In the three months since the COVID-19 pandemic began to turn our lives upside-down, we’ve all been forced to rethink the way we do everything, from buying groceries to keeping in touch with loved ones. While it hasn’t been easy, we’ve found a way to adapt and persevere. This is especially true for Boston’s young people and their caretakers who have worked tirelessly to provide equitable educational opportunities for all.
Through my many years as an advocate and organizer for children and education, I am intimately aware that a quality education is one of, if not the, most important social determinants of health. This entails more than just in-classroom instruction; it involves mentorship by teachers and coaches, the sense of community with fellow classmates, and the lifelong memories you create.
I especially want to commend and congratulate the Class of 2020. You have made sacrifices that will drive your future success. We are grateful for your perseverance and for your leadership. As students, you have demonstrated self-agency in your own learning and you have been strong advocates for your communities.
As disruptive as COVID has been, we cannot, nor should we, strive to return to “normal.” The normal with which we have all become too familiar is a slow, painful death for poor Black people. The Black community is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 because of systemic inequities. Those same systemic inequities are fueling protests in cities all across America, in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and countless others, whose cries for breath went unheard.
Our city’s young people are calling for the end of a system that relegates Black people to substandard housing, low-paying jobs, and underfunded schools. Young people have always been at the forefront of movements that have led to real change. That was true of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and that is true now, in our current movement for Black Lives. As president of the most diverse City Council in Boston’s history, I’m proud to support our young people in this critical time in our nation’s history, as we continue to demand justice and to push for policies that promote and protect all who live in our city. I am deeply grateful for your advocacy, your leadership, and your commitment to our community!
Kim Janey is president of the Boston City Council.