Today is a new day.
We are making history. I am being sworn in as the first woman and first Black mayor of Boston in the city that I love. I come to this day with life experiences different from the men who came before me.
As a girl growing up in Boston, I was nurtured by a family who believed in me, surrounded by good neighbors who knew my name. My family has deep roots in the South End and six generations in Roxbury, the center of our great city. I come from a long line of proud educators, entrepreneurs, artists, and advocates.
But when I was just 11, school busing rolled into my life. I was forced onto the front lines of the 1970s school desegregation battle. I faced rocks and racial slurs thrown at my bus, for simply attending school while Black.
I grew up quickly, becoming a mother in high school. I cleaned bathrooms to afford Smith College and to give my daughter everything she needed to succeed.
As I juggled it all, like so many others, I felt my first call to give back to this city I love.
My early experiences with community organizing inspired me to start working on behalf of all children, because I understood my own daughter’s experiences were interconnected with every other child’s across the city.
As part of Massachusetts Advocates for Children, I led efforts to make lasting policy reforms that promote equity and excellence in education for Boston Public Schools students.
That work led me to the Boston City Council in 2018, when I became the first woman to represent District 7, where I continued my fight for economic justice and civil rights and was elected by my peers to serve as City Council president.
And that, in turn, leads to me taking the oath of office as the 55th mayor of Boston.
As I assume the responsibilities of mayor, I promise bold, courageous leadership and a citywide agenda of recovery, reopening, and renewal.
That starts with an unrelenting focus to address the impacts of COVID-19. While there are signs of hope and we are making progress in this fight, we must do a better job of making vaccines accessible, especially to the communities hardest hit. I will partner with other federal, state, and local community leaders to support testing and vaccinations across our city.
Recovery must also include returning students and teachers safely back to their classrooms. That means following the science and public health guidance that keep public schools safe.
Let’s be clear — the problems laid bare by the pandemic were here before COVID-19. The issues of affordable housing, public transportation, and climate change are not new. What’s different is that these problems now impact more of us.
We may not all face the same challenges, but we do share many of the same dreams for our families and communities.
As we safely reopen our city, addressing these challenges openly and honestly creates an opportunity to come together, heal, and build a better, more equitable city.
The city has an enormous wealth gap. The median net worth for Black families is just $8. This is not an accident. It’s the product of discriminatory policies that we have all inherited. Under my leadership, we will call out this gap and implement workforce, housing, and education policies to address it.
Unemployment rates spiked to 18.5 percent for Hispanic and Latino workers and 16.6 percent for Black workers at the start of the pandemic, compared to 12.8 percent for white workers. The same communities hardest hit by the public health crisis are experiencing the highest rates of housing and food insecurity. My administration will address these economic disparities with new urgency to reopen Boston’s economy with equity.
A recent disparity study commissioned by the city showed the enormous inequality in our city contracts. Entrepreneurs of color who deserve a fair shot at doing business with the city are being shut out. We will take action to solve this problem with new creative solutions developed in partnership with stakeholders to boost city contracts with minority business enterprises and new strategies to hold ourselves accountable.
Dismantling systemic racism also includes reforming how we police our city. As city council president, I advocated to address racial profiling, end excessive use of force, and ban the use of facial recognition software. As mayor, I will continue to advocate and lead such reforms. Working together with the police department, I am determined to bring safety, healing, and justice to every neighborhood.
So, while Boston has come so far, we also must acknowledge that we have so much more work to do.
That work starts now.
I am ready to lead our city toward equity, justice, and joy. That means leading a citywide economic recovery that is equitable — especially for the residents and small businesses hardest hit. I call on business leaders, nonprofit organizations, community activists, and those who have felt left out to join us in reopening and renewing every part of our city. You will always have an open door to City Hall.
To the people of Boston I say, you are the essential part of this recovery. Let’s not be afraid to tackle the longer-term challenges we face together — from improving public schools and public health as well as public transportation and public safety.
We all want safe neighborhoods, good jobs, great schools, and an affordable place to call home.
Today is a new day for Boston. As your mayor, I promise to bring my life experiences and passion to make this city better for everyone. I will strive to make positive change across our city.
I welcome all those who want a better Boston to join us in building a brighter future together. I will work each day so that all residents have opportunities to learn, earn, and thrive. I vow to be a mayor for the entire city — for every neighborhood.
If we all work together, there is nothing Boston can’t accomplish.
Kim Janey is the acting mayor of Boston.