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Saundra Graham


"There's only one problem about patronage," Saundra Graham, the 30-year-old black mother of five and disruptor of Harvard's 1970 Commencement said. "While they're bathing your feet, they're chopping your head off. I ain't going to stand for it."

"You know, when I was just a little girl growing up here, my mother always had to drag me in for fighting," she said. "Well, I'm still a fighter, and somebody's going to have to do something pretty drastic to keep me from getting things changed in this city."

Saundra Graham has lived all her life in Riverside, and over the past five years acquired a huge reputation as the strongest black leader in Cambridge, a person who gets things done, who organizes from the very bottom up, who is not afraid of anybody or anything. A fireball, they call her.

She is past president of the Riverside Planning Team, which only under her leadership achieved any effectiveness; a member of the Board of Directors of the Cambridge Community Center; president of the Riverside-Cambridgeport Task Force for Housing on the Riverside Press site; organizer of the Concerned Citizens for Better Police; and a former director of the Cambridge Equal Opportunity Council.

"The city is totally destroyed," she says. "I just don't know how long people can stand by and let those five men manhandle them. That is the only reason I'm running."

The first step to a better city government, she believes, is an opening up of the bureaucracy, a rejuvenation of citizen participation through better communication. "Jobs should be listed and publicized so that every citizen knows what's available--usually before you know it, the councillor's friend has picked up the job," she said.

"It is necessary to let people know how their tax dollars are being spent, to know what is going on that affects them at the state and national level. The best way to achieve that is to decentralize city hall--with some sort of system of night office hours and little city halls like they have in Boston."

"As far as the city manager goes, after the one we have now is gotten rid of, we should institute a nationwide search for a talented and progressive person who will be responsive to the directions of Council votes."

She advocates the rolling back of rents to the January 1960 level, and upward adjustments to cover increases in maintenance expenses. "Not increases in maintenance expenses," she adds.

Her stand on the police department is thoroughly community-oriented, and she has proposed that the police chief be responsible to a community board which be composed of retired police officers, two members of the City Council and community residents. She also feels that the standards used in selecting police should be upgraded, placing an emphasis on sociological and psychological training.

On the widely-debated day care question, Graham feels that the idea of 24-hour day care centers is a good one, though she cautions that it must be community controlled in order to be effective. "It should be staffed by competent community people--particularly welfare mothers who can't find other employment but who would make excellent day care people."

She favors the opening of halfway houses to rehabilitate drug users and alcoholics, with staffs composed of concerned community and professional people. "The assistance from the medical profession might be provided by Harvard as its share of the cost for these facilities," she suggests.

In her interview with the Crimson she emphasized repeatedly the necessity of individual people, through their communities, being able to gain some control over the quality of their lives. "So many people are being fooled by those lousy little patronage jobs," she said, "Like I said before, while they're bathing your feet, they're chopping off your head."

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