‘A Real Shift’: New Harvard Student Union Forms Amid National Wave of Undergrad Unionization
Two Weeks Before Elections, Incumbent Cambridge Councilors Lead Fundraising Race
Harvard Junior to Launch Israel-Palestine Information Hotline Amid War Between Israel and Hamas
Riley Gaines, Swimmer Who Criticized Trans Women’s Participation in Athletics, Draws Student Demonstration at Harvard
Harvard Kennedy School Issued Faculty Guidance to Discuss Hamas Attacks with Students
Ayesha M. Wilson is running for Cambridge City Council to “bring voices to the table” — betting that her nearly two decades in social work and two terms on the Cambridge School Committee have given her the tools to mend the city’s divides.
Wilson, who has netted endorsements from several organizations across the spectrum of politics, said she is most proud of her contributions to mental health and equity in education during her time on the School Committee.
Wilson said Cambridge’s addition of 12 social workers to its school system over the last four years was “beyond impressive.” She lauded the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, which was formed in July 2021 to close opportunity gaps among students and foster inclusion within Cambridge’s schools.
Wilson was also a proponent of the universal pre-K program established jointly by the School Committee and the Council in February.
If elected, she said she would use her position on the Council to push for education funding aimed at addressing systemic inequities.
“The goal will be to really work in partnership with our superintendent, with the City Manager, and really think about what will it take,” Wilson said. “So that our Black and brown students and students with disabilities will be reading by third grade and beyond, will be able to do math and algebra, and all of those things in this next budget cycle.”
Wilson said she would have voted for the recently passed amendments to the 100%-Affordable Housing Zoning Overlay expanding the range of affordable developments that can be built. Taller and denser housing is a must, she said.
“I spent so much of my childhood in the towers,” Wilson said of Cambridge’s affordable housing developments. “You can’t tell me that there isn’t culture in those buildings, that there isn’t family, and love, and community and all of that in those buildings, because there is. I’ve experienced it firsthand.”
“The people is what makes up the character of our community,” she added. “So if we’re not building and creating opportunities for more and more people to be able to have homes here, to call Cambridge home, then what exactly are we doing?”
On public safety, Wilson said she would continue the city’s ongoing efforts to integrate the Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team into the city’s mental health emergency response infrastructure.
She also stressed the importance of compassion from the city in the wake of police killings, adding that she would have prioritized listening and understanding if she had been a councilor when Sayed Faisal was killed by police.
“You really try to find that sympathy spot,” she said. “Really try to empathize and sympathize with the family and with the community that are grieving this loss.”
“But also then working with our police department, with our DA, it’s really thinking about, what are the next steps here?” she added. “How do we find healing through a tragedy like this?”
When the Cambridge Citizens Coalition endorsed Wilson in September, their slate of candidates also included Robert Winters and Carrie E. Pasquarello, who came under fire for racist and transphobic social media activity.
Though Wilson did not attend a CCC candidate celebration in early October, she has still accepted the group’s endorsement.
“It’s not fair to me as a candidate to refuse an endorsement just because of an ignorant individual,” Wilson said. “What I’ve grown to learn is that we just have some significantly ignorant-ass people in our community, and you can quote me on that.”
Wilson has also received endorsements from A Better Cambridge and the Cambridge Residents Alliance.
Wilson said she will be honest and direct with voters as a councilor, adding that the city hasn’t done enough to engage Cambridge residents in politics and policy. She promised to keep residents updated on Council goings-on.
“We need to be more out-of-the-box when it comes down to community input and outreach,” Wilson said. “Hopefully, I could do monthly newsletters or biweekly newsletters so that the community is abreast on what’s coming down the pike and what’s going on.”
“Just making sure that folks are aware,” she added. “I think there’s a lack of that.”
Toward the end of the interview, Wilson choked up with emotion as she discussed her motivation to run.
“I am a voice for the average family,” Wilson said. “I’m a working mom, I am — sorry, it gets me so fired up — because I’m a working mom, I’m hustling and bustling.”
“I’m actually a mover and a shaker,” she added. “I get things done.”
Correction: October 29, 2023
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that she was endorsed for Cambridge City Council by Our Revolution Cambridge. In fact, while the group endorsed her for School Committee in 2021, it did not endorse her for her current run.
—Staff writer Samuel P. Goldston can be reached at email@example.com.
Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.