Kelly Ransom is community raised & community driven by the people of District Six.

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Kelly Ransom is a proud queer community events & communications professional who has experienced homelessness in Boston. She has dedicated her life to serving & advocating for marginalized communities. She is a former restaurant industry professional, City Council staffer, suicide hotline operator, and community television show host. She is a proud GED recipient and self-made woman. She is the daughter of a unionist, the granddaughter of a Boston firefighter & a Boston police officer, and was brought up in an Irish Catholic family.

 

However, Kelly is community raised by her chosen family and the people of District Six who shaped her into the leader she is today. The challenges of Kelly's upbringing, her resiliency, and her passion for the advocacy of Boston's most vulnerable & underserved residents drive her to serve on the Boston City Council while bringing everyone along.

CHILDHOOD

Kelly was born on South Street in Jamaica Plain, where she lived with her family until they were evicted. With nowhere to go, Kelly was moved into her grandmother's house. There, she slept in the dining room on a pull-out couch with her family. Her belongings were either in storage or in trash bags. She kept her living conditions a secret. Kelly did not realize she was experiencing homelessness. During this time, she attended K1 at the James Michael Curley School.


Housing was eventually secured on Washington Street in West Roxbury. Surviving on child support checks, she learned what hunger was at a very young age. She did not know that she was experiencing poverty. She continued to keep her living conditions a secret. With struggles at home and coping with the passing of her uncle from HIV/AIDS, her pediatrician enrolled her in the Big Sister, Little Sister Association.

She attended the Joyce Kilmer School from K2 through 5th grade and participated in advanced work classes. Kelly was a member of the school chorus and excelled in writing {which she continues to have a passion for}. She attended CCD at St. John's Chrysostom, where she received the sacraments of Holy Communion & Confirmation. 

After 5th grade, Kelly attended the Advanced Work Class Program at the Washington Irving School in Roslindale. She continued to struggle with a lack of necessities at home and, though she was older, she believed she still should not talk about it with anyone. She held this secret tight to her chest the older she grew and the more shame she felt.

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EARLY ACTIVISM

In 1999, Kelly was accepted into Boston Latin School (BLS). It was at BLS that she started to find her voice and realize her sexual identity. She joined the BLS Gay-Straight Alliance, where she found a safe space with her LGBTQIA+ peers. She was very active in the school choir and was a member of the original BLS Yellow Submarines Improv Troupe. As her home life grew increasingly unstable, she began to struggle with school. Kelly started skipping classes and disengaging at school. She did not know she was experiencing mental illness

Kelly left BLS in 2003 and attended Boston Arts Academy (BAA) as a Vocal Major. Survival had to be her top priority and Kelly's capacity for education continued to suffer. Kelly left BAA and attended Another Course to College, (ACC) where she found a supportive community and began a Gay-Straight Alliance with her friends & classmates.


Activated by her own experiences, Kelly didn't want anyone who was experiencing similar situations as her to feel alone. After school, she volunteered with the Samariteens Suicide Prevention Hotline and served as a youth representative on ACC's School-Based Health Center board. She grew increasingly loud about protecting the health & rights of LGBTQIA+ youth.

Kelly began volunteering on weekends with the Youth Pride Committee which produced the annual suicide prevention event for Massachusetts GSAs & LGBTQIA+ youth.  Kelly began to realize how important it is to connect communities. During this time, just when Kelly felt she was getting back on track with her education, her home situation grew increasingly unsafe. To protect herself, she couch-surfed and lived out of a backpack. Unable to grasp her education while trying to survive multiple crises, Kelly dropped out of school and immediately got her GED.

LGBTQIA+ ACTIVISM

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After high school, Kelly moved in with her father and attended Bunker Hill Community College for 1.5 semesters with a small amount of funds her Big Sister had set aside for her. She tried her best to stay academically engaged, but the need for income outweighed her need for education. She began working for the Massachusetts Governor's Commission on Gay & Lesbian Youth as the Administrative Assistant and Youth Pride Event Coordinator. Kelly's passion for social justice and political activism evolved in this role. She became aware of her own potential for impact and started speaking with others about her desire to run for office one day.


During Kelly's time with the Commission & the Friends of LGBT Youth, she organized large-scale public outdoor events and parades, closing down city streets and public park spaces for the annual Youth Pride Celebration. In 2006, the Governor's Commission was threatened to be abolished because of a press release. The backlash the Commission experienced made Kelly realize that she absolutely would run for office one day to fight for her community and stand up for those who were marginalized, oppressed, and overlooked by the government. She understood that real change starts with the people, but can't be executed without the help of like-minded elected officials.


Kelly continued to work and volunteer in the LGBTQIA+ community and was involved with Greater Boston PFLAG and Project 10 East. When she wasn't working, she was teaching herself how to cook and began to develop a deep love for the culinary arts.

