On Tuesday evening, the Center for Multicultural Life and the Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) partnered to bring Portland City Councillor and community organizer Victoria Pelletier to Bowdoin. The event featured a conversation and Q&A with Pelletier led by Interim Director of the Center for Multicultural Life Kyra Green. Pelletier spoke about her life in activism, politics and therapy.
The talk was part of a series of events held during “No Hate November,” an annual BSG initiative dedicated to remembering past bias incidents and promoting an inclusive and respectful campus.
BSG was having trouble finding a speaker for No Hate November, so Green suggested Pelletier, who she found out about and started following a few years ago.
“I had heard a lot about her work and I saw that she was running for city councilor in Portland. And she’s from Brunswick and she does a lot around activism and racial equity,” Green said.
As of her November 2 electoral victory in the Portland City Council race, Pelletier is the second black woman to ever hold the position. A political newcomer, she defeated former City Councillor and Maine State Legislator Jon Hinck, who is 32 years her senior. During her talk, she recalled her time canvassing and campaigning as being like a fish out of water and having to learn as she went.
A Brunswick native, Pelletier said that her upbringing in a majority-white community played a large role in influencing her career trajectory.
“I think a lot of it is based on growing up in Brunswick and knowing what it’s like to not have your views and viewpoints represented well,” she said. “All of the things that were said that were harmful and all the times that I didn’t speak up because I didn’t want everyone to stare at me have really shaped how I view my advocacy work today and how I work very hard to make sure that everybody is seen.”
Having gone through a difficult period in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and the 2020 presidential election, Pelletier’s talk touched on healthy ways of addressing mental health. Though she admitted to initially being reluctant to start therapy— partially due to the stigma that surrounds it in the Black community—she has now completed a year and a half of therapy and is a keen advocate.
“Even if you’re not an activist, we’re living in such a time where every day is trauma, and I don’t think we realize it because we normalize it, and we make memes about it, and we go on TikTok and joke about it,” she said. “Therapy is really important to unpack that this high anxiety and stress is not the normal way of living. It’s okay to talk to someone, and I am very much pro-therapy.”
The raw energy and spontaneity Pelletier exhibited in her campaign and career struck Cambron Wade ’24, who attended the talk.
“It’s so inspiring to see someone who has taken a passion that they have, realized that they’re really good at something they really want to do and then just going with it,” Wade said. “When you are able to harness that power and self-confidence and go with what you want to do, that’s really exciting.”