Since being elected to the Chelsea City Council as a councillor-at-large, Damali Vidot has been fighting for Chelsea residents in such important causes as housing development without displacement, supportive services for young residents, government transparency, environmental justice, and disability justice.
She has been controversial in her tell-it-like-it-is style at times, but there is no disputing that Damali Vidot has emerged as one of the preeminent women leaders of the 21st century in this city, taking her rightful place alongside Roseann Bongiovanni, Gladys Vega, Linda Alioto-Robinson, Saritin Rizzuto, Sue Gallant, Paula Bradley Batchelor, Sylvia Ramirez, Tracy Nowicki, Charlene Bauer, Judith Garcia, Dr. Mary Bourque, Molly Baldwin, Joan Cromwell, the Rev. Sandra Whitley, Sharon Caulfield, Sara Lee Callahan, Dr. Jackie Moore, Rosemarie Carlisle, and others, like the emerging Maria Belen Power.
This should be a time of personal pride and joy for Damali Vidot, occasion for celebrating the noteworthy academic achievements of her 15-year-old daughter, Nina, who has been accepted for admission to Noble and Greenough and Buckingham Browne and Nichols, two of the nation’s most prestigious prep schools. Nina will be attending Noble and Greenough this fall.
But Vidot, who has fought for Chelsea for so long, is battling serious challenges to her overall physical health.
Always accessible and transparent to her constituents, Vidot, who has pulled nomination papers for re-election after topping the ticket in the last election, said she wanted to share the personal story of her courageous battle against illness with Chelsea residents.
“I just want to explain what I’ve been through,” said Vidot. “I’m just ready to share my story because a lot of people have been wondering where I’ve been and I wanted to express what’s going on.”
Diagnosed With COVID-19 in March
Damali Vidot was diagnosed with COVID-19 in March and contracted double pneumonia.
“I had the body pains, the chills, the migraines and the body aches were brutal,” related Vidot. “But for me, the pneumonia was the worst part. I couldn’t breathe.”
She was hospitalized and she was then homebound, receiving daily care from visiting nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists.
“Most of the time I get winded and I couldn’t really speak, so I couldn’t go to meetings,” said Vidot. “I was really ill. I almost lost my life.”
Vidot said COVID-19 exacerbated her autoimmune disorder. “At some point my autoimmune disease kicked in and started mimicking the COVID-19 and complicated everything,” said Vidot.
Interestingly, Vidot’s previous health issues inspired her to run for public office six years ago.
“The main reason why I ran for office was because my daughter at the time was 9 years old and I had just gotten a second chance at life and didn’t think I was going to survive, and I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything in my power to create a world that my daughter could thrive in,” said Vidot.
Vidot said she also wanted to share her current medical situation with others who have underlying health conditions of their own such as asthma or high blood pressure.
“I’ve always taken my lived experiences – despite how ugly or not pretty they were – and tried to find a lesson in them so I could bring that to City Hall,” said Vidot. “I want to shed light on what it is to live with chronic illness, to be disabled. The reason I care so much about the elderly community is because I understand what it’s like. And I feel like there’s nothing like having that authentic representation at City Hall from someone like me who understands their struggle. In recent years I found myself really becoming an advocate for disability justice.”
For example, during her reign as Council President, Vidot made sure to situate a microphone in the Council Chambers so that physically challenged individuals would be able to address the councillors at meetings.
Continuing on the Road to Recovery
Vidot, who turned 43 on June 17, continues to receive personalized home care and will be traveling to the Cleveland Clinic to meet with specialists.
“I’m probably at 50 percent healthwise,” said Vidot. “I’m struggling to walk and I use a cane. I have days when I get winded and out of breath. I drove my car for the very first time in months and it was very overwhelming. I’m in a lot of pain, but I’m not a stranger to this. I’ve been with this condition (Sarcoidosis) for a long time, but I’m someone who keeps on trucking.”
On June 14 at Chelsea City Hall, Vidot patiently stood in line at the busy Chelsea City Clerk’s Office, waiting to receive her nomination papers from City Clerk Jeannette Cintron White.
People would have understood if Vidot asked to move to the front of the line, but that’s not her style.
Damali Vidot has always done what’s best for Chelsea and though she’s not 100 percent physically, the spirit, drive, and enthusiasm for helping people is still very much in her heart. She has helped move Chelsea forward as a uniter, not a divider. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley personally came to Chelsea to support Damali’s candidacy for state representative. Vidot received close to 2,000 votes from Chelsea residents in that race, the most by a hometown candidate in recent years.
And now Damali Vidot wants to continue to serve Chelsea residents in the years to come. As voters consider her outstanding record of accomplishments as a councillor-at-large, Damali Vidot hopes to back in the Council Chambers in January doing what she does best – being authentic, being real, and speaking out for the best interests of all of her constituents.
“It’s clear to me that the community is in support of the work that I’ve done in Chelsea and I think it has to do with the fact that I’ve always been a strong advocate and I’m unapologetic in being a voice of this community,” said Vidot. “The community has wrapped around me in politics and as well as during this medical ordeal and I want to continue to show up for them. I am just as committed as I’ve always been. My leadership might look a little different because of my health, but the fierceness and the passion are always steadfast.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he is looking forward to seeing Damali Vidot at Council meetings in the near future.
“I’m very glad to hear that Damali is feeling better to the point where she can run for re-election,” said Ambrosino. “We’ve really missed her and we were very concerned about her. She has been a great colleague of mine and I’ve missed her not being there. I look forward to continuing to work with her.”