Representation on the walls

I have been very moved by Senate President Karen Spilka’s efforts to broaden representation on the walls of the statehouse. As explained in the press release below, she is inviting state residents to submit nominations for a woman to be honored with a bust in the Senate Chamber.

The halls of the statehouse are lined with the portraits of Massachusetts’s past Governors — until recently all white men. The walls of the Senate President’s official suite are lined with portraits of past Senate Presidents — again, until recently all white men. The Senate Chamber is adorned with a dozen busts of historical US leaders styled in Roman garb — white marble men. The tradition of portraying top office holders emphasizes our patriarchal history, obscures the historical agency and contributions of women and minorities, and leaves many visiting the statehouse feeling excluded.

I’m inspired everyday by Frederick Douglass’s words now etched high on the South wall of the Senate chamber, facing the rostrum:

Truth, justice, liberty and humanity will ultimately prevail.

Frederick Douglass on The Race Problem

And I couldn’t be prouder to see his brown bust join the marble white busts in the senate chamber. We cannot appreciate the meaning of our American ideals without recognizing the central agency of African-American leaders in securing civil rights for all.

Similarly, we cannot understand American history without understanding the contributions of women, until recently mostly invisible among the artworks of the statehouse. Our new portrait of Abigail Adams is a down payment on artistically remembering “the ladies” as Abigail Adams urged.

Writing to her husband as he worked to launch our republic, Abigail Adams said:

[I]n the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the Husbands. Remember all Men would be tyrants if they could. If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.

Abigail Adams to John Adams, March 5, 1776

I very much look forward to the addition of the bust of a woman in the senate chambers and I hope that many will take up the invitation to participate in the nominating process.

Senate Art Committee Begins Public Search for Influential Woman to Honor with Chamber Bust

Committee calls for nominations from all Massachusetts residents  

Boston (3/4/2024)—Today, the Massachusetts Senate Art Committee submission form requesting nominations for the name of a woman to be honored with a bust in the Senate Chamber. Nominations should reflect women who have made historic contributions to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; women with national influence will also be considered if they have ties to the state. 

Any Massachusetts resident will have until 11:59 PM on April 30, 2024, to submit a nomination and a brief explanation of why the woman should be honored by the Senate. It is the latest step in Senate President Spilka’s effort to expand representation in the State House.

“For far too long decisions such as these have been made by a select few. I’m excited to hear from our residents across the Commonwealth about women they want to see honored by the Senate. Massachusetts is home to residents from a variety of backgrounds, and everyone should be able to see themselves reflected in the art of the State House,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I’m excited to see the submissions and learn more about the women who inspired the residents of Massachusetts.” 

The Senate Art Committee, which was established in 1972 but has been inactive for several years, will be led by Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). More details regarding the status of the committee and additional members will be forthcoming.  

“Today marks the start of the Senate Art Committee’s endeavor to solicit submissions for a sculpture of a trailblazing woman to join the all-male busts in the Senate Chamber. I am honored to lead the revived committee, and I’m excited to see what remarkable names the residents of the Commonwealth recommend,” said Senator Julian Cyr (D-Truro). “This undertaking will further realize Senate President Karen Spilka’s vision of a Senate that embodies a more complete story of Massachusetts in our imagery and art. We need your input to ensure the halls of our capitol better reflect this Commonwealth.”

Upon the Committee’s review, an honoree will be chosen in the months following the closing of submissions. The woman selected will be honored with a commissioned bust that will fill the eighth and final alcove in the Senate chamber, adjacent to the newly installed bust of Frederick Douglass.