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SERVICE INDUSTRY

Kelly was eager to move back home to Jamaica Plain, but she could not find a stable livable wage as a non-profit employee. She decided to pursue her passion for cooking. The restaurant industry is not an easy industry to break into for a young woman. She began her foray into food service at City Feed and Supply on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. She loved working with food and had a desire to work on the line in a full-service kitchen. Kelly was hired as a member of the opening team for the Amory Street location of {the now closed} Bella Luna Restaurant & Milky Way Lounge. As a long-time patron, she was honored to join the Bella Luna family. 


Kelly went on to work in kitchens throughout Boston but she would always end up back at Bella Luna with the work team she chose as family. After taking on a chef position at Fenway Park, Kelly burnt out. The long hours and harsh work environment wore down her still untreated mental health issues. During this time, she lived in West Roxbury for five years before moving to Roslindale.

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COMMUNITY SERVICE

While living in Roslindale, Kelly tended bar & waited tables at Napper Tandy’s . In her spare time, she volunteered with the Chef's Table Foundation & Roslindale Village Main Streets Marketing Committee {& eventually writing for their blog}.  Wanting out of an industry that paid subminimum wages, offered no health insurance, and little protection for workers, Kelly began to search for a job that would allow her to impact her community in a meaningful way. She was hired at the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation and knew she was on the pathway to serving the community that raised her in a pragmatic way - increasing affordable housing & fighting for economic justice in JP. After inheriting archived files from JPNDC and forever looking for more to do for her community, she began to explore bringing back the JP World's Fair.

 

While at JPNDC, Kelly's approach to small business social media marketing training led her to teaching classes. She knows that empowering small business owners with the skills to use free tools & platforms to market their services would increase their customer base & revenue. Today, she continues to teach 1:1 classes via Zoom in her spare time.

 

She also co-hosted ‘It’s All About Arts’ on BNN. Alongside Glenn Williams, she worked to ensure Black, Indigenous, and People of Color artists were featured on the 20+ year local television broadcast. She later adapted the skills she learned at BNN to host her own live stream to share the stories of others during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.

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CIVIL SERVICE

From JPNDC, Kelly was called to work at City Hall on the Boston City Council for At-Large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. Working as the Director of Communications & Events in a city council office while simultaneously managing constituent services, working on policy related to homelessness & small business, attending zoning, licensing & BPDA meetings, and serving as a neighborhood liaison to Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Mission Hill, Roxbury, Fenway, and the North End energized Kelly and solidified her hunger to be a civil servant. Kelly’s proudest moment in this role was working on a hearing regarding vacant affordable housing in Boston. Being surrounded by advocates & experts for homelessness, mental health, and recovery, she began to take hold of her own mental health and come to terms with her previous experiences with homelessness, poverty, and housing instability. 


Kelly was invited to apply to work at Madison Park Development Corporation in Roxbury, where she is currently their Director of Communications and Public Affairs. She works daily to further MPDC's mission of an equitable, vibrant, and healthy Roxbury community through events & communications support for MPDC’s many programs.

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LATIN QUARTER WORLD'S FAIR

After working for two years with community members in Jamaica Plain, she brought together a team of local small business owners, restaurants, organizations, residents, artists, and activists to form the Latin Quarter World's Fair Committee. Together, this group of volunteers planned, fundraised for, and produced the 2019 revival of the JP World's Fair in Boston's Latin Quarter.

 

The LQWF had a mission to not just be a day to celebrate Boston's Latin Quarter by bringing the community together but to serve as an event that creates equitable opportunities for small business owners, youth, & artists. The LQWF Committee worked with local restaurants, including Viva Mi Arepa, Norma's Catering, El Colombiano Coffee, Third Cliff Bakery, Casabe Kitchen, Evelyn's Creations, and 100% Delicias Express to vend food at the festival. Many of these food businesses had little to no experience vending food outside. Kelly saw this as an opportunity to provide a potential additional revenue stream for their businesses in the future. She coordinated with Boston's Inspectional Services Department to provide free bilingual training on how to safely vend food outside & pass an outdoor event health inspection. With no intention of burdening these businesses, the LQWF Committee committed to fundraising to cover their permit costs

 

Besides offering opportunities to small businesses, the LQWF Committee fundraised to pay local youth $15 per hour to work the festival and oversee the children's free art activities. The LQWF had a grander vision for the future, such as providing training for youth to start their small businesses in the event gig economy, but COVID-19 struck the nation, and all LQWF activities had to be paused. Kelly hopes to reconvene the committee to continue the LQWF in 2022.

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Kelly “moved home" to Jamaica Plain in 2020 from Roslindale. She lives with her two rescue cats, Pickle & Rick, adopted from Boston's Forgotten Felines. She continues to volunteer with Roslindale Village Main Streets and is a member of The League of Women Voters and Mass NOW. She is a Certified Quality Event Planner and a graduate of Emerge Massachusetts' 2020 Campaign Manager Bootcamp & 2021 Candidate Bootcamp. 

 

Kelly is ready to continue to serve her community in an effective & meaningful way by, yet again, bringing people together, but this time to work as a unified collective for an equitable, inclusive, and accessible Boston that brings everyone along.

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Photo credit - Dot Girl Photos

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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*Photos from Kelly's personal collection. Appearance in a photo does not equal endorsement.*