Roxbury residents, at a packed community meeting Tuesday night, sharply questioned whether the jobs and other benefits promised by Boston Olympic planners would flow to people of color.
“We want to sit at the table, but we don’t want to just eat up whatever it is that’s in front of us and then ask, ‘Well, what was that?’ ” said resident Benjamin Jackson. “We need to have some clear understanding of what you’re planning.”
Despite attending several meetings, Jackson said all he has heard from Boston 2024 are “nice stories” about housing and jobs, but “I have no more clarity now than I did last time.”
Another resident, Joao DePina, turned his back on the Boston 2024 officials on stage and addressed the crowd of about 350 people at Roxbury Community College. In comments that sparked applause, he said the traditionally working-class African-American neighborhood is rapidly gentrifying and “2024 is just another way to finish it off.”
The reception was another indication of the deep vein of skepticism Olympic planners face as they try to persuade the public to embrace the city’s bid ahead of a planned statewide referendum in 2016.
Boston 2024 officials told the crowd they are committed to including people of color.
The group’s chief executive, Richard A. Davey, said 35 percent of the organization’s employees are minorities.
Paige Scott Reed, the group’s general counsel, who is African-American, said Boston 2024 is planning to ensure that training and hiring programs are in place so that those chosen for contracts include “people who look like me.”
“We’re going to work really hard to show you through actions” that Boston 2024 is committed to hiring minorities, Reed said.
But residents said they had little confidence in such promises. “We’re still suffering from urban renewal from before, and I really don’t want to see it again,” said Sarah-Ann Shaw, a longtime Roxbury activist. “If you want us to acknowledge the Olympics coming to Boston, make us part of it.”
Some residents said they believed the Games could benefit Roxbury. Janice Griffith said the cultural component could showcase local musicians and artists. She said she lived in Atlanta during the 1996 Summer Olympics and it “was a very positive experience” — “like a big party.”
“Keep an open mind,” she said.Levenson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.