Steve Pemberton’s story is one touched by tragedy, kindness and triumph. It all started in New Bedford, as a young boy in the care of a single mother who was in the middle of a losing battle with alcoholism and the distant figure of a father who would ultimately be lost to gun violence. He was then shuffled in and out of unstable and at times abusive foster homes. Time and time again, he was told that he didn’t have a chance in the world. But Steve was buoyed throughout his life by neighbors, teachers and mentors across the South Coast and the Commonwealth. He turned tragedy into triumph to build a successful career and a beautiful family. Steve’s life’s work has been dedicated to giving people a chance to realize their dreams. He is now running for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts because we need to elect leaders who do more than just show up to vote. We need leaders who know first-hand what it is like to be one of the people Washington has forgotten. This is our chance to elect an urgent advocate for the unseen, unchosen and those seeking change.
Alex’s story in the 1st congressional district starts in a Holyoke housing project where his parents met and fell in love. Both his mother and father grew up in poverty. Alex’s parents started a family as teenagers and neither had a chance to attend college. They worked tirelessly with what they had, struggling from job to low-wage job on public assistance in public housing. Over time they were able to make their way into the working class. Now 33 years down the road, Alex’s father heads to the same meat packing company in Springfield every day of the week for work. And Alex still recalls the neighborhood family daycare his mom ran at his childhood home.
Alex’s parents worked hard to provide opportunities for their children — Alex and his two older brothers — that they didn’t have. Alex’s gratitude for his parents, and for the city of Holyoke, led to his passion for public service. The gratitude he has to his parents, and to Holyoke, became a passion for public service. At 16, Alex came out to his parents, and their response of unconditional love and support gave him the courage to bring his whole self into this life, and into this work.
His interest in public service brought him to Brown University, and led him to become the first member of his family to earn a college degree. While a student, he spent his summers in Holyoke, coming back to his hometown to serve under-resourced youth like himself learn skills for future success. Back at school, Alex’s vision for organizing and helping his hometown only grew deeper. He announced his candidacy for mayor of Holyoke at age 21, while still a senior at Brown. He has served as Holyoke’s mayor since 2012, winning 4 elections during his time in City Hall. Elected at 22, Alex is the youngest and first openly gay mayor in the history of the city of Holyoke.
Since taking office, Alex has spearheaded the city’s economic rebirth in the vision of a new generation using Holyoke’s unique assets: renewable energy and existing infrastructure, to prepare the city for the coming climate change demands. Millions of public and private dollars have grown downtown with green energy projects. Vacant mill buildings are now home to community dining, arts industries, the Holyoke Community College Culinary Arts Program, and more.
This growth all turns on Alex’s belief that the greatest asset of any American district is its people. Whether pursuing a housing strategy that promotes growth while avoiding gentrification, giving citizens tools to launch small businesses, or improving public safety through community policing, Alex has always moved forward with the doors of City Hall wide open to the voices of its biggest treasure: The People.
As Mayor, he implemented and defended a needle exchange program to fight the scourge of the opioid epidemic. His commitment here was spurred not only by the public costs, but by his family experience with his brother’s heroin addiction and seeing firsthand the emotional, financial, and generational toll that this disease has on all the people it touches. He opened the city’s arms in welcome to hundreds of Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria. He has been a steadfast defender of reproductive justice, a leader for affordable housing solutions, and he was the very first politician in the state to endorse marijuana legalization, citing both economic opportunity and the disproportionate impact of drug laws on minority communities. Alex is a leading champion for progressive values.
Alex regularly travels the country to share his experiences with students and other leaders. He’s been a lecturer in Urban Government and Politics at UMASS Amherst since 2014. His teaching seeks to instill in his students a deep belief in democracy and the capacity of politics to make communities stronger, more prosperous, and more just. His life has been about always doing the work, always seeing the people, and always bringing it home.
Kim Janey, Boston City Councilor, District 7, which includes Roxbury, with parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway.
