Frost, who was adopted and grew up in a Cuban family, proudly shares his family’s story: His mother came to the U.S. as a child during the Freedom Flights from Cuba in the 1960s. She came with his grandmother Yeya and his aunt, with no money and just one suitcase between them. The family worked hard to make it in their adopted country, but it was rough. Today, his mother is a public school educator who’s taught special education for almost 30 years. (He doesn’t talk much about his father.)
Frost attributes his love of music to growing up in his Cuban family, where he recalls waking up Saturday mornings to the windows flung wide open and Latin music blasting, knowing it was time to clean — a ritual in many Latino homes. That love of music carried into his middle and high school years, when he started a salsa band while attending an arts magnet school. It’s a little-known fact, he says, that his band, Seguro Que Sí, which translates in English to “of course,” played in the parade at then-President Barack Obama’s second inauguration.
But, as he tells it, his decision to run for Congress comes from another part of his identity. Last year, amid news that Demings was running for Senate in an attempt to unseat Republican Marco Rubio, local organizers began courting Frost to run for her open House seat.
Initially, however, he didn’t want to do it. Having worked on campaigns in the past, he knew a lot of the stresses of running for office.
“And I just didn’t think it was my time,” he says.
But that changed last July when he connected with his biological mother. In an emotional call, she told him she gave birth to him at the most vulnerable point in her life. She was battling a host of ills when she put him up for adoption — drugs, crime and poverty — systemic problems in need of real-life solutions, Frost says.
“I hung up the phone and said, ‘I need to run for Congress.’”
His activist impulse started early. At 15, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, he started organizing to end gun violence, getting involved in protests and knocking on doors. His resolve and commitment to that cause only amplified in the face of several mass shootings in his state: the 2016 shooting at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“We don’t even have to let him know when we have a protest,” Curtis Hierro, senior legislative and political lead for Communication Workers of America in Florida, says to a group of about a dozen union members at the local union hall readying to go knock on doors in support of Frost. “Maxwell just materializes because you’re part of the movement, you understand movement and it’s what you live and breathe.”
Frost held a host of jobs in field organizing for campaigns and causes before his activism attracted the attention of the ACLU of Florida, where in 2018 he worked on the fight to secure Amendment 4, which restored voting rights to over 1.6 million Floridians with felony convictions. Most recently, he worked as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, the youth-led movement focused on gun violence prevention.
“Someone the other day made the comment, ‘10 years ago, you were 15,’” Frost says with a hint of annoyance. “Yeah, I was 15 — and how sad is it that we live in a country where at 15 I had to be worrying about being shot at my school so I sprung into action?”
“Hell yeah, I was 15 when I started my advocacy.”
In the lobby of his campaign headquarters, there’s a large painting by Manuel Oliver, father of Joaquin, one of the students killed in the Parkland shooting. Against a bright yellow background are images of Joaquin and Frost along with a pointed message: “Time to save lives! So get on board or get out of our way!”
If he’s elected, Frost says, he’ll be putting up the painting in his office on Capitol Hill.