Wilnelia Rivera Is Fighting for Democracy, One Campaign at a Time

Wilnelia Rivera, Ayanna Pressley’s former political campaign strategist, on hosting her first live podcast, making powerful friends, and why she fears for the future of American democracy.

Photo by Pat Piasecki. / Hair and makeup by Julie Silva/Anchor Artists

I’m a strategic disruptor. My role is to bring people together who can actually get something done. To get results, you have to build alliances with constituencies and stakeholders that might make you uncomfortable.

Rivera Consulting has lots of exciting work coming up. Right now we are managing Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse’s challenge to Congressman Richard Neal in western Massachusetts. I think we do a great job getting congressional campaigns launched, and now we want to focus a little more on Beacon Hill, at the state level. We are also hoping to be part of whatever the next frontier of transportation reform is.

I have a podcast called Deep Democracy that’s like satire meets news. The running joke on the show is that our democracy is a dumpster fire, and we discuss stories that highlight that, but we always pivot to something positive that’s happening.

Rivera at a Glance

Born to: Puerto Rican and Dominican parents
Earned: A BA and an MA from Tufts University
Consults for: The Barr Foundation, the Urban Land Institute, and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

Democracy can’t be like a sporting event where you sit on the sidelines and hope your favorite team wins. We’re the ones who have to push for change.

This country has one of the best legal frameworks for equality in the world. But that doesn’t translate into a culture in which homelessness and poverty are erased, or where women earn an equal wage. What changes culture is our connections to one another. Those relationships happen not at the ballot box, but every day at the bus stop or the coffee shop. It’s those interactions that add to our values.