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The Hispanic History I Carry With Me: Kendra Lara

A Beautiful Resistance celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month and Latino joy, as told to Jeneé Osterheldt

The beautiful resistance of Boston City Councilor Kendra Lara.

Before she entered her first year of high school, Kendra Lara was awakening to the importance of activism.

The intersections of poverty, racism, and violence were apparent and she started fighting for equity and healing young by co-founding Beantown Society to end youth violence and cultivate unity.

Now, as a Boston city councilor and the first person of color to represent District Six, she brings that passion to create change to City Hall — but she never forgets the role community, imagination, and joy play in our progress.

“Being in a community, particularly in creative spaces, reminds me that our work doesn’t just happen in the halls of power. It also lives in every voice, artist brush, and creator’s hands,” Lara says.

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“I grew up in a community center called Spontaneous Celebrations, where the Wake up the Earth Festival and the Lantern Parade lived in concert with our fights for rent control and youth justice. There is joy in our struggle if we know where to look,” she says.

My life is a beautiful resistance because I commit daily to uplifting and maintaining the Black tradition of radically reimagining a new world. As a Boston City Councilor, I hope to use my head, heart, and hands to push communities to use their imaginations to expand beyond the realms of possibility toward liberation.

The Hispanic history I carry with me is that of Las Hermanas Mirabal, Tina Bazuka, and all the other Dominican women who have fought against imperialism and genocide. I have always heard the echoes of their bravery and commitment to the people in my mother’s voice, and I am proud to carry their legacy, grit, and grace.

What gives you joy?

My son. His unrelenting humor and mischievous smile inspire me every day. Zaire is such a ball of light. He wakes up every day just happy to be here and passes that Black Boy Joy right onto his mama. The other day when I dropped him off at school, his teacher told me that his classmates started calling him a cuddle bug because he always wants a hug!

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You are part of the most diverse council in Boston history. What inspired you to get into politics, and how is Boston changing?

Local politics have an impact on the lives of our most vulnerable communities. Boston is changing from a city for the few to a city for the many. Having the right people in public office matters, and I am happy to be a part of that changing tide. When I was on the campaign trail last fall, I shared a parable that inspired me. I’ll share it with you now if you have a moment:

I want you to imagine yourself standing at the edge of a river flowing downstream. And as you’re standing there, you notice a baby in a basket floating downstream, and then, you look again, and two or three more babies are floating downstream. Your initial reaction, I hope, is to jump in the river and start pulling babies out, trying to save as many as you can. But I want you to imagine what it would mean to get out of the river, take a walk upstream, and discover who is putting the babies in the river and why.

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This parable is one that I often use when I am facilitating racial justice workshops, and it’s so meaningful to me because I’ve been every character in this story. As a first-gen Black woman, I’ve been the baby floating down the river; as an organizer and a youth worker, I’ve been the person pulling the babies out of the river.

And I ran for office because I was ready to continue my walk upstream so we could make the systemic changes necessary to stop our babies from getting in the river in the first place. By doing so, we can ensure that our children have an equitable education, our families have affordable homes without the threat of displacement, and environmental protections keep our communities healthy and resilient in the face of climate change. I draw all my inspiration from the possibility in front of us.



Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at jenee.osterheldt@globe.com and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee and on Instagram @abeautifulresistance.