City Councilor Julia Mejia and her daughter rock the lockdown

Stephanie Ebbert – April 24th, 2020 – Boston Globe

It seems safe to say that the City Council has never seen anything like this.

As the continuing pandemic takes its toll on Boston, both economically and psychologically, City Councilor Julia Mejia is trying to lift constituents’ spirits, but not just by brainstorming civic solutions and convening virtual gatherings. She’s also busting moves on TikTok.

Every night for the past 30, Mejia has posted video of herself dancing with her 10-year-old daughter, Annalise Cooper. They mug for the camera and playfully push each another out of the frame as they jockey for prime position. One week, they featured Latin music. Some nights, they go old-school or feature Michael Jackson. They endured both the macarena and the chicken dance. They take requests.

“I’m just doing things my own way,” said Mejia, a onetime MTV reporter.

“We just wanted to bring a little bit of light in these times,” she said.

Mejia, whose historic election by a single vote last fall made her the city’s first Latina councilor, hopes people don’t find her joy inappropriate. But she’s trying to cope and to engage with her daughter after they finish their various Zoom meetings and classes. And she wants to encourage other parents to keep their energy and their spirits up.

“Our kids are watching us,” she said. “We have to set the tone in how we handle stress.”

As an elected official, she is reaching out to constituents in more traditional, if high-tech, ways as well. With Bostonians still hunkered down at home, keeping their requisite social distance, she has hosted live Facebook conversations on the impact COVID-19 is having on particular populations, like the LGBTQ+ and Black and brown communities.

She also worked with local banks and nonprofits to provide relief funds to constituents who are struggling during the shutdown, and to provide them store credit so they can buy food in local bodegas.

“The bodegas continue to be able to thrive. Families can shop locally for things they know how to eat and cook,” said Mejia, who said she grew up in poverty and understands the weight of a food pantry line. “I really wanted people to be able to shop with dignity.”

In a lighter way, her dance moves are helping constituents through this time of economic uncertainty and existential dread. Often, their shih tzu, Toby, makes an appearance. Sometimes Mejia’s 71-year-old mother is drafted into duty for morning yoga to lighten the mood.

“I’m trying to find ways to engage everybody and their mother,” Mejia said. “And my mother.”

Notorious VOG, a morning show radio host on Boston 87.7 FM, offered her virtual applause for one of her posts. “Elected leadership isn’t only advocacy, passing of legislation or even constituent services,” he wrote. “It’s about inspiring/motivating others to pull through tough times.”

Now, after 30 days of dancing, Mejia is keeping her daughter inspired by letting her take over production. And she’s promising their followers next-generation moves, technology, and editing. Maybe even acting.

“I feel like we need to challenge ourselves,” Mejia said. “We don’t want to lose our audience. We want to keep people entertained.”