The following is an excerpt from a piece that originally appeared in The Boston Globe on July 13, 2017. Read the full article here.
When Mayor Martin J. Walsh unveiled Thursday his much anticipated initiative intended to tackle what some see as the city’s systematic racism, “Resilient Boston,” he had help from someone who knew the struggle well — and recently.
Meggie Noel spoke about learning the meaning of resilience at Boston Latin School, where she and a classmate spoke out in 2016 about racism at the prestigious school, prompting months-long investigations into the institution.
“All the issues that we were facing in our school system as students of color are simply manifestations and symptoms of a larger issue — and the root of the issue is racism within our society, within our city, within our communities,” said Noel, who now attends Spelman College. “This resilience strategy launch is us as a city opening our throat to sing. It is beginning destroying the system and rebuilding it.”
The launch fell in the midst of a mayoral race that has focused on racial and socioeconomic inequities. City Councilor Tito Jackson — whose mayoral candidacy Noel has endorsed, according to his campaign — has criticized Walsh for failing to correct persistent disparities across the city.
Walsh, meanwhile, has sought to make confronting race a cornerstone of his legacy; he held the first of a series of dialogues on race last fall. This week, his administration is rolling out “Imagine Boston 2030,” a comprehensive development plan that intersects with this racial equity strategy.
But Walsh insists that the proposal is not aimed at promoting himself, telling attendees, “This plan is not about me. . . . This plan is about the future of our city.”
The legacy of 1970s busing still looms large, Walsh said, and this plan is an effort to confront it.
“Busing in Boston was a symptom. The disease wasn’t cured,” he said. “Ignoring what the problems are doesn’t help us. It’s not how recovery happens.”
Boston has experienced rapid growth in recent years, but disparities across racial lines persist. Median household incomes for white Bostonians are more than double those of their black, Latino, and Asian counterparts, according to the “Resilient Boston” report. People of color have a harder time accessing jobs and transportation, and disproportionately bear the burden of natural disasters like major snowstorms, the report concluded.
The new strategy marks the culmination of nearly two years of work by the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Racial Equity and 100 Resilient Cities, a Rockefeller Foundation initiative with partner cities across the globe. Boston joined the 100RC network — which includes New York City, Oakland, Rio De Janeiro, and Dakar — in 2014, and hired Atyia Martin as the city’s first chief resilience officer.
Martin said she and her team consulted with more than 11,000 stakeholders in the process of coming up with a blueprint in the fall and a final plan by this week.