In the Legislature, where diversity of elected officials lags far behind the population, an open seat in a predominantly nonwhite district takes on special importance. State Representative Gloria Fox, who decided not to seek reelection after 16 terms in office, is the only black woman in the House and one of just six black members in the entire Legislature.
Although Fox's departure threatened to create a wider gulf in minority representation on Beacon Hill, three black women have stepped up to run for the seat. The Globe endorses Monica Cannon, a Roxbury resident who is a longtime activist involved with the Boston Public Schools.
The district includes Roxbury, the Fenway, parts of the Back Bay, and the Longwood medical area — disparate neighborhoods that are all feeling some variety of pressure from gentrification and development. Cannon has worked as the executive director of City Councilor Tito Jackson's Community Fund, and served as community liaison for the City of Boston in Roxbury's Warren Gardens neighborhood. That experience will make her an invaluable asset for longtime residents threatened with displacement.
Lack of educational opportunity and stubborn levels of crime plague some parts of the district. Cannon's hard work on community safety as a member of the Peace Collaborative and her fiery advocacy for education as a pathway out of poverty will serve her constituents well.
The two other challengers for the seat underscore why there's cause for optimism in the next generation of political representation. Chynah Tyler, who worked as a legislative aide for Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz, is an advocate for more affordable housing in the district; Marydith Tuitt, Fox's chief of staff, is an immigrant from Montserrat and a Navy veteran with a strong record of activism. Both women have much to offer in terms of community leadership.
The winner of the Sept. 8 primary will face no opposition in the November election. And while it's heartening that Fox, who has represented the Seventh Suffolk capably for over 30 years, will be replaced by a qualified black woman, the larger issue of minority representation remains. Just 17 of the 160 members of the House of Representatives are black, Latino, or Asian, reflecting a need for more grass-roots organizing and additional redistricting that would create more majority-minority districts. A diverse Legislature is an important part of the future for an increasingly diverse Commonwealth.