Earlier this week, Kim Janey, the first black woman and person to run the city of Boston, became acting mayor.
She was sworn in by the first black woman to head the highest court in Massachusetts, Kimberly Budd, and the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts, Ayanna Pressley.
That’s a lot of news for a city that was central to the abolition movement and the educational home of civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr, who studied at Boston University.
Fifty-four white men have run Boston since it was incorporated as a city in 1822, most described as of Irish or “New England Yankee” descent, and before that, numerous select whites since it was established in 1630.
That changed this week with Janey’s promotion to the post of interim mayor, with the strong prospect that she will run for election this November in hopes of consolidating her position.
The outgoing mayor, Martin Walsh, has just left to become Joe Biden’s secretary of labor. As council president, Janey was next in line, with the title of acting mayor bestowed by city charter.
The climb is a far cry from when she was 11 years old and she was being bussed from the predominantly black neighborhood of Roxbury to a high school in a much whiter and grittier neighborhood of Charlestown in 1976, seeing angry white faces protesting the effects of a court. – Mandatory effort intended to desegregate the school district.
“For months I watched them throw stones, bottles, sticks, yell racial slurs … ‘Go back to Africa,’ ‘You don’t belong here,'” he told The Guardian.
Janey returned to that school on her first day as interim mayor, passing a classroom of students learning about desegregation.
“Being able to hear their thoughts about it and then speak to them as someone who has lived through it and is now standing in their classroom as the first black mayor is quite powerful,” he said.
Janey’s ancestors escaped slavery via the Underground Railroad to Nova Scotia, with some settling in Boston seven generations ago, as described by Massachusetts genealogist and author Chris Child.
Janey became a mother at 16 and attended a community college while supporting her daughter, Kimesha.
He transferred to Smith College, where he cleaned bathrooms to pay for his degree. His studies were interrupted to care for a relative, but he finally earned his Smith degree in 1994.
Before entering politics, she worked as an activist and project manager at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, promoting educational equity.
Janey won a 2017 city council election and went on to represent parts of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the South End and Fenway, and the most racially diverse neighborhoods in Dorchester and Roxbury.
Many of his constituents fall under the frequently cited statistic from the 2015 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston: that the median net worth for black families in the city is just $ 8, compared to $ 247,500 for white families. .
That, he said in his first mayor’s speech, “is not an accident. It is the product of the discriminatory policies that we have all inherited. We have to call him. “
His tenure begins at a time when racial and financial inequalities were exposed by the coronavirus pandemic that swept through Boston’s communities of color, especially among essential workers.
Janey’s stated immediate goals are fair vaccine distribution, especially giving more vaccines to underserved black communities, safely returning children to school, and centering underprivileged workers in the city’s economic recovery. . But it has inherited a number of additional challenges.
Janey will be the key facilitator in a budget battle that may mirror the fight she led last year. Shortly after George Floyd’s death under the knees of a white police officer, Janey led a group of councilors to demand that Walsh cut the $ 414 million police budget by 10% and infuse social programs with $ 300. million in city funds.
The effort did not pass and he got an irate response from the police union. Instead, Walsh moved funds from the police overtime budget to other programs.
While she didn’t commit to the same budget cut, in an interview with The Guardian this week, Janey said she was reviewing police reform and plans to hire a director to head the city’s new police accountability office, a measure signed by Walsh in January.
Beyond that, he wants to “think more about issues that go beyond police overtime” and reimagine how residents can respond to crises.
“If a resident calls 911 when they see someone who may be fighting eviction or if they see someone sleeping in the doorway of a store, are the police the correct answer?” He said, adding alternatives like doctors and housing experts might be better responders.
He said he wants to address economic struggles and inequality.
“The very communities most affected by the public health crisis are experiencing the highest rates of food and housing insecurity,” Janey wrote in an op-ed, saying she will address the issue with “new urgency.”
According to Idowu, executive director of the Massachusetts Black Economic Council, she worked with then-Councilor Janey on the issues facing small black businesses and cannabis stores hit hard by the pandemic, and hopes she will improve support.
“What’s important about this is that, in Boston’s 200-year history, the person in the corner office doesn’t need a crash course to understand the experiences of half the city’s population,” Idowu said.
Janey has not announced whether she will run for mayor in November, but two people close to her told The Guardian she is seriously considering it.
He would face a challenge from city councilors Michelle Wu, Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, State Representative Jon Santiago, and the city’s chief of economic development, John Barros, the most racially diverse group of candidates in the history of the city. campaign for mayor of Boston.
But right now, Janey is enjoying her historic moment.
One hundred and ninety-nine years is enough. Lady. Mayor. Kim. Janey, ”reads a video posted on his Twitter account, showing all the white male faces of Boston mayors, ending on his own.