“Thank you Madame President, Senate and House colleagues, distinguished guests, and constituents, friends and family of the lady from the 1st Suffolk District. I am incredibly honored and humbled to say a few words about my former colleague, and great friend, Linda Dorcena Forry. While I congratulate her on her new opportunity, I’m also very sad not to have her as a colleague anymore.
The fact that I have talked with Linda as much every week since she left the Senate, as we did while we served together, speaks volumes about our true friendship, but also about the kind of public servant she is.
Madame President, with the lady from Dorchester, the personal is the political. When you saw her in the Senate chamber, she was the same person as at some community event, or in the halls of the State House, or with her family, or relaxing after a long day at the State House. Linda is real, with a big heart, a welcoming smile, a willingness to tell what you she thinks, good or bad, to your face, but always with the comfort that she would stand by your side, help you with what you needed, as a colleague, constituent, advocate, or friend.
Madame President, you could see this in the fact that during budget week, she made sure the staff had plenty of hot dogs and hamburgers from Sully’s, and not just the Senators. You could see it in Linda and her staff fielding calls, and providing support, for thousands of Haitian-Americans in need not just from her district, but across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. And you could feel it in her voice, the power of her convictions, calling out homelessness, as the chair of the Housing Committee, of how morally unconscionable it is that in this state you must prove that you are living in a car, before you and your children receive shelter.
I remember Linda kept calling out in front of the Grand Staircase, “WE’RE TALKING ABOUT CHILDREN. HOMELESS CHILDREN. CHILDREN.” No facts, statistics, studies, or reports – Linda’s moral outrage comes straight from the heart.
As elected officials, we all have work that drives us, that gets us up in the morning, that motivates us to get home very late at night, and working weekends. When I think of Senator Linda Dorcena Forry’s legacy, I think about inclusion, and I think about representation.
Are we a society that believe that people, no matter their race, skin color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, gender, sexual preference, gender identity, or immigration status, should be able to work wherever they want, live in whatever community they wish to live in, and equally important, thrive and succeed?
And if we as a society do believe that, what are we doing as government officials, to make that vision a reality?
Whether it was housing policy, employment in Boston, especially the trades, public education, or economic development, Linda fought to make sure that EVERYONE was included, that everyone had a seat at the table, that the American Dream would live on in Massachusetts. As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, Linda has lived that American Dream, and has worked her entire life to provide that same path of success that her parents, and she and her family, have worked so hard towards realizing.
Madame President, since Linda’s made her decision to leave the State Senate, of course every news story notes that now there is not a single black Senator in the body. Added to that, Linda is one of the few Senators who has a parent who is an immigrant to this country. As a close friend, observer and seatmate of Linda’s, I have seen the impact of racism.
When the State Senate began its legislative session last January, in the early days of the Trump administration, I watched in awe, tears, and rage, my friend and colleague Linda Dorcena Forry stand up from her seat, and rail against white supremacists like Steve Bannon, fully installed in the White House, calling out the racism that President Trump practices, and has encouraged. When I touched her hand after she finished her speech, I could feel her trembling. And I immediately thought, “What is it like, to be black in America?”
It’s a hallmark of her entire career, calling out bigotry, and bringing people together. From her first election to the House, which tipped the scales towards Massachusetts protecting marriage equality, to her fighting for the economic security of Haitians who fled the earthquake-ravaged country in 2010, to her vigilance this session, in both ending mass incarceration in the Senate criminal justice reform bill, and providing economic opportunity for people of color in the marijuana legislation, Linda has shown great strength, leadership, and resolve in fighting racism, prejudice, and xenophobia. Her work has inspired people from across Massachusetts, and she has served her district extremely well, connecting with and helping people from all walks of life.
I want to close my remarks and restate that representation matters. Who represents the wonderful diversity of the people of Massachusetts, matters. I saw that last year, when my sister, and her two biracial children, Olivia and Joshy, were at the State House for a visit. I wanted them to meet Linda.
So in the hustle and bustle of another busy day at the State House, I called her, and she made her way over to Emmett’s Pub, where we were having lunch, and, with all of the charm, kindness, and warmth that we all know is Linda’s style, she talked to the kids¸ and asked them questions about what they were up to. And I saw their eyes light up, looking back at me and my sister, and then Linda – just taking in that someone who has the same job as their Uncle Jamie, looks like them.
Madame President, I want to thank the lady from Dorchester, the State Senator for the 1st Suffolk District, the State Representative for the 12th Suffolk District, for her 23 years of public service, her compassion, drive, sense of humor, kindnesses, determination, courage, moral outrage, her excitement for “public – private PAHHTNERSHIPS,” and her true friendship. Linda, you have left the Massachusetts General Court, the constituents of your district, and the people of Massachusetts much better off. Thank you, we miss you so much!”