Kim Janey has been a tireless advocate and a voice for Boston’s children for more than 20 years. Prior to being elected to the Boston City Council, Kim was a Senior Project Director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, where she led efforts to advocate for systemic policy reforms that would ensure equity and excellence in education for students in Boston Public Schools, with a special focus on eliminating opportunity and achievement gaps for children of color, immigrant children, students who are learning English, children with special needs, and those living in poverty.
Kim understands the intersection between the lack of good schools and income inequality, the criminal justice system, and chronic unemployment. As a young girl growing up in Roxbury, she experienced the racial and economic disparities in our communities through our schools. Through her family, however, Kim learned the power of community organizing, resistance, and advocacy. She applied those family lessons in her career and in service to her community.
While many know Kim for her work in education policy, she is also very active on a number of boards and civic organizations. In 2009, Kim founded a neighborhood association in Roxbury and served as its president for the first four years. She is a member of the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and the Boston Ward 12 Democratic Committee. In November 2016, she was elected to the Boston NAACP Executive Committee and she has served on MassVOTE’s board of directors for more than 10 years. Kim has been recognized for her service with a number of awards, including the Boston NAACP Difference Maker Award in 2015 and the coveted Sapphire Award in 2017.
Elected in an historic election, Kim became the first woman to represent District 7, which includes Roxbury, with parts of the South End, Dorchester, and Fenway. Her priorities include education, housing, small business development, and providing high quality constituent services. With deep roots in Roxbury and the South End, Kim is committed to ensuring that every resident in District 7 has equitable access to opportunities and resources, so that our neighborhoods are stronger, safer, healthier and more vibrant. For updates please visit our In the News Page and Blog page.
FIRST TIME boston city council CANDIDATE AND SEASONED PUBLIC ADVOCATE, ALEJANDRA ST GUILLEN
Born and raised in Mission Hill, Alejandra has dedicated her lived and professional experience to the people of Boston. As a parent, wife, and seasoned public advocate, she understands firsthand the opportunities for prosperity and mobility, as well as the multi-faceted obstacles that often deny these opportunities to many. That is why she is running to serve as the next At-Large Boston City Councilor - to address the growing income inequality and build cross-neighborhood partnerships that focus on improving equity in educational outcomes and the impacts of public safety practices. For updates please visit our In the News Page and Blog page.
Established over 24 years ago, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, is the only national reproductive justice organization with a mission to build the power of Latinx women in the US and advance their safety, dignity, and justice. Using a multi-dimensional theory of change that integrates public policy advocacy, organizing, base building, political education, and integrated voter engagement, NLIRH has successfully evolved into a national clearinghouse for Latinx reproductive advocacy. They have two main offices in NYC and Washington D.C. and three Latinx Advocacy Networks (“LANS”) in Texas, Florida, and Virginia.
For more information please visit our blog page month to read more about our client engagement.
Established over 24 years ago, United for Reproductive & Gender Equality (URGE), is a youth and student led organization that is active in over 40 college campus in the South and Midwest (Alabama, Georgia, Ohio, Kansas, and Texas) and a national office in Washington D.C. It uses community organizing, communications, and policy advocacy to operationalize their mission – “catalyzing the power of young people to fight for the ability of all people to build the families they want, access the healthcare they need, and to live and love in the way that’s true to who they are.” To put it simply and in their own words, they are a bold, young, queer, trans, non-binary, gender inclusive, and multi-racial reproductive justice organization.
For more information please visit our blog page to read more about our client engagement.
Ayanna Pressley Project Wrap Up
For 11 months, Rivera Consulting, Inc., was the lead architect of Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s campaign for Congress MA-07. Developing a movement building path to victory coupled with a season campaigner like Pressley was a combination of timing and our longtime sisterhood. As the Senior Campaign Advisor, my role was managing the paid voter contact and political program, while assembling a movement building staff and consultant team.
This team was made up of Archipelago Strategies Group (ethnic media, community engagement, and multicultural marketing), 90 West (strategic communications, research and public relations), Deliver Strategies (direct mail and communications), Veracity Media (digital), AKPD (message and media), a tirelessly dedicated intergenerational, multiethnic, queer, and millennial campaign staff and volunteer team, who collectively made history by delivering to the U.S. House the first Black woman to represent Massachusetts in its 230-year-history.
