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Acting Mayor Kim Janey conceded Monday that Boston has a reputation as a racist city, while expressing hope that a new ad campaign promoting neighborhoods of color to tourists will help alter that perception and telling reporters that “we all have a lot of work to do” to improve the situation.

“You know, Boston does have a reputation as being a racist city,” Janey said. “We all know that here. And we all have a lot of work to do. I think we have come very far. I am standing here before you as the first Black mayor of our city and first woman mayor, and that symbolizes how far we’ve come. But I’ve been the first to say that we have a lot more work to do.”

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Janey briefed reporters during a news conference to formally unveil the $2 million marketing effort, dubbed “All Inclusive.” The stars of the initiative are Black, Latino, and Asian American Bostonians, from restaurateurs to shop owners, who celebrate the city’s majority-minority status in a minute-and-half video, as well as on billboards.

“I think this campaign showcases a Boston that currently exists,” Janey said. “And that is what is so powerful about this campaign. ... I think when we peel back the onion, we see that there’s a lot of great things that are happening in our city. There’s a lot that we can build upon. And we know that there are other cities that have challenges, as well. This is something that we have to do collectively as an entire country.”

Proverb marketing agency founder and managing director Daren Bascome screened the launch video for the All Inclusive Boston campaign.
Proverb marketing agency founder and managing director Daren Bascome screened the launch video for the All Inclusive Boston campaign. Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff

Publicist Colette Phillips, who worked on the All Inclusive campaign, also briefed reporters Monday and said the initiative carries the weight of history behind it.

“It is desgined to rebuild, to reimagine, and re-engineer tourism and the economy in Boston as the city opens for summer of 2021,” Phillips said. “Symbolically, I believe this campaign is a passing of the baton from a white Irish mayor to a Black woman — first in the history of 200 years in this city.”

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The creators of the campaign, Phillips said, “want people to think of Boston the way we see Boston — inclusive, diverse, vibrant, exciting.”

Janey said helping the tourism and hospitality industries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic is a pressing equity issue for the city.

“A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic brought the travel and hospitality sector to a standstill,” Janey said. “Almost overnight, hundreds of entrepreneurs lost their customers, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. It was a devastating blow for the city of Boston. Travel and hospitality is Boston’s third-largest industry, with a workforce that is 70 percent people of color. Our public health and economic recovery from the pandemic must include the workers and businesses that have taken the hardest hit.”

She also stressed that the pandemic is not over.

“We must continue to wear masks, wash our hands, maintain social distance, and get tested regularly,” Janey said. “It is also important that we each get vaccinated when our turn comes.”



Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.