A coalition of grassroots community groups has sent a letter to City Councilor Michelle Wu to share “grave concerns” over her “treatment of Black and brown immigrant communities” at two political forums.
In the letter — shared with the Globe and signed by eight leaders from African, Haitian, Latinx, and Brazilian communities — the coalition, called Equity Now & Beyond, demanded a meeting with Wu within two weeks if she is elected. They also asked that she include one member of their group in her transition team to ensure the needs of Black and brown immigrants are included in her policies.
The group, in a separate statement, said it is “demanding that Councilor Wu engage Boston’s Black and brown immigrant communities with the respect they deserve.”
“We hear and appreciate your perspective,” campaign manager Mary Lou Akai-Ferguson wrote in an e-mail to the group shared with the Globe, in which she also apologized for “any scheduling confusion that may have occurred.”
She wrote that Wu has repeatedly demonstrated her commitment and how deeply she values every community in Boston, including Black and brown immigrant communities.
“Should Michelle be elected mayor, we absolutely look forward to engaging you and other members of the community in the earliest days of the administration to plan for how we can work together, advance the important policies Michelle has outlined, and make real progress on the most pressing challenges facing Black and brown immigrant communities in Boston,” Akai-Ferguson said.
In the letter, members of the coalition highlighted two incidences they felt were disrespectful to Black and brown communities.
One related to an African and Muslim community forum held last Saturday by former City Council candidate Said Abdikarim where Wu attended for half an hour via Zoom from her car. The Globe reported that community members felt snubbed and were caught off guard when her campaign said she would not attend in person, scrambling to accommodate Wu on Zoom.
The other incident related to Equity Now & Beyond’s mayoral forum on immigrant health equity held earlier this month.
In the letter, the group said it secured Wu’s and rival Annissa Essaibi George’s participation in the forum weeks in advance of the Oct. 15 event and arranged for translators in multiple languages to be there.
The group said that a few hours before the forum, Wu’s campaign told the organizers she would not attend the event, without providing a reason.
The group said it pressed Wu to keep her commitment and eventually persuaded her to attend. Wu’s campaign team then told organizers the candidate had initially backed out because she was sick, according to Equity Now & Beyond’s letter. The letter said Wu went on to attend a separate campaign event right afterward, leading the group to question the veracity of her excuse. Wu’s campaign told the Globe she did not attend a campaign event after the forum.
“Our sister organizations and partners in the African and Muslim communities . . . were similarly mistreated,” the group said in the letter to Wu, referencing the event the Globe previously wrote about.
The letter stated that at the Equity Now & Beyond event, Wu committed to meeting with the group within 90 days of inauguration, “but your recent disrespectful conduct makes this meeting more urgent.”
It was signed by Clare Louise Okalany and Abdulkadir Y. Hussein of the African Community Economic Development of New England, Damaris Velasquez and Patricia Sobalvarro of Agencia ALPHA, the Rev. Dieufort Fleurissaint with Haitian Americans United, Heloisa Galvão with Brazilian Women’s Group, and Dina Hernandez and Kevin Whalen of the Center to Support Immigrant Organizing.
In the Wu campaign’s response, Akai-Ferguson wrote that they “have made every effort to communicate in a clear and timely manner with forum organizers and community leaders, even as schedules are shifting day by day and sometimes hour by hour. We apologize for any scheduling confusion that may have occurred.”
The Globe previously wrote about how members of Boston’s African and Muslim community were disappointed to miss out on a chance to hear from Wu on issues specific to their needs, such as parking spots around mosques, quality of education in local schools, and women-only hours in public pools or gyms.
Wu attended the event via Zoom from a car for half an hour, long enough to introduce herself and answer three questions on housing, education, and making the bureaucratic process easier for small businesses owners who don’t speak English.
Her rival, Essaibi George, attended in person for the whole hour.
In a statement to the Globe through her spokeswoman, Wu said, “I’m grateful for the years of partnership and many opportunities to connect with members of the African and Muslim community over my time in City Hall and before, from multiple forums and visits to the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center, to listening sessions with community members, and I was glad to be offered the option to participate remotely in this forum.
“I look forward to continuing and deepening that engagement,” she said.