The voters have spoken, and Boston’s next mayor will be a woman, but not a Black woman. For those hopeful that a Black Bostonian would finally achieve the mayoral office, the disappointment about Tuesday’s preliminary election, when none of the three Black candidates advanced to the final, was severe but not altogether surprising.
While many will analyze why Boston didn’t elect a Black candidate, let’s focus on the future. Over 40 percent of voters selected a Black candidate. The issues of equity and social justice were prominent in the campaigns of all five candidates. And finally, all of the candidates ran quality campaigns. In other words, much progress was made.
Policy makers, non-profits, and corporate communities must collectively turn our attention to the policies and programs that seek to address the vast racial wealth gap, our history of systemic racism, and the continued lack of substantive policies to improve the economic well-being of Black Bostonians, even as we understand that these inequities intersect and are interconnected with other social categorizations such as race, class, and gender that create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination.
Despite many good-faith efforts and decades of spectacular growth and prosperity, Boston continues to be a tale of two cities: one prosperous and well off, the other struggling to make ends meet in one of the nation’s most expensive and economically unequal cities. And the coronavirus pandemic has thrown these inequities in sharper relief.
Whoever wins in November — either Annissa Essaibi George or Michelle Wu, both city councilors — must be truly committed to equity and social justice for Blacks living in the legacy of two centuries of slavery and 150 years of Jim Crow. Blacks have been legally free to live and work without discrimination only since the Civil Rights and Fair Housing Acts of the 1960s, and even then, laws alone don’t always translate to equity on the streets. Our ancestors built this country without remuneration — including providing low-priced cotton that fed the growth and wealth of textile mills in Massachusetts — and we are still seeking to catch up. We need a partner in Boston City Hall and the State House, regardless of race, gender, or ethnicity, who will implement policies and take measurable actions to close the racial wealth gap.
We must acknowledge a compelling, powerful truth: Black Americans have spent more time in slavery than they have as emancipated people — almost a century more in slavery than in freedom.
The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts was organized in 2015 to develop policies and programs to improve the economic well-being of Black businesses, organizations, and individuals in the Commonwealth. BECMA’s Black Economic Policy Agenda is simple but comprehensive. It’s focused on four areas: investing in Black businesses and entrepreneurs, empowering workers and leaders, developing students and tomorrow’s workforce, and building an equitable and sustainable green infrastructure.
The recommendations are concrete, including specific bills that need passing — such as House Bills H.3166 and H.3167 that would expand opportunities for minority and women businesses in public contracting and construction — as well as funding that needs to be secured. We need leadership in Boston City Hall to commit to and, more important, champion the recommendations to move our city forward.
Finally, Boston’s next mayor and her leadership team need to recognize that the world is watching. Some cities and municipalities are addressing the issues raised by the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, and the impact of climate change to create more fair, equitable, and green communities. These municipalities and their leaders represent the future. Boston cannot stay stuck in the past. Both mayoral candidates must discuss, in specific detail, their Black economic policy agenda to see if either can be a reliable partner to change Boston in a truly meaningful way. Both candidates need to advance plans for economic parity.
Most important, we must recognize that the call for these commitments is not a zero sum game. All of us win in an equitable and just society.
We earnestly look forward to partnering with the next mayor of Boston.
Herby Duverné is CEO of the Windwalker Group and founder and partner of RISE Together. Lee Pelton is president and CEO of the Boston Foundation. Darryl Settles is president of Catalyst Ventures Development. Richard Taylor is former secretary of transportation and managing director of Nubian Square Development. Teri Williams is president and COO of OneUnited Bank and chair of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts.