I have lived in Roxbury for the 40 years of my life. My community and the people in it, as well as my lived experience has shaped the man that I am today. Each triumph in life worthy of celebration and in every loss a lesson to be learned.
In 2012, I was falsely accused of assaulting a woman. Knowing my innocence, I went to trial with the faith that a jury would hear the multiple different versions of the false accusation and acquit me of all charges. Unfortunately, the jury acquitted me of only 3 of the 5 false charges.
With no previous record and almost two decades of service to my community, I, like so many others from my community, received a harsher sentence than expected. Being innocent, this was especially tough for me to accept. I was immediately sentenced and sent to jail.
Shortly thereafter, I was wrongfully removed from the office I held as State Representative for Roxbury & Dorchester. I was not removed by the voters who had just reelected me based on my work but by members of the House, many of whom have never lived, served or even visited Roxbury or Dorchester.
During my time in jail, instead of burying my head, I continued to develop myself mentally, physically and spiritually. I read regularly, exercised and took part in fellowship groups. I began to train other men for interviews, applications for housing and other important skills to improve their chances of being productive returning citizens.
All the knowledge and skills I had developed in this community and through serving this community could still be applied to helping others better themselves.
When I returned home, my mental health was damaged. Having served on the mental health and substance community as a State Representative, I knew how important it was for me to do what was necessary to be the healthiest man I could be.
I was mandated to a course for men convicted of assault. I attended and at first I was angry. Feeling wronged and that I shouldn’t have to be there. However, staring me in the face was an opportunity to learn more about violence than I learned as a State Representative who had previously hosted lobby days for domestic violence organizations as well as co-sponsored legislation and funding to support their incredible work.
My loss, my personal tragedy of losing my freedom temporarily, a career that I loved and that allowed me to serve my neighbors each day in so many ways opened an opportunity to grow more as a man.
As a State Representative, I knew from working with organizations like Jane Doe Inc and others that domestic violence is an issue that needs to be addressed primarily by men. My unfortunate experiences gave me the tools to be a better advocate and model for other men and boys around me. Through my years of community work and time as Rep, I often spoke at schools, especially to groups of boys.
What I was able to add to my understanding and my messaging to boys and men had changed. My lesson learned now included being very careful of those you are around because you don’t know if they have good or bad intentions. My own reflection and regret stems from not being more careful. I have learned to be more guarded and discerning on who I spend time with and the actions taking place.
I also talk about the toxic masculinity all around us that can create dangerous belief systems. We talk about gender based insults, gender roles, what healthy relationships look like and how violence of any form (verbal, financial, emotional or physical) is unacceptable. In these discussions, many of our earlier formed beliefs must be challenged if we are to continue to grow.
The truth is sometimes inconvenient for some. Faith doesn’t always make the path easy. But I walk in the truth and in faith. Service through politics is something that I love, it is a life that my parents Julio & Sandra Henriquez instilled in me early.
I choose to continue this path of truth and faith. I choose to continue to serve my community. I choose to be a man of my community that models a healthy lifestyle. It is my hope that continuing on this path inspires others and proves that no matter what obstacles life puts in our way that we are able to overcome.