Margaret Brownlee grew up in Portland as a queer Black woman, and knows how it feels to face hurdles because of one’s identity. This is part of what prompted her to run for the South Portland City Council District 4 seat.

“My experience growing up in Portland is very different from the experiences of some of my friends and colleagues who didn’t have to face the hurdles that I did,” Brownlee said. “A lot of people think I’m an immigrant because of the color of my skin. When you look around the halls of South Portland City Hall, everyone is white, and it makes you feel like you don’t really belong. But I want to show that all people, Black and brown people included, belong here. We’re not all immigrants. I think it’s time for those of us with diverse faces, diverse perspectives, different genders, sexualities, and ethnicities to step forward.” Brownlee was encouraged to run by District 5 Representative Deqa Dhalac, who is currently serving her second term.

As the first diversity, equity, and inclusion officer at Maine College of Art and Design, Brownlee supports students of color, students of different faith groups, and those from the LGBTQAI+ community. In this role, she plans faculty and staff training workshops on new initiatives to help advance diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus. She is also working on her doctorate in educational leadership at University of New England. She holds a bachelor’s degree in performing arts from Wells College, and a master’s degree in education from Lesley University.

If elected to the city council, Brownlee would like to pursue improving equity and inclusion, and of focusing on education and community development on a citywide scale. “I would use my expertise to help with hiring and diversifying our staff. I would look into the policies within the city to see where we can expand DEI, as well as examine the city budget to see where we’re allocating our funding,” she explained. Another big goal is fighting for environmental justice and clean air. In 2019, Brownlee volunteered with Protect South Portland, a grassroots group that advocates for protecting the environment and the health and wellbeing of Portland. She called for the city council to do an air test in her neighborhood, which found carcinogens in the air. “I’m raising my family in the area where there’s toxic air, so this issue is close to my heart,” she said.