The Audacity to Govern


Damali Vidot-Rosa is the kind of person you fall in love with the minute that you meet her. She exudes the sort of authenticity that is defined by love. She is President of the Chelsea City Council and part of the Evolutionary Leadership Cohort of 2017.

I want to highlight Damali’s work because she embodies what becomes possible when women of color from poor communities become the people that represent us.

When people like Damali step into positions of power everything begins to change. When I asked her what she is up to she told me that Chelsea’s City Charter is what’s on the table right now.

damali 2.png

The City Charter. That’s a local constitution. What do you think becomes possible when someone who describes herself as a “Hip Hop lovin’, afro-caribeña, frizzy-hair wearing, sneaker wearing, big hoop earring spoken word artist and activist” decides it’s time to challenge the very ways in which we govern ourselves?

Damali knows that these charters were written by the hands of power, they were not meant for her to hold. She speaks of knowing what it’s like to be disenfranchised. She speaks about the school of hard knocks, run-ins with the law, and what it was like to be “in the game.” This is the lived experience that Damali is bringing forward. This is the knowledge held in her body. She knows her people because she is them.

And she does not want to pretend to be playing any other game.

There is a spiritual wisdom that Damali holds. It is made all the more obvious by the brilliantly strategic ways in which she holds her position.

She does not fit the image of a politician. She still gets looked up and down as she walks the halls of power. Her size, her gait, her wear, none of it fits expectation. Its her quality of presence, her groundedness, and her authenticity that gives permission for others to be themselves. This is what opens the door to the sort of co-evolution that we are committed to in this space.

Damali is the president of a city’s legislative body. But it is her wakefulness that helps me feel awake when I’m around her. I can see and feel the way others resonate with her, the way folks feel seen, heard and loved when they are around her. This is the key to her power. She looks at you like you are human. She looks at you like you are worthy and you belong.

When I asked her what she wants, she told me that she wants people to have the freedom to just be. It is how she will use her every platform. And it works. It works because she is also in the process. She is not outside of it. She is also seeking the freedom to be.

“Because it is in the process of allowing others to be that I keep learning the lesson that it’s ok for me to to be too.”