‘Shattering the rainbow ceiling,’ Thu Nguyen is the first Southeast Asian and nonbinary councilmember in Mass.
Nguyen, who grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a longtime arts advocate and organizer of after-school support programs.
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Thu Nguyen has become the first Southeast Asian-American and non-binary Worcester City Council member in Massachusetts. Nguyen won their first-ever political campaign, winning one of the six a-large seats on the City Council.
According to Spectrum News 1, Nguyen won about 10.09% of the vote, totaling 7,364 votes.
They were endorsed by several organizations, including Massachusetts State Council, Victory Club, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, and Vote Pro Choice.
Worcester City Councilors Etel Haxhiaj and Thu Nguyen celebrating their Election Day wins in Webster Square today! pic.twitter.com/kLv5WeXP0N— Dan Reidy (@TheDanReidy) November 3, 2021
The political newcomer grew up in a low-income family in Worcester, and they’ve spent their career giving back to the community. Nguyen, a Vietnamese refugee, sought asylum with their family at age one.
They attended Worcester public schools and graduated with a bachelor’s of arts in studio art and sociology from Clark University.
Nguyen created a program that helped students get accepted to Claremont Academy, and co-founded an organization that showed young people how to excel in storytelling through their art.
Over the last 10 years, Nguyen coordinated after-school programs at the Worcester Youth Center to hire people to work for Recreation Worcester at local parks and schools across the city.
Nguyen works at the Southeast Asian Coalition, an organization that supports small businesses, promotes civic engagement, and strengthens communities.
They also helped establish Mutual Aid Worcester, which raised $75,000 to support families in Worcester and started an immigrant and refugee pantry, and hot meals program during the pandemic.
Thu Nguyen celebrates winning an at-large City Council seat in #Worcester. They become Worcester's first Southeast Asian-American and first non-binary member of the council. @telegramdotcom #MApoli pic.twitter.com/3WrKk7w8vJ— Rick Cinclair (@RickCinclair) November 3, 2021
Nguyen told Telegram that their grassroots campaign was “for the people, by the people” and stressed the importance of inclusivity and ownership. They said their work as a community organizer helped them succeed, only strengthening their existing relationships within the community.
"I was a familiar face already," Nguyen said. "The trust was already built."
Currently, there are only nine openly non-binary elected officials in the entire country.
Mayor Annise Parker, President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Fund, said that Nguyen has shattered a “rainbow ceiling.”
“Their victory proves voters look beyond gender identity and will elect leaders with the qualifications and drive to improve people’s lives. Thu’s experiences – as a person of color, non-binary person and refugee – will bring a more unique and critical perspective to the city council and it will lead to more inclusive legislation,” Parker said in a statement.