Suzanne Lee for Boston City Council District 2

Who am I?

I was born in China in the 1950s. My father had been living and working in the United States since the 1930s, traveling back to China every few years to visit my mother and us children. Due to stringent immigration policies, my mother was forced to leave me in the care of my grandparents in Hong Kong so she could join my father in the States. My parents were only able to bring me to the U.S. when I was eleven years old.

After I came to the United States, I lived with my parents in Grove Hall and attended Boston Public Schools. At 14, I began working in a garment factory, sewing wool clothing in the stifling summer heat. I earned a scholarship to Brandeis University, becoming the first in my family to attend college. I later earned a Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard University.

I began teaching in the 1970s, at the start of court-ordered busing in Boston and the now-infamous busing riots. Every day, I rode with young Latino, Asian, and African-American students from the South End to Charlestown, where they needed police protection to get from the buses to the school buildings safely.

After years of teaching, I became principal of the Josiah Quincy School in Chinatown. I established the “City Connect Program,” which brought together dozens of community and cultural institutions to create a concrete plan to improve and enrich my students’ educational experiences. Two hundred volunteers visited the Quincy School each week, helping teachers in the classroom and managing after-school programs. As a result of the program I started, students’ test scores soared, and in 2005, the school was named one of the top schools in Massachusetts.

Beyond the schoolhouse doors, I have been an activist in the community for over three decades. In 1977, I brought residents together to form the Chinese Progressive Association, a highly-regarded, community-based organization that has stood up against police brutality, organized garment workers, and fought for affordable housing throughout Boston. In 1987, I fought to establish Boston’s first bilingual job-training program. Most recently, I helped lead the movement to provide Chinese and Vietnamese voters with bilingual ballots, allowing greater participation in the democratic process.

Why am I running?

My separation from my parents taught me that the decisions of policy makers can have life-changing effects on children and families. From then on, I knew that I wanted to devote my life to bettering my community by empowering people to take part in local government.

My run for City Council is a continuation of my life’s work. I have spent decades fighting for our communities, bringing people together and helping new residents, immigrants, young people and working families have a voice in local government.
I know that we can come together and work for strong schools, good jobs, and affordable housing for our families. In 2011, I ran for the District 2 seat against the same incumbent opponent. We ran a people-powered grassroots campaign that nearly accomplished the unthinkable. It is a rare thing in Massachusetts politics to defeat a sitting incumbent. Many believed that I had no chance. The District 2 seat has always been held by a white male from the South Boston neighborhood. And yet, I came within 97 votes of victory and shocked the political establishment.

Since our first campaign, my passion, energy and commitment to providing greater public service for our communities has not wavered. I have continued to listen to and work with residents throughout the district, remaining active in our city, and working toward ways to problem solve and ensure a better quality of life for our neighborhoods now and in the future.

My Goals

Smart development:
I will work to ensure that Boston sees development that creates jobs without compromising the affordability and character of our neighborhoods. The best way to achieve this is through neighborhood master plans developed with input from everyone in the community. Master plans allow us to look at the community as a whole, rather than project-by-project. If we know what the overall plan is, we can see whether each newly proposed project fits into the welfare of the whole community. I participated in developing three master plans for Chinatown over 3o years, and will continue to work closely with community members and city agencies to make sure everyone’s voices are present in neighborhood master plans.

Quality public education:
I have over 35 years of experience in Boston’s public schools, both as a teacher and the principal. I believe in educating the “whole child”; that external factors--such as safety, enrichment activities, good physical and emotional well-being, parental encouragement and guidance--are just as important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. We must concentrate on these non-school factors to create a school climate that will allow children to learn effectively. I did this as a school principal, and as a city councilor, I believe that there is much that city government – outside of the school committee and superintendent – can do to help increase our children’s academic achievement.

During my time as a teacher and principal, I united the community around its schools, and I will continue that work as a member of Boston’s City Council. Community partnerships afford more students with one-on-one attention and help give all members of the community a sense of connection to the school. The city of Boston has a wealth of resources that it can utilize to provide quality education for our students. As a city councilor, I will expand the strategies I used as a principal to engage parents, tap into the resources of Boston’s colleges and universities, partner with businesses, work with hospitals and healthcare providers to ensure that our children are healthy and ready to learn, and provide our children with arts and cultural enrichment in addition to our basic school curriculum.

Transparency, accountability, and accessibility:
I am committed to making local government more transparent and accessible by providing constituents with information before decisions are made, delivering proactive rather than reactive advocacy, and bringing ideas from across the district to one table. Constituents should be able to see what happens every step of the way, so they understand how and why decisions are made. A District City Councilor is the closest elected office to the people, so my job as a city councilor is not just about responding to problems, but being listening to people before their issues and concerns become problems. Additionally, as a District City Council, I will be in a unique position to bring people from neighborhoods across the district together to come up with new ideas and creative solutions to the issues we all share.

My DFA Values

As an immigrant and a woman of color, I have experienced inequality first-hand and have benefited greatly from the civil rights and women’s rights movements. I believe that we will not truly have equality until we are all treated equally. If elected, victims of inequality can rest assured that they will always have an advocate on City Council.

All of my life, I have been fighting to lift up and secure my community. I have worked for and continue to work for affordable housing, living wages, and good jobs with benefits, which, in turn, creates strong, secure communities.

My Campaign is People Powered!

When I was a school principal, one of the janitors said that the best way to hide from Ms. Lee is in her office, because I was always out talking to students, parents, teachers, and community partners, and I have taken the same approach to campaigning. I have been personally knocking on doors throughout the district, and have developed strong relationships with neighborhood associations and community leaders from South Boston to the South End, Chinatown to Bay Village, Fort Point Channel to the Wharf District.

I have been a community organizer all of my life, and my campaign is simply a continuation of that. We have been working closely with neighborhood associations and community leaders, building on the grassroots network I have established throughout my time as an organizer that we strengthened two years ago when I first ran for city council. People from all over the district stop by my office to share their concerns and thoughts, and I am committed to individually meeting as many leaders and voters throughout the district as I can.

Voice support


About the Endorsement Process

The driving force behind all DFA endorsements is our members. We recognize that all politics is local and that what is considered progressive in Los Angeles may be very different from what's considered progressive in Louisville. For this reason, DFA does not have a litmus test of specific progressive positions for which a candidate must stand. Our endorsement is heavily weighted based on these questions:

• Will the candidate move the progressive movement forward in their community?
• Does the candidate have substantial support from our local members?
• Do the candidate's positions and policies fit into the broader progressive movement?
• Is the campaign people-powered and the candidate working to win?

If you have questions, or want to let us know about a candidate in your neighborhood, please call us at (802) 651-3200 or email us at [email protected] .

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