Essence Perry ’22

Clean Water Action Massachusetts, Boston, MA

This summer, I worked at Clean Water Action Massachusetts (CWA) on the Elections and Campaigns team. CWA is a national environmental organization known for their grassroots organizing and ability to connect environmental issues to other progressive causes like ending systematic racism and expanding healthcare access. Throughout the last few months, the organization has been scrambling to connect their current campaigns to the broader issues plaguing vulnerable communities, BLM, Covid-19, and the extended legislative session this year. For example, because Massachusetts, along with many other states, has found that Covid-19 has had disparate effects on communities of color and low income communities, our work on toxics has shifted into looking at the placement of incinerators and dump sites and long term health outcomes, our elections work has focused more on diverse and progressive candidates, and there has been a concerted effort to create canvassing strategies that better position vulnerable communities to share their stories.

As a member of the elections team, I mainly served as the point of contact between campaigns and the organization, conducting research into the viability and platform of potential candidates for endorsement, and creating communication pieces encouraging people to vote, how to vote safely, and information about the endorsed candidates. Although CWA has a small PAC, the impact of endorsements on smaller elections like municipal, State Senate, and State House elections can be large. Oftentimes, these races have low voter turnout and encouragement from a trusted progressive organization, like CWA, can increase turnout enough to shift an election.

Throughout my time at Williams, I have been focused on both the intersections of social justice movements and ways that capitalism, justice, and other outdated systems work to further marginalize communities. I have explored these concepts through academic research and theoretical frameworks, but the work I did at CWA allowed me to put some of these ideas and theories into practice. For example, at the height of the Defund the Police movement, CWA, knowing my interest and background on the criminal justice system, allowed me to give the presentation on how the organization could further help this movement along with other Black solidarity initiatives in Boston. This was one of the main reasons I really enjoyed my work this summer, but also realized that non-profit work, at least right after college, is not for me. Non-profits are often always responding to major power players, i.e. legislature, grant distributors, the government, and spend much of their time doing triage. Although I am not sure of the exact area I want to work in, I do know that I would want to do work that is more proactive and able to frame the conversation, especially in regards to policy.

I would like to thank both the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Kraft Family for giving me the opportunity to explore and expand my areas of passion. Your support means so much!