In New Campaign Ad, Alderman Candidate Will Mbah Vows to Put People Ahead of Profits
by Michael Bowler
SOMERVILLE—At an anticipated campaign meeting last night, Alderman-at-Large candidate Will Mbah released a video, “People First” detailing his commitments to affordability, community-led development, and economic fairness in Somerville.
Watch Will Mbah’s new video here: People First
Born and raised in Cameroon, Mbah often calls Somerville his own “promised land”—a city that celebrates diversity, values its residents, and fosters opportunities for growth and success. Mbah was orphaned at a young age, and depended on his extended family and community for support as he completed his education. As a college student at the University of Buea, he advocated for student rights, and earned a scholarship to Sweden’s University of Agricultural Science to study soil science, while working a string of jobs to pay for housing.
In 2010, he moved to Massachusetts after winning the American Diversity Lottery—“the blessing of my life,” he says. But his journey was just beginning. Despite his credentials, “the process of finding work and settling down here was challenging,” he says—a sentiment that will be familiar to all immigrants and working people. He took on more odd jobs, washing dishes at a downtown hotel and working as a custodian so that he could complete an unpaid internship at the Department of Environmental Protection.
Over the next seven years, Mbah lived out his own immigrant success story. He attained a position in MIT’s Department of Environmental Health and Safety, where he works as a technologist. He married his wife, Christelle, and they welcomed a baby boy, Joel. He earned his United States citizenship. In the meantime, he moved five separate times—nearly once per year—as skyrocketing rents pushed him and his young family out of home after home. At one point, he was even forced to leave Somerville, displaced to nearby Hyde Park for four months until he could find a way to return.
It is these experiences that have inspired Mbah to run for office in Somerville, a city he has worked so hard to call home. He has watched as families, working people, and businesses have been forced to leave, disrupting their lives and weakening the fabric of the community just to line the pockets of special interests, many of them based out of state.
As Mbah details in the video, he has pledged to take no money from special interests and for-profit developers. “I believe that the fundamental role of government is to work for the community,” he says in the video. “I was deeply troubled when the city approved less affordable housing in Assembly Row,” he continues, referring to a recent decision by the Planning Board to allow the complex’s developers to make pledged payments over time and only build 6.5% of new units affordable on-site, rather than the city-mandated 20%. “Never again should the city be allowed to go against the will of the people.”
As a community activist, Will helped to successfully advocate for the ordinance that increased the affordable housing requirement. If elected alderman, he plans to accelerate the rest of his platform, each piece of which is close to his heart—affordable housing, investment in education, a $15 living wage, and fair deals that ensure that the community participates in and benefits from development.
A non-traditional candidate, Mbah’s ideas are already resonating with citizens excited to rally behind someone who has lived the issues. He has picked up endorsements from major organizations such as Our Revolution Somerville and Boston DSA (Democratic Socialists of America), as well as a sitting Alderman from Ward 5, Mark Niedergang.
Find out more about Will’s story and campaign online at www.willmbah.com, on Facebook at @MbahAlderman2017, on Twitter at @MbahAlderman and on Instagram at @will_mbah.