Alumni in Politics

Maia Raynor: A Voice for Change on Beacon Hill

Steppingstone 2005 / The Winsor School 2012 / Tufts University 2016

 

This summer, as multiple bills addressing racial equity gained attention in the Massachusetts Legislature, Steppingstone Alumna Maia Raynor joined a coalition of Black staffers in raising issues of diversity and inclusion within the State House itself.

The legislative director for Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, Maia has emerged as a powerful voice for change within the Beacon BLOC (Building Leaders of Color).

“After the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many, a few of us are coming together to see what we can do to meet this moment,” Maia said in a July interview with the Statehouse News Service.

As she thinks back to her first days as a Steppingstone Scholar, it reminds her how far she’s come from the shy 10-year-old who avoided even raising her hand in class. She’s learned along the way—from Steppingstone to Winsor to Tufts—“to speak up and out, and to do so authentically in a way that’s true to my identity.”

As frustrating as the political process can be, she realizes change takes patience and planning. She recounts how one bill to address educational funding and the achievement gap finally passed recently after being filed by Sen. Chang-Diaz several years in row. Such wins energize Maia and make “all the long nights worth it.”

“I hope that people find their power, and that we can create a world where people have agency over their bodies and their decisions.”

Her upbringing in Boston’s historically Black neighborhood Roxbury rooted Maia in the realities of racism and the power of community, but it was the 2016 presidential campaign that sparked her interest in working for political change. Maia was teaching in a Providence school as part of City Year, surrounded by students afraid of being deported, who struggled to make it through the school day. Seeing their visceral reactions to the political climate motivated her to make a difference.

Her own family, “five generations in Roxbury,” has a history of political action. Her grandmother served on the Boston School Committee, and her great grandmother had helped lead sit-ins to advocate for safe and affordable housing. When it comes to politics, her Nana gave her the best advice: “center the people you’re fighting for.”

Maia especially values fighting for people at the local level. At times, “we see someone come into our office on their worst day.” In one case, a person working for a state assistance program had become homeless herself. A year later, she became a homeowner.

Going forward, “I hope that people find their power,” she concludes, “and that we can create a world where people have agency over their bodies and their decisions.”

Ultimately, she believes “what happens to you impacts me.” In some cultures, it’s called Ubuntu: “our humanities are all connected.” It’s a value reinforced throughout her life, including on an eye-opening journey to Rwanda as a college sophomore. “I remember coming back,” she says, “and being so much more emboldened to speak out for things that needed changing.”

Beyond making the State House a safer and more diverse workplace, Maia would like to see it become a space where every constituent feels welcome. “Block by block, we need to build up our districts, our residents, to be able to bring their voices into the conversation,” she says.