Scholars, representatives of nonprofits and activists from throughout the African diaspora gathered at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland earlier this month to discuss the growing movement to secure reparations from the nations that participated in and profited from the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
Progressives still lack votes to move agenda
The results of the Nov. 3 municipal election revealed a profound shift in Boston with two women of color — Ayanna Pressley and Michelle Wu — winning the majority of the votes in the city and a longstanding councilor – Stephen Murphy — displaced by female challenger Anissa Essaibi George. That Murphy, a longtime Hyde Park resident, lost by a wide margin on his Ward 18 home turf to Ayanna Pressley demonstrates how much the city has changed.
Jamaica Plain activists and Boston Redevelopment Authority representatives entered the Boston English High School cafeteria Nov. 4 with a tall order — plotting the future of a mile-long stretch of Washington Street in the face of rising rents, sky-high real estate values and an abundance of vacant and under-utilized land.
White conservative voter influence seen waning
The center city electoral base of blacks, Latinos, Asians and progressive-leaning whites, which electoral strategists have referred to as the hole in the donut, has grown at the same time the white electoral base on the periphery has declined. Nowhere has the expansion of voters of color been more palpable than in Hyde Park, the neighborhood that once served as Murphy’s electoral base.
Two weeks ago members of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee grilled developers over two controversial plans: one calling for Northeastern University student housing on Parcel 3 and another calling for a new Conservatory Lab Charter School building at Bartlett Yard. This past Monday, committee members underscored their opposition to the respective plans, with City Councilor Tito Jackson calling for the de-designation of Feldco Development as a partner on the P3 project.
Five caucuses working on broad spectrum of bills
In an unprecedented collaboration, members of the Black and Latino Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, the Harm Reduction and Drug Law Reform Caucus and the House and Senate Progressive caucuses came together to share information and build support for a coordinated push to change everything from pedestrian stops to the state’s bail system.
Challengers Andrea joy Campbell and Anissa Essaibi George secured spots on the city council, sweeping out that body’s two longest serving members: Charles Yancey and Stephen Murphy.
Local activists concerned about worsening situation on island
Puerto Rico’s long-struggling economy went from bad to worse this year, with Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla asserting that the island’s $72 billion debt burden may never be repaid. Creditors are calling on Puerto Rico’s government to close schools and cut services while Garcia Padilla and others on the island are appealing to the Obama administration to allow Puerto Rico to declare bankruptcy.
Last week the Boston Redevelopment Authority board gave the BHA the green light to begin phase one of its redevelopment of the Whittier Street public housing development — a $44 million tear-down of one of Whittier Street’s eight-story buildings on Cabot Street and the reconstruction of 68 affordable units in two new buildings, to be sited along Melnea Cass Boulevard.
Social media apps give rise to biased crime reporting
Programs that encourage reporting “suspicious activity” to police have revealed widespread racial biases among civilians, as whites frequently report black neighbors for doing nothing more than going about their daily lives. New social media networks and apps like Operation GroupeMe and Nextdoor further have encourage whites to give voice to racial paranoia.
Education activists and elected officials turned out last week for a marathon hearing on proposals to lift the cap on the state’s charter schools, the opening skirmish in one of the nation’s most heated battles over public education funding.
Boston parents shared their struggles and frustrations seeking school assignments as the Boston Public Schools are considering changes to the current school assignment policy that would allow parents to apply to charter and public schools with one form. The meeting, held last Thursday, was organized by the Boston Compact, an organization that facilitates cooperation between Boston Public Schools, charters and Catholic schools. BPS officials, charter school representatives and education activists joined the parents for a discussion on their experiences with the current assignment system and what they would like to see in a revamped system.
Roxbury neighbors express opposition to charter, question plan for student housing
Controversial development projects dominated Monday’s meeting of the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, the group charged with delivering community input on major development projects on city and state-owned land in Roxbury. Nuestra Comunidad’s plan to site the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Bartlett Yard, a plan much farther along than the Parcel 3 plan, sparked vigorous opposition at the RSMPOC meeting.
