As the daughter of Maine’s first black lawmaker, Rachel Talbot Ross is no stranger to pushing the boundaries of social norms. The longtime civil rights and social justice campaigner made Maine history in early December, becoming the state’s first black female lawmaker elected as the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. She won unanimously, gaining support from the members of the full house.
Having represented Portland for the past six years, Ross is attuned to the needs of its people. She founded several non-profit organizations, including Maine Black Community Development, Maine Freedom Trails, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Fellows. Talbot Ross also headed the NAACP of Maine and served as Portland’s Director of Equal Opportunities and Multicultural Affairs.
The election of Talbot Ross affects SMCC students beyond politics. Portland City Councilman Pious Ali, co-founder of the Martin Luther King Jr. Fellows (along with Talbot Ross) and a former SMCC student, was able to illuminate this fact some more.“Speaker Talbot Ross was one of the few people I had a privilege working with and learning from. I am glad to see she was able to rise to the position she has. She is a symbol not only to the people she advocates for, but to all of the people who are marginalized.” Ali joins Talbot Ross in this group of Maine history makers, as the first African-born Muslim American to hold office in the state. (To read more about Councilman Pious Ali and the work he is doing in Maine, click here.)
Talbot Ross’ extensive resume of service exemplifies her dedication to the people. In her first speech to the House as the speaker, she continued to show this dedication as she asked the House to unite to conquer a number of issues that affect Maine citizens: the affordability of housing, access to education, poverty, and the improvement of the State’s relationship with the Native American Wabanaki Confederacy.
“She has spent a lifetime putting others before self,” Rep. Holly Stover (D-Boothbay) said in her nomination of Talbot Ross. “It goes without saying that as a sole African American woman out of 151 legislators, she has endured sacrifice and put this body before [her]self. She has put her beloved Maine before [her]self.”
Rachel Talbot Ross has set an example for African-Americans, women, and all Mainers alike. She has illustrated the importance of public service, not only to our elected government officials but also to us, the citizens. In her initial public address to the House, Talbot Ross proclaimed, “I am a proud, ninth-generation African-American Mainer, I stand before you today and I want any child in our state to know that this, today, this is possible.”
Categories: Politics, State Politics
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