Mayor Michelle Wu has appointed Segun Idowu, president of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, to be her chief of economic development, as the city’s new mayor continues building out her cabinet.
Idowu broke the news himself Thursday night, making the announcement at the Black Economic Council’s annual meeting. He informed the audience that he would step down from the council Dec. 31 and start his new post Jan. 3, according to a video of the event posted on Twitter. The announcement was met with cheers and applause.
“We will continue our work, expand our agenda, and make sure some change will be happening,” Idowu said.
Wu retweeted the video with a simple note: “New cabinet chief just dropped.”
Idowu is the latest in a series of key appointments Wu has announced in recent days. Earlier Thursday, her office said Adam Cederbaum, who had served as the city’s chief of government services, will serve as corporation counsel, and Henry C. Luthin, who had been corporation counsel, will be senior counsel.
Idowu, the 31-year-old descendant of a local civil rights activist, has been active in organizing street protests and was the cofounder of the Boston Police Camera Action Team, which called for equipping police with body cameras.
He’s previously worked in City Hall and at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, and in 2018 he ran for state representative in Hyde Park.
During a Friday appearance on Boston Black News Hour, Idowu said he was “humbled and proud” to assume a role in the Wu administration.
“This all just kind of happened pretty suddenly,” he told the show hosts. “[Chief of economic development is] focused on making Boston a more equitable place to live and play and visit, and making sure we’re building wealth for all the people that live here. I’m looking forward to that because that was our work at [Black Economic Council] and now we get to take it to city hall.”
Idowu emerged as a prominent local leader during his time on the Black Economic Council, where he focused particularly on economic empowerment as the solution to generations of racial injustices laid bare by both COVID-19 and the death of George Floyd and other Black people at the hands of police.
“We were in a bad place before the pandemic. The same issues that exist now existed before — access to capital, inventory, staffing,” Idowu said Friday of Black-owned businesses.
His experience with the BECMA will inform the role he assumes at City Hall, he said.
“At BECM, we don’t talk about access to capital. We talk about the dispersal of capital because the people who have the money just don’t give it to us,” he said. “So what is the city going to do? We’re going to keep making sure that not only is the city getting money to people, but making sure that our private sector friends are putting money in the pot to help our folks, work with state government, and with federal dollars making sure they’re helping our businesses.”
In 2015, BECMA’s advocacy began after startling data from the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston revealed that the median net worth of the city’s Black residents was just $8. In response, Idowu helped convene a coalition of local advocacy groups asking Massachusetts leaders to commit to a set of economic empowerment objectives that includes a $1 billion fund to reduce racial inequities over the next decade. The “reconstruction and rehabilitation fund” invests in causes ranging from nonprofits to housing to alternative economic models.
“I’ve always said I want to see the next Black Wall Street in Boston,” Idowu told the Globe in a July 2020 interview. “It’s possible to do it, there’s enough of us here, and there’s enough capital.”
New cabinet chief just dropped: https://t.co/LFeGmq3QLa— Michelle Wu 吳弭 (@wutrain) November 19, 2021
Julia Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.