A New Day in Boston?

Boston closed Women’s History Month in 2021 with an event that will undoubtedly find its place in textbook pages. For the first time since its founding, three hundred and ninety-one years ago, we have a Madam Mayor instead of Mr. Mayor. Of the fifty-four terms served by Boston mayors, none have been served out by a person of color; Kim Janey, a Black woman, will be the first.

For a city that has experienced traumatic episodes of racial conflict, Janey’s swearing-in is a watershed moment. For many Latino people, especially those of us who came to Boston in more recent years, the memory of busing in the 1970s and 1980s is not as well known. For those who lived it, it is an indelible scar, sometimes still raw. When Boston Public Schools were court-ordered to reduce severe racial segregation, the resulting racial violence and tension marked the lives of many. There was violence between adults and hateful rhetoric from politicians. Sadly, there was also violence directed against students, who should have been enjoying their childhood. Mayor Janey lived it, she was one of the students bussed from her home in Roxbury to Charlestown. To learn more about this topic, I highly recommend Anthony Luka’s book Common Ground. You simply cannot understand this city, much less the tremendous significance that a student, who lived through that crisis, today runs the city, without knowing the history of busing.

Another point of significance comes from women have made great strides in political representation in legislative bodies, but not in executive positions. Janey becoming Mayor is a step forward. The Barbara Lee Family Foundation, which has studied women in political office for more than twenty years, has consistently found that voters are more comfortable seeing women serve as members of a legislature, where they have to compromise and reach collective decisions, than in executive positions, where they have sole decision-making authority. This is in part simply because we are used to seeing men in such positions. With more examples of female leaders delivering positive results, I hope that the public will increasingly accept what many of us already know: women can handle crises, advocate for their communities, create unity, and represent voters well.

As we celebrate and even enjoy these advances, it is important to recognize that political representation of marginalized groups is not an end, but a tool. Communities of people with less economic resources deserve a rebalancing of power. It{s not acceptable that people continue working fifty, sixty, or more hours a week and still live below the poverty line, there is no justice in that. They do not deserve the dream of homeownership being an increasingly impossible mirage. Single mothers are more likely to live in poverty than any other demographic group. African American and Latino communities have historically suffered discrimination and neglect by government institutions. We hope that by having a person from these communities, who knows the challenges personally, the City will be able to prioritize these communities and seek solutions with the necessary urgency and creativity.

Political representation that translates into action is what the new Mayor of Boston is expected to deliver. Without actions, her period would run the risk of becoming a fleeting, hollow celebration. We hope this is not the case and wish her much success, for our community’s sake.

And, there is still the election in the Fall. Kim Janey took over as Acting Mayor following the confirmation of former Mayor Marty Walsh as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Preliminary elections are scheduled for September and general elections for November. There is still time to file candidacies, so the field is not set. Regardless, even counting only the current candidates, Boston will have the possibility of maintaining a representation of racial and gender groups previously excluded from the fifth-floor office. With three female candidates, two African Americans, one Latino, and an Asian American, it is likely I may be writing a similar column to this one in November! Make sure you vote!

Tania Del Rio lives in Eagle Hill in East Boston with her family. He has a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. She is the Executive Director of the YWCA Cambridge, an association that provides housing and leadership programs for women. She is interested in promoting the civic participation of the Latino community and women’s rights.
Email: taniadelriosolorzano@gmail.com, Twitter: @TaniaDelRioS

About El Heraldo Latino (1258 Articles)
A monthly bilingual newspaper serving East Boston, Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Winthrop, and others.

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