This announcement comes on the heels of the Senate President Spilka’s unveiling of a portrait of Abigail Adams in the Senate Lobby, and the addition of Frederick Douglass’ bust to the Senate Chamber

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

11 replies on “Representation on the walls”

  1. Yesterday I nominated Diana DiZoglio. America is facing growing crises and the Democratic Party is at a crossroads. Down one glittering path is ruin. Down the other is to continue the slow hard work of past generations of forming a more perfect union. Diana Dizoglio’s impact is more than an incipient one for she has faced, is facing the overwhelming odds and overwhelming forces. She is not only attempting to hold the powerful accountable and speaking truth to power, but she is doing the far harder thing of telling our friends in our party a hard truth. The easy path has been to tell her no, but an equally available path would be to tell her and the people of Massachusetts yes. In these times we are confronted with many challenges: unprecedented lobbyist and other monies and rewards in politics, unrivaled development and building in Massachusetts, a monopolized communications landscape and a co-opted social justice movement sitting in the catbird seat of a Democratic Party held hostage by a slim faction who speak of self-evident truth that all men are created equal, but in fact walk an anti-democratic walk and are sowing crops of shallow roots. Many have felt the telltale breeze of the storm in the distance. I see it manifest in the Griner affair, the red lines we draft for our allies in an existential war, but backed away from with our foes, the pound foolish subjugation and surrender of domestic and foreign policy and of wisdom in order to pander to and appease a chorus enjoying a potent moment and giving them the tiller to ship of state.

  2. Another reason for nominating Auditor DiZoglio, a living agent of justice and change, is our response to COVI-19.

    I remember Governor Baker YELLING at reporters questioning the risks that essential workers -largely people of color- were facing in hospitals, care facilities and restaurant kitchens, he screamed that COVID spreads at home (it does, bit how does it get there?) and the entire Massachusetts SYCOPHANTOCRACY fell in line.

  3. Just one facet of why Diana DiZoglio is a good nominee is because a safe name to exploit. Pandemics require trade-offs: fully open and the maximum number of people get sick and die, fully isolated and people starve and before they do order breaks down. Massachusetts did a good job finding the sweet-spot. IT IS in this sweet spot where we find the winners. Ot is in this sweet spot where we may find the individuals and firms who lobbied, sought and cajoled their representatives, friends and family.

    As we look back on the pandemic we know the broad strokes, but as the studies accrue – to the extent they have data – exposing the granularity of the decisions that contributed to the MORBIDITY & MORTALITY our citizens experienced because of our decisions, because of that sweet spot, who we chose to win and lose. That alone is worth an audit. You can talk the talk of social justice, but DiZoglio demands we walk the walk.

  4. Even if my esteem for State Auditor Diana DiZoglio is misplaced, or premature she has already made a well-aimed mark in Massachusetts and her moment is yet pregnant with salvation of the Democratic Party poised such as it is at a potential fulcrum of history where justice and ethics and liberty’s blessings may bloom, or wither.

    A very rough draft of my thoughts below on what I see happening and why DiZoglio is the right person for the honor:

    Dear President Biden,

    My faith in the Democratic Party has been shattered and my illusion of our moral compass has been erased.

