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Wait…What?! BIPOC Women on the Ballot Recording

“Wait…What?!” is a platform for candid discussion for the Women’s Fund community to convene on emerging issues we all face, albeit with varied challenges.

The Women’s Fund of Western MA convened a panel on January 26, 2023 to discuss parity in elected positions.

Across the country and in our region, a large number of BIPOC women ran for local, state, and national political offices this election season. While we saw BIPOC women elected to U.S. Congress in historical races including Illinois, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Oregon, and Massachusetts electing its first woman governor, a unique disparity still exists in our region.

Inspired by a lively social media thread, WFWM wanted to convene and discuss the barriers and challenges that exist for BIPOC women when running for local and state office. Especially given that most of the region, especially many cities and towns in Hampden County, have yet to elect a woman to serve on Beacon Hill. State Representative-elect Shirley Arriaga of Chicopee is a first, and we hope that her win chisels through the concrete ceiling.

Meet the Guest Speakers

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud: Attorney; Executive Director, CAIR Massachusetts

Tahirah Amatul-Wadud is an attorney with a strong record of civil rights advocacy, civic engagement, and interfaith activism.  She is the executive director and chief legal officer for the Massachusetts chapter of the Council of American Islamic Relations.  She is a former Commissioner for the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. 

Ms. Amatul-Wadud co-litigated a groundbreaking federal civil lawsuit to sanction people who threatened to attack a mosque, using the federal law, the 1994 FACE Act, which had never been applied to protecting a mosque. 

Ms. Amatul-Wadud was named a Top Woman of Law by Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly. She is a graduate of Elms College and Western New England University School of Law where she was recently awarded the dean’s distinguished alumni award.

Nina Liang: City Councilor at Large, City of Quincy; Executive Director, Emerge Massachusetts

Nina Liang is the first and only Chinese-American City Councilor elected in her hometown of Quincy, and served as the first minority City Council President. Born in Quincy to immigrant parents, Nina has experienced firsthand the challenges that minority children and families face, which has informed her approach to governance and community-led change.

As an elected official, small business owner, and community organizer, Nina has had the opportunity to be a part of organizations that work to expand services to everyone in the city as well as those dedicated to addressing the needs of people new to both the language and customs of American culture. On the Quincy City Council, Nina has worked to open the doors of government to every resident to ensure that everyone feels they are heard and have the opportunity to participate in decision-making. Having worked in operations for her family’s restaurant group, she shares the experiences and perspectives of small business owners in Massachusetts, helping to create jobs and opportunities. She has served on the boards of D.O.V.E, Maria Droste Counseling Services, Quincy Catholic Academy, the Thomas Crane Public Library Foundation, the Massachusetts Asian American & Pacific Islanders Commission, and the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. To help support the ideas and ambitions of women in Quincy, she worked alongside community leaders to co-found the Quincy Women’s Network.

Since 2018, Nina has served as the Executive Director for Emerge, Massachusetts, a nonprofit organization that trains Democratic self-identifying women to run for political office across all levels of government. Drawing inspiration from her own work in local government, Nina has helped to promote and support women across the Commonwealth who want to effect change as elected officials or campaign organizers. Her civic engagement and political experiences have taught her the importance of collaborative efforts between local organizations, businesses, and public agencies to better address the needs of a diverse population in which each voice has a chance to be heard to ensure equitable dialogue and decision-making.

State Representative Shirley Arriaga, 8th Hampden District

I am the fourth of five children, and I was raised in Chicopee by a single mother, who worked hard to provide for our family. I was raised Catholic with a strong emphasis on public service, including military and law enforcement.

I enlisted in the United States Air Force at the age of 20 during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan out of a sense of duty to our country and served until my honorable discharge in July 2020. I served as a Loadmaster in the 337th Airlift Squadron out of Westover ARB and was proud to be a part of the Women in Aviation Initiative. While serving in the Air Force and raising my daughter, I completed a Bachelor’s at Elms College.

By 2015, I was able to purchase my first home. Additionally, I secured a full-time position as Veterans Director for Congressman Richard E. Neal. During my time there, I aided the constituents from the 1st Congressional District and assisted them with issues ranging from immigration, veteran affairs, mortgage foreclosures, utility shutdowns, death and funeral assistance, Medicare, and prescriptions coverage. I helped hundreds of families and learned the power of government when it works for you.

After several years of aiding constituents, I decided to further my education in order to continue serving our community in a greater capacity. At the age of 29, I enrolled at the Western New England School of Law. Today, I live in Aldenville with my 8-year-old daughter, Winter. I’ve been passionately protecting and serving our community and it is an honor to continue my service as the next State Representative for the 8th Hampden District.

Watch the previous recording of Wait…What?! Reproductive Justice and the Future of Roe v. Wade

Wait…What?! Reproductive Justice and the Future of Roe v. Wade Recording

We want to continue to advance women in the community. Please give a gift today for women, girls, and their families.