“You are the True Heroes and Champions in our Community”: North Central Massachusetts Legislators Gather with Community Members to Improve the Quality of Life Across the Region


Photo Via Veronika Patty

Mai Du at the legislative breakfast event at the Leominster DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, advocating for “An Act To Promote Racially Inclusive Curriculum in Schools”

March 24, 2023, North Central Massachusetts legislators and state representatives met with members of the community to discuss and advocate for better health equity and improvement. The event greeted guests with a breakfast sponsored by the Health Equity Partnership of North Central Mass, and attendees ate and conversed as the reception hall slowly filled with the clamor of lively guests.

Although Congresswoman Lori Trahan and Congressman Jim McGovern were not able to attend the event, event organizers played a video of them apologizing and thanking everyone for their help and cooperation.

The event proceeded to the constituent presentations, and invited speakers up to the podium to advocate for certain topics like mental and behavioral health, education equity, and climate justice.

Mai Du, of the Coalition for Anti-Racism and Equity (CARE), attended the event to speak on education equity and to advocate for the passing of the H.542/S.288 bill, also referred to as “An Act To Promote Racially Inclusive Curriculum in Schools”.

According to the CARE coalition, the bill would “ensure that instruction in K-12 education shall include the teaching of accurate histories, writings, and contributions of racial and ethnic groups that have been historically underrepresented or marginalized.”

“If you think in terms of 10 years, plant a tree. If you think in terms of 100 years, teach children,” said Mai Du.

During an interview after the event, Du also went into detail about how teacher diversity is important, but representation is just not enough.

“There’s a lot of talk about diversity and how diversity is great, but when diversity is tokenized […] then change, systemic change, is not going to be realized,” said Du. “There’s not enough inclusive curriculum, inclusive content. Diverse students, BIPOC students, students of color, they’re not seeing themselves in the curriculum.”

Mai Du explained how when students are unable to see themselves in school and in the content that they are being taught, students may begin to feel like they are not validated, and this problem isn’t rooted in the diversity of teachers or staff, the problem is rooted in the content being taught and the heroes being idolized.

Ladda “Bug” Kosaketh, another constituent speaker, shifted the topic of conversation when they took to the stage to talk about climate justice and the “importance of access to outdoor spaces for the youth in the area.”

Kosaketh attended the event on behalf of Just Understand My Potential (JUMP), a youth development nonprofit, mostly focused on outdoor education and outdoor experiences.

“We’re more focused on youth development, and we see that the outdoors is a great place for personal growth to happen, but we wanna meet the kids where they’re at,” said Kosaketh.

According to Kosaketh, there’s an importance in serving and reaching out to vulnerable communities and kids with adverse childhood experiences. Reaching out to ensure that these children know that they are seen and not just somebody to be given up one is an important message that Kosaketh wanted to convey.

“You have potential, even though other people might not believe in you,” said Kosaketh.

Kosaketh ended their speech by imparting their love for the land and how their interactions with nature have helped them grow in character. To help the youth become “stewards of the land,” Kosaketh hopes that children everywhere put themselves in a position that allows them to learn from their natural environment

“I feel like because nature doesn’t speak in the same language we do, there’s just so much curiosity and mystery around it,” said Kosaketh. “I just feel like people don’t really get excited about helping something unless they have a connection with it. So that’s why I try to focus on helping people connect with nature. And people are most open when they’re children.”

After the constituent presentations and testimonies, the Representatives Meghan Kilcoyne, Michael Kushmerek, Margaret Scarsdale, and Senator Jamie Eldridge were invited gathered on stage to take turns speaking and thanking event organizers and constituents for their hard work.

Kushmerek recounted their life story and the hard times of their childhood, growing up and relying on food stamps and welfare to get by.

“Some of my early memories are of being in a food pantry and remembering just the smiling volunteers who were giving us bags of food,” said Kushmerek. “I didn’t quite know what was going on at the time, but I can appreciate it now with each food insecurity organization that I visit, just seeing the volunteers who are doing it not because they have to, but because they want to.”

A tone of gratitude and assertion governed the speeches of the entire morning. All who gathered for the legislative conference understood the importance of connections, advocacy, and perseverance.

“I am so delighted to be joining so many of you doing such amazing work in our communities each and every day,” said Representative Michael Kushmerek. “You are the true heroes and champions in our community, so I thank you for everything that you do for each and every one of our communities and constituents.”