    I am forever grateful for the cancellation of my student debt. I am grateful for Democrats doing what Democrats do, but the Party has totally lost the plot on morals and ethics and Western and American values. There is no longer a moral compass in the Party that says where the line between electoral considerations and right and wrong. I’m an atheist, but will say the Devil tempted you- the Devil in the person of Vladimir Putin and in other forms. He lawfully, albeit capriciously-that was the trap- arrested Brittney Griner, an American who by her own admission broke Russian law, and because she exists at the intersection of electoral import: she is a celebrity, a WNBA star, lesbian member of the LGBT community, young and a person of color she was afforded super citizen status, and my fellow Democrats fell over them selves to spare no expense to pay her ransom while other innocent Americans who we hold as equal under the law rot as expendable, discounted and cut-rate Americans in squalid fearful detention. And why? Because the American masses are not attuned to see that in order my fellow Democrats to win votes and buoy your approval ratings the White House allowed Putin to strike this blow to our very core and meaning of American principles and values that we hold all men to be created equal. In the Brittney Griner affair you subjugated foreign policy, national security, ethics, equal justice to base act of shoring up soft votes. Muhammad Ali, had he been in Griner’s shoes I like to believe he would have refused to leave his cell knowing that his freedom was won at the cost of freeing a man with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Africans on his hands- blood spilt in vain, Merchant of Death Viktor Bout. What’s more Russia and China are recolonizing and indenturing the continent of Africa and beyond. And then 10/7 happened and we didn’t lower the flag to half staff for our fallen and I heard the tempered support of Israel I knew the same calculus of appeasement was at work. Hamas and their paymasters are the only entities morally responsible for damage Israel justly inflicts. Had America chosen not to profit electorally and rather had taken the moral path of using the bully pulpit to make the ethical case for Israel’s response to 10/7 – recall our post 9/11 deterrent clash of civilizations which claimed orders of magnitude more more lives and felled the country that stood between Iran and the home of the perpetrators- had we really stood by Israel and gave the bully a sock in the mouth the bloodshed would be stanched and not passed to the generations. But no. We didn’t pass a moral lesson down the ages. We didn’t lead.

    While the mendacity, corruption, cruelty, criminal m.o. of your immediate predecessor is overt and his blemish to the country unprecedented his threat is far less insidious to the Democrat’s departure from moral order.

    I trust the military to hold the line against the antidemocratic and contraConstitutional threats as your predecessor patently is, but I deeply resent my loyal Democratic center-left vote being held hostage/being subservient by my party to Progressive Party and SocialistParty members ensconced in the Democrats’ tent dictating unAmerican terms.


    Frederic from Belmont

  5. Thank you Senator Brownsberger for actualizing a democratic forum for your constituents. I’m not on commercial social media, it’s unhealthy for me, it’s unhealthy for most citizens especially our children and I believe it’s unethical for government and public entities to use it given the harm. It’s time to foster demonopolization now that the taxpayer and government have created the space for internet infrastructure tech firms to take root and give America dominance in the new era, which is partly to say the Zuckerbergs, Bezoses, Musks and the like did not entirely lift themselves from their boot straps! The state intervened in ways seen and unseen to foster their success. Ayn Rand fans doth proteseth…

    But I came back here to say something else. My high-schooler said my Griner argument was old news from conservative outlets and well I wouldn’t know about that but it’s unfortunate because I believe that my ethical complaint is not partisan it’s universal. I find it very troubling and frustrating that in these hyper-polarized times of demonizing our fellow Americans that politicians and others find cover by linking moral responsibilities and actions they’d rather avoid to whichever demonized and dehumanized party they are not a part of.

    1. And it circles back to my nomination of State Auditor Diana DiZoglio because she has taken the first step on a path that Massachusetts legislators can still choose to follow and is one that I hope will serve truth. It doesn’t matter what if any dirty laundry will be seen – well, I mean it does, but how much meta data will an audit show that will inform scholars for decades. Isn’t that what we’re about? Truth and transparency?

  6. Last thing- Another reason why State Auditor Diana DiZaglio is the right nominee among the other worthy nominees is how it may shed light on the “muddled origins” and interests behind the Soviet-style, command economy MBTA Communities Act dictating terms to citizens of towns how to be constitute and comport themselves. I say let the market and the free choice of citizens in each community affected decide how live their lives and shape their own towns.

    Normally I am inclined in support of overrides but on question number one I’m flirting with saying no as a matter of principle to not participate in giving away my rights and freedoms. I’m not inclined to vote for an override that will be in service to this dictate, which will only require more over time and exceed a fair tax base, so let the override be a referendum on the MBTA Communities Act. Where did the MBTA Communities come from? Such a fundamentally character altering proposal seemed to arrive in the dark of night.

    If this is what we want great, but is this how we want it?

    1. Sorry. Last, last thing. You always discover who you are with a ballot in front of you and the override is probably the right thing for Belmont right now.

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