We had the early challenge of fundraising, having launched on February 1st while facing a post Labor Day Election Day. This launch date only gave us a five month stretch to raise enough money to hire a full time paid voter contact team, which included a full time campaign manager as well as field and political staff. During this time our team led by the movement building force that is Councilor Ayanna Pressley, executed a relational organizing program that included daily in-district fundraising, media interviews, and political events. All the while Pressley maintained an active City Hall team and office. We focused in the part of the district that never met her while deepening her current base in Boston through a network of volunteers, stakeholders, and community leaders. With a the finance, political, and earned media campaign in shape, the rest of the campaign team came on board kicking of a three and month expansion voter field program. This was also buoyed by a 50 person special operations team that began onboarding a month out and tunneling into Election Day.
Looking back at Primary Election Day, that we shattered voter turnout is obvious. What isn’t obvious is that we changed the electorate, ignited the base, and defied all conventional political and parochial logic. No one could predict the overall purple wave that became the dominant narrative of the 2018 cycle.
According to Rivera Consulting, Inc, purple wave seats are deep democracy seats won by ideologically more progressive women and people of color, who were deemed unviable by the establishment, but were elected and supported by a similar movement building playbook similar to Pressley. In MA-07, the establishment underestimated the power of having a viable, popular, Black elected official at the top of the ticket in addition to the dozens of viable Black candidates/races through the district.
Take a look at key highlights from the final primary analysis:
Nearly 25 percent of voters in Boston showed up to vote (statewide 22%) and when compared to the last federal election in 2014, turnout increased overall by 58% in MA-07 ( 56% in non-Boston and 59.1% in Boston) - this was higher than the 2006 state primary and the 2016 presidential primary.
Per the movement building path to victory targeting, 52,424 new primary voters voted (49.6%) and they were the majority of the overall electorate with frequent and super voters only comprising 28,702 (12.2%). Boston new primary voters were the largest share of all new primary voters at 51% (33,877), followed by Somerville at 50.8% (8,563) then Cambridge at 49.4% (5,341).
Sex of Likely Primary Electorate stayed the same, but Black, Asian and Latino women were a larger share of the electorate than their male counterparts across the district and outperformed all voters at all ages.
Compared to the last primary, overall voters between the ages of 18 to 49 increased their turnout by 22 percent; voters over 50 decreased their voter turnout by 22 percent.
Compared to the last primary, Caucasian voters decreased their share of the electorate by 6%, while millenials, women of all ages, and people of color increased their share.
It should be said that this playbook is not new in M.A. and in the country. For the A-Team (name given to the campaign team by Pressley), the path to victory came from a fourteen year history of running similar playbooks, winning, and long term relationships. Yet many still reject this power building strategy. For those of us committed to winning progressive governance power (not just a simple majority), it will not come without increasing turnout of the American Rising Electorate, rebuilding the Democratic Caucus, and electing more people of color and women. Yet Pressley said it best on General Election Night, our intention was to never make history but representation matters.
Now that we have revealed the voices behind Pressley’s campaign to change the electorate, while igniting the base, our expectation at Rivera Consulting, Inc. is to continue to look for the change agents at the intersection of people, planning, and politics, who are willing to promote new playbooks to transform the Commonwealth and the Country.
Two and a half years ago, we partnered with the MIT Community Innovators Lab (MIT-CoLab), AVACA and Conservatorio and embarked on a sustainable urban revitalization project in Santa Ana, Panama. Our approach, inspired by their work with the Bronx Cooperative Development Initiative and our firm’s two Central Brooklyn based participatory action research projects (Brownsville, East New York, Bedford Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and East Flatbush), was to take an innovative urban American model and contextualize it.
The easy part was creating a three-week asset mapping curriculum (El Camino a Un Centro Histórico Para Todos), where we used best practices and methodology of urban planning, popular education, Theory U, and participatory action research to inspire the paradigm shift necessary to create and sustain collective change in Santa Ana. An innovative approach to asset mapping helped changed hearts and minds of stakeholders and indigenous leadership. The hard part was overcoming decades, and for some, centuries of mistrust, clientelism, and political corruption to make it work on a traditional project management timeline.
