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Ruthzee Louijeune secures at-large spot on council

She is first Haitian-American to serve on the body

Avery Bleichfeld
Ruthzee Louijeune secures at-large spot on council
Ruthzee Louijeune addresses supporters during her victory party at dbar in Dorchester. AVERY BLEICHFELD PHOTO

When Ruthzee Louijeune arrived at her election night party at dbar in Dorchester Tuesday night, the mood was already bright and raucous. She moved through the crowd, taking photos with supporters and greeting members of her team.

It was just after 10:15 p.m. when she announced that her campaign believed she had secured one of the four at-large city councilor seats up for grabs in the Nov. 2 general election.

In her victory speech, Louijeune lauded the hard work of everyone who supported her and marked the moment as a landmark one for the Haitian community in Boston.

She began her speech by encouraging spectators to hug or high-five someone around them as a gesture of the community that she said was such an important part of her run for Boston City Council.

“What you have to know is campaigns are not about individual people,” Louijeune said. “This [campaign banner] is weird, because it’s my face and it’s my name, but this is a movement. … If it was about Ruthzee, it would only be me, but it’s about all of us here, working together to build a better Boston.”

According to unofficial vote tallies from the city, at around 11:45 p.m. Louijeune held nearly 44,500 votes, or about 15% of ballots cast. She was reported to have placed third, following Michael Flaherty and Julia Mejia, who had about 52,000 and 51,000 votes respectively. The fourth at-large seat, which was still too close to call that night, went to Erin Murphy, who finished with a slim margin ahead of David Halbert.

In her speech, Louijeune talked about priorities such as supports for Boston’s working class, climate resilience and transit accessibility.

“The work on City Council is one of making sure we are allocating our resources in the way that says we value you, our residents,” Louijeune said. “Your budget is your value statement; we need to make sure our budget is a reflection of caring for our neighbors, caring for our young ones, of responding to the climate justice issues of our time.”

She said she doesn’t expect the work to be easy but said that is why it must be done.

“I am under no disbelief that this is going to be easy work,” Louijeune said. “I know that this is going to be really hard, but I know the hard things are worth fighting for, which is why I ran for Boston City Council and why all of you showed up for me.”

She also marked the importance of her win for the Haitian diaspora in Boston. As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, she will be the first Haitian-American member of the City Council in a city that is part of the third-largest Haitian diaspora community in the country.

When she asked the crowd if there were any Haitians there, deafening cheers reverberated across the patio.

“This has taken way too long; there have been so many people who have tried to pierce this barrier to be the first Haitian American,” Louijeune said. “The third-largest Haitian diaspora is right here in this city, and it has not led to political representation. So, I thank you all for choosing me to be the first, but I will not be the last. My success is everybody’s success, is the community’s success.”

Ahead of the polls closing, Angela Irving, a Roxbury resident who voted at Higginson-Lewis K-8 School picked Louijeune as one of her four options on the ballot. She said community representation was an important issue to her in her City Council vote this election, and said this year was a good one for local diversity, based on the candidates running.

“It’s good to see community people that represent my community on the council this year,” Irving said.

Louijeune won’t take office until January, but in her speech she said there’s not time to wait for the work to get started.

“Today is a victory party,” Louijeune said. “I want you all to celebrate, to meet people, to talk, to rejoice, to breathe a little bit more, but I want you to know the work starts tomorrow. It really starts tomorrow in working to make sure we are centering our Black communities that have often been excluded, that we are fighting for access for our Latinx communities, that we are a city that is accessible to those who are disabled, that we are fighting for those who are often left out at the margins and that we are bringing them into the center.”

2021 Boston City Council race, boston politics, Haitian American, Ruthzee
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