Boston Debate League

Alumnus Making Change in the Mayor's Office

September 30, 2022 | By Sayyida Jean-Charles

BDL Alumnus represents the Mattapan community

Boston Debate League Alumnus Eric James is the new Mattapan Liaison for the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. The Neighborhood Service office encourages community residents to voice their opinions in all aspects of government. The neighborhood liaison is an integral part of the Mayor’s Office in connecting residents to city services and resources by ensuring their voice is present during important decision-making meetings or that their neighborhood has the necessary emergency resources available.

James was a member of Brighton High School’s debate team. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with a Bachelor of Arts in Crime and Justice. As the new Mattapan Liaison, James collects Mattapan residents’ opinions and concerns about their neighborhood. He enjoys having honest conversations with community members because it gives him an understanding of residents’ genuine concerns and challenges. James values the importance of collaborating with the community on resolving issues.

“The older you get, people will try to put you in a box they see fit, and my advice is to use [the skills] you have and demand what you deserve.”
– Eric James

James appreciates debate for challenging him mentally, developing his confidence, and becoming a better public speaker. Working in the public sector, he found that it can be easy to feel the imposter syndrome, but his time as a debater helped him to have the willpower to continue to push through in new settings. However, the most valuable lesson from his debate career was to breathe and take pauses when speaking. As James settled into his role as Mattapan Liaison, he was invited to speak during one of the Mayor’s Neighborhood Coffee Hours, the Coffee Hours are a time when residents can speak with the Mayor and City Staff directly. Although initially nervous about his debut on the Coffee Hour Chat, James remembered to breathe and take pauses to deliver his statement. At the conclusion of the hour, James received many congratulations from state representatives on his speech.

As a former debater, his advice for current students is to “use the resources available to you and the resources you were born with, use your stubbornness to your benefit, and don’t let anyone tell you you deserve less.”