Using a coaching model supported by our project management services at Rivera Consulting Inc. along with AVACA and Conservatorio, we readapted the approach with a 5-day learning social change cohort curriculum based on El Camino called LiderazCO. We coached local staff of AVACA and Conservatorio to recalibrate the project to address both social determinants of health and urban revitalization. All the while implementing asset interviews and LiderazCO to develop a foundation of leaders with a shared asset-based understanding and vision for a Santa Ana.
In doing so, the local team successfully re-envisioned the scope of work to a collective impact model and was awarded a grant from the United States Embassy to support Santa Ana Lidera (SAL). SAL is a private-public collective impact initiative that seeks to promote socioeconomic development in the community of Santa Ana by providing coordinated (Futbol con Corazon, Voces Vitales Panamá, Fundacion Esperanza, and FXB) economic, social, reproductive health, and education wrap around services with the objective of providing residents of Santa Ana with the services and tools that allow them to generate self-determined change within themselves and from within their community.LiderazCO is considered the “heart” of SAL because it is the container that intersects all Santaneros and remains once grant funding ends. Now we are working to create a community observatory for and by LiderazCO, SAL, and other actors committed to a sustainable urban revitalization and self-determination using design thinking. We will also hire a permanent academic activist to run LiderazCO who will create the quantitative and qualitative dashboard of all needs and assets collected between 2016 to 2018. Most importantly, we are looking forward to launching community-based research projects in 2019.
Deep democracy is the inherent belief that those at the margins should be at center and that the inclusion of all voices allows for a more complete view of the system. This inclusion takes the radical redistribution of power and the privileges it offers. It takes resisting cultural hegemony, taking over the ballot box, and winning governance power to rebirth a new social contract. This takes developing the political application of deep democracy. Too often work in this space is often separate from discussions and plans to build political power. At Rivera Consulting, Inc., deep democracy is at the core of our consulting services. For us deep democracy opportunities exist in places across the country where you have the following synergy of factors:
501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) organizations leading integrated voter engagement efforts;
Progressive ballot questions;
Coordinated donor and field coordination; and
Exciting women and people of color running at all levels of elected office.
If the American Rising Electorate and white progressives wants to resist cultural hegemony, win governance power, we must develop the political application of deep democracy. Equally important, is the professional development of the bench of candidates, strategists, operatives, and justice warriors that will do this work. At Rivera Consulting Inc., this is our core focus and we are excited to partner with change agents, candidates, donors and philanthropists to explore, how we can co-build this infrastructure.
Current Boston At-Large-City Councillor, Ayanna Pressley, is running for Congress to unseat fellow Democrat Congressman Michael Capuano to become the next Congresswoman from the MA-07’s Congressional district. Her election to the Boston City Council in 2009 marked the first time a woman of color was elected to the Council in its 100-year history. She is an advocate, a policy-maker, an activist, and survivor. Raised in Chicago, as the only child of an activist mother who instilled the value of civic participation, Ayanna understands the role that government should play in helping to lift up communities that are in need of the most help. Her focus as a City Councilor - stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, combating poverty, and addressing issues that disproportionately impact women and girls - is a reflection of her 25 years in public service. The district is located in Greater Boston and includes two-thirds of the City of Boston, all of Everett, Chelsea, Randolph, and Somerville, as well as half of Cambridge and a few precincts in Milton. This is a safely held Democratic seat and the primary will determine winner. Rivera Consulting, Inc., is the senior campaign advisor.
The 501(c)(4) political research arm of the Partnership for Democracy and Education, Maria’s List identifies women, African Americans, Latinx and other diverse candidates running for elected office nationally and Massachusetts to share with other donors and to inform their political framework giving. Rivera Consulting, Inc., conducts campaign and staff interviews as well conventional political research to identify candidates path to victory and ensure educational, racial and gender inclusive policy alignment. To advance its mission - to nurture the systematic shifting of power to constituencies and leaders who support an inclusive, educated and democratic society - Rivera Consulting, Inc., also provides strategic consulting on key policy and and political priorities related to its mission.
