Long-time community organizer and life-long resident Norieliz DeJesus announced this week that she will be mounting a campaign for the District 3 City Council seat, which is currently occupied by incumbent Naomi Zabot.
It is one of several races that features some of the tried and true advocates and allies from local non-profits in the City – including La Colaborativa and GreenRoots, among others. However, for DeJesus, it was a feeling of being able to bring the voices she encounters in her grass-roots organizing to the inside of the Council.
“It’s a huge step for me and I had been thinking about it for a while,” she said. “I feel like I owe it to my community. I’m in there with my neighbors and organizing in my district…I feel like I’m already doing the work out in the community and I owe it to those I talk with to bring their voices to City Hall. This year the pandemic hit me hard because I saw so much of what was happening firsthand. I had seen it before during door knocking, but it was amplified so much.
“If I am confident enough to hit the streets with a bullhorn and calling out inequities and challenging our public officials, I’m definitely confident enough to jump into this race,” she continued.
DeJesus, 30, grew up in Chelsea, though she spent several years in Puerto Rico with her grandparents on a farm until she was school-age. When she got to Chelsea, she began attending Chelsea Schools. Her mother was a single mother who worked several jobs – one at a beauty salon on Broadway and another at East Boston Neighborhood Health Center – to keep their apartment in Chelsea. DeJesus said she remembers participating in the Golden Girls baton group and marching down Broadway during festivals – as well as participating in Chelsea School events. However, when her mother, Elizabeth, got a job at Children’s’ Hospital, she moved to Prospect Hill Charter School in Cambridge to be closer to her mother’s work in Boston. While having trouble there at school, her mother connected her to La Colaborativa, where she started working as a teen. After getting herself on track, via her mentor Gladys Vega and other strong women there, she received a full-ride scholarship to Wheelock College. She continue at Colaborativa, and even though she thought she would be working as a social worker or in the courts, she returned to Chelsea and has cemented a career at La Colaborativa as an organizer and housing crisis specialist.
Now, as a mother, she said some of her same teachers now teach her kids.
“My kids are now in classes with the same teachers I had in school,” she said.
One of her key campaign pillars is to stop hiring people for City jobs from outside the City, but instead invest in the young people and create a pipeline of talent from Chelsea – such as she was herself.
“I’m ready to stop bringing people from outside the City to do the work of the City,” she said. “We need to really invest in our youth and create that pipeline.”
Meanwhile, she said constituents should expect to see her coming around the neighborhood soon.
“I love to be in the community,” she said. “I have no problem ringing a doorbell and talking to people on the porch, or talking to someone through the window if they’d rather not come out. I plan to be out in the community talking to everyone and bringing into City Hall the voices of my district.”
There are a number of updates on those who have taken out Nomination Papers for a potential run for office this fall.
In the at-large race, incumbents Roy Avellaneda and Leo Robinson have taken out papers, and joining them is former Councillor Joe Perlatonda who is seeking a run at-large. Meanwhile, Historical Commission member Alex Balcarcel of Cook Avenue has taken out papers as well.
In District 7, Tanairi Garcia of Washington Avenue – Food Pantry Director at La Colaborativa has taken out papers, and incumbent Yamir Rodriguez will also run for re-election against her.
District 1 Councillor Todd Taylor, District 4 CouncillorEnio Lopez and District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero have taken out Papers, and don’t have any challenger yet.
In District 2, incumbent Melinda Vega Maldonado is expected to take out papers for re-election, and in District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia is also expected to run again, but has yet to take out Papers.