Why We Run: Domonique Williams

Domonique Williams is a first-time candidate and life-long Roxbury resident running for City Council in Boston’s District 7. Before entering politics, Domonique worked as a Paralegal after graduating from Howard Law School in 2016 where she advocated for underserved communities of color in D.C. around issues of displacement and gentrification. Below she talks about why she always thought she’d run to represent her community, why she’s running now, and what’s surprised her most about local politics.

Why are you running for office this year?

As a lifelong Roxbury resident, I feel very strongly about giving back to the community that raised me, and working to ensure that the same opportunities I had growing up are available to the next generation of Roxbury residents.

I began my service to my home community as a high school student by volunteering in the local councillor’s office. I learned the importance of community activism and how policies made at City Hall affect the lives of everyday residents. From there, I developed a passion for public service. I chose two HBCU’s, Winston-Salem State University and Howard University School of Law to learn how to advocate for the advancement of social justice initiatives and minority communities often left unheard. I have also worked for the Boston Office of Fair Housing, the Attorney General’s Office, and the FAA under the Obama Administration in D.C.

When did you decide to run?

I always thought I would run for office, I just didn’t think it would be so soon! In February this year my brother called me in the middle of the night to tell me that this seat was opening up and that I should run. Since I’ve always wanted to work for the public interest, I thought hard about it, attended community meetings, and talked to residents. When I realized that I had the skills to do this job, and make life better for this community, that was it! So I got my name on the ballot and in April I left my job at a law firm to campaign full-time.

How is your campaign going?

This is turning out to be a hotly contested race with 11 people in the mix, but I’m feeling very good about the tenor and energy of my campaign. Right from the start, I needed just 200 signatures to get on the ballot and we ended up submitting 426 in 24 hours making me the first candidate to officially join the race. Right now we’re focusing on talking to a lot of people on the community, handing out flyers and more in-depth information about my agenda and my positions on key issues, and we’re getting a lot of positive responses.

What does your team look like?

It’s a lot of volunteers, and mostly people who have connections to me. It’s been really exciting to hear from old high school friends, college acquaintances and coworkers who want to help out. I also have a lot of family who live in Roxbury — my mom and dad, all four of my grandparents, some aunts, and also a bunch of cousins are still here in this community and I really wouldn’t be here at this stage without them.

Can you tell me about your community and the people in your district?

We often say that Boston is a majority minority city and Roxbury certainly reflects that history and heritage; the community is made up of Latinos, African Americans, Cape Verdeans, and folks from the Caribbean too. Income inequality is a really big problem here in Roxbury. The unemployment is double the city average, and the average salary is $22,000 compared to $60,000 city-wide since many residents work in the service sector. Housing is another big issue I hope to address to ensure there is enough affordable housing to stem the displacement we’ve been experiencing.

What do you hope to accomplish if elected?

There are three big things I want to achieve as a city councelor:

  • Set up a district office for easy access to constituent services
  • Increase the supply of affordable housing and homeownership opportunities by demanding that developers provide on-site affordable units and provide stronger community benefits for the areas where they’re making a profit. Additionally, banks in our District need to pay their fair share under the Community Reinvestment Act, and provide local residents with services such as access to affordable homeownership opportunities.
  • Work together with my fellow counselors to address the problem of income inequality and how we can begin to solve it. For example, I’d like to build a Police force and Fire Department that is reflective of the communities they serve by increasing the number of Boston residents and those who speak multiple languages. In addition, we should require developers and City of Boston Vendors to hire CORI holders and uphold diversity requirements.

What have you enjoyed most?

I really love talking to people — members of the community who help me form and solidify my positions, my family who always want to help out with new ideas, and the volunteers on my campaign too who are really helping me run an effective campaign. I was at the post office last week sending some thank you cards and I saw a guy with a bike helmet who made me think of question I was asked during a debate about bike paths. Since I don’t ride a bike and didn’t have a hard and fas opinion on the topic, I asked this guy what he thought! And that’s happened so many times — it helps bring policy topics to life when we can understand who they impact.

What has surprised you?

The first thing I’ll say is that having been doing this for just four months, I have no idea how people run campaigns in places they are not from! Being a part of this community is essential to why I care about this race and, I hope, central to running a winning campaign. If I didn’t know it before, I certainly know now that people and relationships are a critical, and often sidelined, part of all political life — local and national.

The other big surprise is that the issue of violence and public safety has not been a central part of this campaign so far.

How has your age been received on the campaign trail? Any push back?

Absolutely. I’m 32 years old but I look much younger and so I’m constantly rattling off a list of my professional accomplishments and proficiencies to convince people that I can serve them in the way that they deserve. The reality is, however, that I fit right in with the average age of city counselors in Boston so it’s not an insurmountable hurdle!

How can people contribute to your campaign? (Website URL, etc.)

Ahead of the election of September 26th, I’d love for people to donate on my website.

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A series of brief Q&As with young people who decided to run for government. Surprise! It turns out, they’re just like you and me.

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