Government officials and activists from the nonprofit sector came together last week to explore ways to combat racial inequality in Boston last week during a day-long conference in Dudley Square. The conference, titled Advancing Racial Equity, the Role of Government, was sponsored by the City of Boston and a coalition of housing, health and civil rights groups.
NAACP forum explores effects of charters on district school funding
With a lawsuit, a ballot initiative and legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker all aimed at lifting the state’s cap on charter schools, district school supporters are sounding a note of caution, warning that new charter seats will siphon public education dollars away from Boston’s schools.
Chinatown being squeezed by luxury highrises
In Chinatown row houses, struggling families are seeing their rents double and triple, as well-heeled professionals seeking proximity to their downtown jobs rediscover city living. Looming above the warren of narrow streets are new steel-and-glass luxury towers, including the Millennium with its $37.5 million 60th floor penthouse.
The low turnout during the September 8 preliminary municipal election and confusion over precincts in the City Council District 4 are two of the issues newly-appointed Election Department Commissioner Dion Irish will look at in his new role.
Some Roxbury residents are questioning the city’s approval of a 40-unit mixed-income development by The Community Builders at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Quincy Street
Tito Jackson gets 66 percent of District 7 vote
Newcomer Andrea Campbell and incumbent Tito Jackson finished first in the District 4 and District 7 City Council preliminaries, both with commanding leads in a low-turnout election day.
Kavayah Wright, Richard Smith and Anthony Schultz teamed up to run a program, through Smith’s National Youth Development Council, at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and at a second location in Cambridge. For three days a week, students enrolled in the after-school program will learn the fundamentals of audio engineering, recording, animation and other cutting edge technologies in the music and film industries. The program is open to all Boston high school students. Smith will serve as the program’s coordinator. Wright and Schultz are among the program’s instructors.
The Boston Police Camera Action Team has made it possible for body cam supporters to track where their councilors stand on the issue.
Roxbury artist Napoleon Jones Henderson has installed a ceramic mural in the lobby of the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square.
Cites state’s leadership on minimum wage, leave time
At a breakfast sponsored by the Greater Boston Labor Council, the president announced he has signed an executive order requiring companies that contract with the federal government to provide seven days a year of paid sick leave for employees.
Oppressive heat, the first day of school and the day after Labor Day conspired to drive down turnout for the preliminary balloting in City Council districts 4 and 7.
Twenty years after creating a mural showcasing Roxbury history in Dudley Square, artist Michael Womble returned to refresh and revise the work.
New talent emerges with winning presentations
Caribbean Carnival, one of Boston’s largest cultural events, showcased new talent this year, with new band leaders and designers winning awards.
Roxbury voters objected to the Governor's economic development Sept. 8 listening session tour date in Roxbury, which coincides with the preliminary voting for City Council.
Parades and competitions this week
Carnival Parade comes to Boston this Saturday with a parade of mas bands. Contestants will compete against each other before a panel of judges who are flown in from Trinidad. The parade, which regularly draws tens of thousands of participants and spectators, is the largest cultural event in Boston’s black community and one of the largest in the city. Several other parades and competitions will happen this week.
Roxbury woman suing T for civil rights violation
Last week, the ACLU of Massachusetts announced a lawsuit against the MBTA Police Department for police brutality and posted its webpage video recordings of the 2014 beating of Mary Holmes by officers Jennifer Garvey and Alfred Trinh. Holmes was facing charges of assault and battery on a public employee, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, but the bus station videos showed clearly that Holmes did nothing to warrant the attack. This is the type of abuse many in the black community have complained about for decades.
A video of a Boston Police officer choking a teen has angered activists. The mayors response to reporters' questions about the video seems to have fanned the flames.
At a time when the City of Boston has been seen resisting a proposal to outfit BPD officers with body-worn cameras, the case of a woman beaten by MBTA officers underscored how effective cameras can be at countering embellished police reports.
