the votes they take in committees publicly available. Despite how outrageous it is that the House would vote against these basic transparency measures, I’m thrilled that Jamaica Plain's new state representative, Rep. Nika Elugardo (D-15th Suffolk), is already proving herself an advocate for the people of our district when she stood up to leadership and voted in favor of transparency and accountability. However, my question remains: what was JP’s other representative (my representative), Rep. Liz Malia (D-11th Suffolk), thinking when she voted no? She voted against allowing reps ample time to read bills and amendments that they are voting on.