Groundswell’s Education Fund’s Integrated Voter Engagement (IVE) grant making program targets RJ organizations with grant and technical assistance support. Launched in 2011, IVE test the "theory that increasing nonpartisan integrated voter engagement sustainably builds capacity to engage historically underrepresented populations in policy, systems change and the democratic process (within and beyond election cycles)." The purpose of the IVE program is to ensure that 20 organizations have robust IVE capacity by 2019 — setting a solid corner stone of voter engagement capacity to increase the amount of women and people of color to build the movement for reproductive justice. Rivera Consulting, Inc., works with reproductive justice groups to develop and implement an IVE and Get Out the Vote (GOTV) work plan. Currently, we work with the following organizations: Women With A Vision (New Orleans, Louisiana), Mothering Justice (Michigan), and National Reproductive Health Institute (Texas, Virginia, and Florida).
Groundswell’s Action Fund, is the first in the nation 501c4 intermediary for donors and grantmaking program, that supports integrated voter engagement led by women of color, low-income women, and transgender people. These type of organizations have the least access to funding, thereby are more limited in building political power. While all the research indicates that they represent the most Democratic base in the country, the establishment historically understands them. Groundswell Action Fund Rivera Consulting is working closely with the Fund’s Director to support its sustainability, growth, and awareness.
Community Care Brooklyn, Maimonides Health Care
A Community-Centered Study of Health and Wellness in Brownsville and East New York. Through an innovative asset-mapping process, participatory action research, and community engagement, I joined my consulting partners at NextShift, LLC to co-develop and co-lead a strategic plan for asset-based community health that is grounded in resident experience, expertise and aspiration. As part of our background research and stakeholder interviews we focused on learning from local planning and community engagement efforts currently taking place in both neighborhoods.
We worked alongside community leaders and residents to build an understanding of the assets (human, physical, institutional cultural, social, financial, political, and development opportunities). As a result of of the community health participatory action research, we created a road map that will now serve as the foundation of long-term planning and organizing effort that engages labor unions (1199 SEIU-NY and Transit Worker Union Local 100), healthcare providers, public agencies, community organizations and neighborhood residents in new forms of collaboration and investment. The goal is that our ongoing support will lead the way towards a more just and democratic local healthcare system in Central Brooklyn. Our starting point as identified by our client, Maimonides Health Care, is cardiovascular disease, from which we seek to engage the full array of social and structural determinants of health and well-being in Brownsville and East New York. In 2017, we completed the second phase of CCB's Interfaith and Kingsbrook participatory research.
For additional information, please go to my blog to check on the status of the final report and upcoming local efforts in Central Brooklyn.
Gold Standard Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Barr Foundation
Over the last three years, BRT research and outreach efforts to date have concluded that Gold Standard BRT should be considered a viable solution for Boston. It helps close the transit gap by creating a more agile, responsive, and redundant system to connect neighborhoods across the city. City residents can reap its benefits sooner since it can also be implemented within 3-5 years. BRT meets infrastructure and financing limitations. More importantly, BRT can improve travel times and reliability while stations can become community. It also provides a tangible course of action as Boston braces for more turbulent winters and other climate change challenges.
Due to the deep historical challenges around BRT in Boston, the BRT campaign sequenced engagement to first develop relationships with and solicit feedback from political and grasstops stakeholders before embarking on a larger-scale public campaign. This targeted engagement has been successful in raising awareness about Gold Standard BRT among key audiences and helping skeptics understand the opportunities that can come from true BRT. In 2017, to ensure the accomplishment of immediate to long terms goals of the BostonBRT campaign, it is fundamental that we address key challenges encountered while maintaining the progress achieved up to date. The campaign is expected to advance demonstration pilots to help demonstrate the different elements of Gold Standard BRT. It will also complement the pilot demonstrations with a coordinated marketing, communications, and community engagement campaign with the central purpose of advancing support for BRT locally and statewide.
As the former BRT Project Manager, my responsibility was to build upon the momentum advanced by BRT stakeholders by managing overall BostonBRT operations while overseeing and ensuring the execution of community engagement and stakeholder management.
For additional information, please stay tuned to my blog to read about the success of this project.