Rhode Island Activist Kendra Anderson Fights for the People and the Planet

Image for post
Image for post

Constituents in the 31st State Senate district of Rhode Island have the opportunity to vote in their best interest at the local level thanks to Democratic candidate Kendra Anderson. While she may be a new addition to the ballot, she is no stranger to civic engagement, direct action, or public service. Now, since suspending her campaign last month to focus on helping her community during the COVID-19 crisis, Anderson has been working tirelessly with local organizations, like Westbay Community Action, and fellow candidates for local office like, Zach Colon for Warwick City Council Ward 9, to ensure that the residents of her district are taken care of to the best of her ability. In fact, she closed her most recent campaign email to supporters with her personal phone number to make herself directly available to anyone who may need support or connection during these difficult times.

For Anderson, the role of being a representative in local government is about more than just leading by example and paying lip service to constituents. Instead, it is about equity-driven initiatives, transparency, and unwavering advocacy for social justice while remaining mindful of how overarching structures and systems impact lived experiences. When asked about the issues and causes most important to her, she explained why the answer to that question depends on the needs of the people for whom she works. “I’m always learning about what moves people, what makes them feel alive and want to live,” she said, before she went on to critique the ways in which violent power structures disproportionately impact the lives of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.

While her district is mainly composed of white, middle-class people, there are regions that are more diverse. The parts of her district that happen to be more diverse are only miles from the Port of Providence, where the worst of her district’s environmental inequities are happening. “To differing degrees, depending on your location, this district is impacted by the inferior air quality of the Port of Providence that is causing the highest rates of asthma in Rhode Island. Most of the residents of this area are people of color, including that part of my district.”

Recently, Anderson volunteered to help Monica Huertas, a local mother of four, to get elected to the Providence City Council from the district most impacted by the Port because of “her years of work combatting the fossil fuel and chemical companies,” Anderson explained. “We need to get more people to understand that when there is a frontline community suffering from environmental racism the whole structure is pulled down in some way.”

Anderson explained that “the toxic Port which threatens the lives of people in Providence if hurricanes strike will “also affect the communities surrounding it. . . and if one of the chemical tanks explodes, the blast radius is 14 miles taking out everyone in my district,” she continued. Anderson’s forward-thinking mindset calls for the elimination of the conditions of possibility for environmental catastrophe including, but not limited to, immediate action that grinds toxic industries to a halt. “No one is immune to the effects of degrading our Earth but our racist structure sacrifices those of color and the poor first,” she said.

Back in 2018, in an Op-Ed piece for the Brown Daily Herald, Anderson discussed why “climate change is not just an environmental fight, but also a fight against social and ethical injustice.” Anderson, and her fellow members of Climate Action RI, a volunteer-run non-profit committed to environmental justice, pledged to “show that people everywhere are building a movement committed to a just transition away from fossil fuels and an extractive economy to a regenerative one that accommodates everyone.” Given Anderson’s personal history as a vocal and devoted activist, and ongoing commitment to equity initiatives in Rhode Island, she proves that there are people whose first priority is the safety and well-being of other members of their community.

In addition to a platform framed by a feminist ethics of care, Anderson’s public service work is influenced by her experiences as a working, single parent. “Parenting my son made me cherish the community we created together,” she began before she went on to add that the structure she learned to create in her home gave them both the space to be free and creative.

“I watched both of us relax and move within the boundaries. . . it was eye opening to see that creating structure and agreements gave us a more expansive life. I want to learn what I can do to help the people of my district in their lives in this same way,” she said.

When asked what inspired her to run for office, Anderson told me that it wasn’t something she initially intended to do. “What brought me to run for the State Senate in RI,” she said, “was the realization that things are not getting much better and that we’ve been sold a bill of goods that has convinced us that the white patriarchy is the only way things will get better.” After she was asked to run by members of the RI Political Cooperative because of her activist work, she took a few months to decide if that was the path for her then realized that she wanted to be part of changing the political process in Rhode Island. “I also feel that it’s important for each of us to step up in ways we never imagined because our survival on Earth is in such jeopardy,” she added.

Some of the ways that Anderson herself has stepped up include advocating for a Rhode Island Green New Deal that emphasizes sustainability efforts, promising to work with organizations like Progressive Democrats of Rhode Island to fight for 100% renewable energy in Rhode Island by 2030, and refusing donations from the fossil fuel industry. When she’s not protesting on behalf of our planet, Anderson is fighting for living wages for Rhode Island workers with the help of organizations like the Rhode Island Political Coop, advocating for food justice and social equity in Rhode Island schools, and raising money for local organizations helping marginalized people in Rhode Island.

Though Anderson is a Providence native, she lived in Bristol for over 20 years before she moved to Warwick in 2015 but her career has always centered around equity and public service. Her work in the education system opened her eyes to the unique needs of a diverse community and her experiences in corporate settings taught her about the ways in which propaganda is used as a tool to keep a hierarchical money-making system going. “Systems and organization are important for keeping the government going but not systems that rely on structural racism and patriarchy. I’m hoping to be able to see the difference at the state level,” she told me.

Image for post
Image for post
Anderson talking to voters at Sweet Dee’s.

When asked about how she will serve the community differently than Erin Lynch Prata, she said that Prata is “invested in the structure that leaves many people behind.” Instead of “leading from the top” Anderson will frequent neighborhoods and talk to people often, just as she had done for years. “I want to stay involved with my district even beyond the legislative session. I think it’s hard to know what the people of our district need if you’re not out there spending time with them.” As a member of the RI Political Cooperative, she’s one of multiple people running for office on a unified platform who, once in office, will caucus together in an effort to do important and necessary work for all Rhode Islanders, not just the wealthy and well-connected.

“With a vote for me, it means standing up against the powerful political figures and standing up for the everyday people who struggle, often feeling like they don’t have a voice. On day one of my time on Smith Hill that feeling ENDS once and for all,” her official campaign website reads, highlighting the fact that she sees herself in the people she is fighting for. But, more than that, she embodies what it means to be a representative of the people because she is a part of her community. She also happens to be a vocal advocate and activist who is passionately and unwaveringly committed to lifting others while she climbs.

Image for post
Image for post
John Goncalves’s endorsement of Anderson.

Whether she’s sponsoring food drives, protesting in the streets, campaigning for other progressive representatives, or sharing helpful resources with her supporters on social media, she’s always working with her community’s well-being in mind. Just as she’s done for decades. For Rhode Islanders in Senate District 31 who want to make sure that their voices are heard and their safety is their representative’s first priority, a vote for Kendra Anderson is a vote for a progressive future that Anderson has already begun building. Help her create a new path for environmental justice and social equity with your vote.

STATEMENT FROM SENATE DISTRICT 31 CANDIDATE KENDRA ANDERSON [EXCERPT]:

With Lynch Prata moving on with her career goals, we know that a longtime establishment politician is running against us. Our vision for moving Rhode Island forward into a new era is about challenging the status quo and bringing needed change to Smith Hill. This fall when the votes are tallied and the people have spoken we will see that our vision is the one that most energized our District.

Our campaign is active on social media, our email is kendraandersonri@gmail.com. Please feel free to email us any questions, comments, or concerns. Our website kendraandersonri.com has more information about our campaign. You can also reach me directly at 401–287–2809.

I look forward to talking to you and learning about the issues most important to you and your families.

Written by

NYC-based philosophy graduate student whose work covers Genocide Studies, Repro + Enviro Justice, and Critical Race Theory. @moontwerk

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store