Star Power: MBP Is Bringing Attention to Environmental Justice

Maria Belen Power was back on ZOOM Saturday for  a broadcast forum featuring U.S. Sen. Edward J. Markey and Congressman Joseph Kennedy III.

The event was originally scheduled to be a candidates’ forum around environmental justice, before COVID-19 affected every aspect of life in Chelsea and beyond.

The two candidates in the Sept. 1 Democratic primary would have appeared at a forum hosted by GreenRoots in person. GreenRoots ultimately made the decision to hold the event virtually online.

Firstly, the debate (the candidates did not appear together, but separately one after another on screen) was a triumph for GreenRoots itself. During a campaign, candidates have a set debate schedule, but the fact they were willing to participate in the Chelsea-based event shows the high regard in which Roseann Bongiovanni’s organization is held. Bongiovanni is a former councillor-at-large who would immediately be a frontrunner for the office of mayor if Chelsea still had such a position. (City Manager Thomas Ambrosino is doing an excellent job, by the way).

Which brings us to the other half of GreenRoots’ amazing duo – Maria Belen Power, associate executive director of GreenRoots.

To use a sports analogy, MBP is a star. She is a confident and articulate regional voice on environmental justice. Boston TV stations have sought MBP out for interviews and she has appeared on three broadcast forums, two separately with Sen. Markey and Cong. Kennedy, and one with the two candidates Saturday.

GreenRoots’ partners in Saturday’s forum were the Chinese Progressive Association, represented by Mark Liu, Neighbor To Neighbor, ACE (Alternatives for Community and Environment), represented by David Noiles and Sofia Owens, and the Clean Water Fund, represented by Vick Mohanka.

Power was asked to evaluate whom she believed was the victor in Saturday’s forum between Markey and Kennedy. She answered with adroitness and clarity, not giving even a small hint of whom she may be supporting in September’s exciting senate primary.

“I actually feel like they both responded eloquently and they both made the connection between environmental justice, COVID-19, and public health,” said Power. “Honestly, I think they both did a really good job. I think their policies are very similar and they would both vote in a very progressive way, in a way that responds to our communities.”

Power, 35, began her career in 2011 in Chelsea working with Bongiovanni at the Chelsea Collaborative led by Executive Director Gladys Vega.

Born and raised in Nicaragua in Central America, Power is a graduate of Augsburg University, a small, liberal arts school in Minneapolis. She just finished her Master’s degree in Public Policy at Tufts University.

Power understands that she has had a wider spotlight during the COVID-19 crisis that has hit Chelsea the hardest among all Massachusetts cities.

“I feel fortunate to be able to lift up the story of environmental justice in a broader forum and to really talk about environmental burdens at the intersection of racial disparities and class disparities and I feel like those are very important connections to lift up, especially in these times,” said Power.

Maria Belen Power is not only lifting up the story, she is lifting up Chelsea so its people don’t get left behind during this most difficult, still ongoing crisis.

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