I’m definitely stepping out of my comfort zone in writing something political. Perhaps it’s not only a good writing exercise, but a good life exercise?
How do you decide who to vote for anyway?
I’m sure all of the candidates running for School Committee in Cambridge have determined, loving hearts and want the best for the students. They all want the chance to get the work done.
Should I vote for the person with the most experience? Should I vote for the person who has the same personal agenda I have?
Recently, I invited friends and neighbors to Manikka Bowman’s campaign launch. Manikka currently sits on the School Committee, and, while she probably doesn’t want to sit there forever, she would like to serve for one more term. For starters, I want to vote for her because she is a neighbor and because she asked me. As a city, we’ve been talking about the need for more people of color in our schools and in places of leadership. So yes, I am also voting for her because she is African-American.
But how does that affect her actions as a School Committee member? What does she bring to the table?
At her campaign launch recently, I was inspired to tears as I watched parents stand up and rally the audience with their reasons for voting for Manikka. They wanted someone like her -- who currently has a child in the school system, who can speak for working mothers, and who can be strong enough to stand alone on an issue. They spoke of how on more than one occasion during her civic service, Manikka was able to slow the conversation in order to prevent glossing over minority voices who are all too often silenced by the majority.
Manikka herself delivered a stump speech that knocked me right in the gut and would light a fire under any American wishing to upend deep seated norms of racism and sexism. She shared her dream as a teenager to follow in the footsteps of her beloved pastor and civic leader, and the heartache she felt when that father-figure told her that because she was a woman, he couldn’t support her endeavors. Rather than turn her back on the church or on society, Manikka pursued ministry and later, civic service, sticking to her passions, now with righteous anger fueling her patient, determined heart.
Manikka stood before her audience and celebrated the city’s abundant resources that provide our students with state of the art facilities like the new King Open School and a monetary investment per child near the rates of most private schools.
“But,” she said, “I’m not going to allow a shiny new building to distract me,” from the work that still needs to be done to close the achievement gap between performance markers of white and Asian students versus those of black and Latino students.
I am sure all of the School Committee members, whoever is elected, will work hard to provide our students with the best environment.
But I strongly believe that Manikka is the one to come to the table with ideas and questions and concerns that might otherwise go overlooked. She is the one to check our system and attempt to right it from its grossly lop-sided state.
Does she have my issues at heart?
How privileged am I that currently, I feel my kids’ needs are being met by the public school system. What matters is this: she raises concerns that I didn’t even know were there.
She speaks for those who need a voice.
Vote. November 5, 2019.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.