While the steel and glass luxury apartment towers going up downtown have come to typify Boston’s building boom, the city has greenlighted several smaller projects in and around Roxbury that show a different side to the city’s expanding housing market. The projects promise to bring a mixture of market-rate and affordable housing units to the Roxbury area, as well as ground-level retail space that could contribute to the revitalization of long-vacant commercial areas.
Festival is 30th held in Boston
Over the last 30 years, the city’s Dominican community has grown from a few thousand families centered in Jamaica Plain to one of the city’s largest ethnic groups. With more than 38,000 Boston residents claiming Dominican heritage, Dominicans have surpassed Puerto Ricans as the largest Latino group in Boston.
The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice has filed lawsuits alleging the hair testing the Boston Police Department uses to determine whether officers have used drugs is scientifically unsound and more like to generate false positives among blacks than among white officers.
Say Muslims unfairly targeted
Activists in Boston, Minneapolis and Los Angeles spoke out last week against the Obama administration’s Countering Violent Extremism program, calling for more transparency and denouncing what many see as an unwarranted focus on Muslims.
Early Sept. 8 preliminary could see scant turnout
With the date of the city’s preliminary election moved to Tuesday, Sept. 8 — the day after the Labor Day weekend — turnout is expected to be light in Roxbury’s District 7 and Dorchester’s District 4 races. And while both races feature a range of candidates — four in District 4 and six in District 7 — the bounty of candidates will not necessarily translate into an electrified electorate.
During a City Council hearing held by the Committee on Government Operations councilors questioned police officials and members of the Boston Police Camera Action Team on an ordinance that would require police to be outfitted with body-worn cameras.
Local black labor activists have opened a Boston chapter of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, a national group aimed at forging alliances on civil rights and labor issues.
Massachusetts state senators, representatives and sheriffs were among dozens who turned out to a State House hearing July 23 in support of Senate bill 1812, which would end the legal requirement to suspend driver’s licenses for people convicted of non-violent, no-vehicle-related drug offenses for up to five years.
Calls for city to tackle real problems
As the dust settled on the Boston 2024 bid Monday afternoon, elected officials in Boston’s black community reacted with a mixture of relief and optimism.
A court-appointed receiver for the former Radius Hospital on Townsend Street is seeking bidders for an August 13 auction to sell the 159,000-square-foot facility and the five acres of prime Roxbury land on which it sits. Possible uses for the site include a health care facility, a school, dormitory space or housing.
Push for public support comes as report finds fault with agency
The Boston Redevelopment Authority seems to be making good on its pledge to be more transparent and accountable, seeking public support for its urban renewal districts amid revelations the agency is lacks critical planning staff and has potentially mismanaged finances.
Former Radius hospital to be sold
For sale: 159,000 square-foot hospital building complex on five acres of prime Roxbury land. Bids due August 10.
A group of civil rights activists, elected officials and attorneys will soon call on Mayor Martin Walsh to settle longstanding discrimination complaints filed by black officers in the Boston Police Department, reform the system of exams used for hiring and promotion, and take affirmative steps to end police profiling.
Brainstorm arts ideas for Boston Creates
The Dorchester residents packed into a classroom at the Vietnamese American Community Center represent a cross section of the city’s most diverse neighborhood: black, Latino, white and Asian, young and old, brainstorming ideas about how to best enhance the local arts scene. The idea-sharing session was part of the city’s Boston Creates initiative, a 15-month effort aimed at enhancing the city’s arts scene.
Many defend D.R.’s planned deportations
Last week, the scene in front of the Dominican consulate was tense as a predominantly Haitian group of protesters squared off against a smaller group of Dominicans demonstrating in support of the Dominican government. That protest was perhaps the most visible sign of a rift within the Boston-area Dominican community over their government’s new immigration policy, which critics say will effectively render stateless more than 200,000 people born in the Dominican Republic.
Cops now obligated to cite reason for stop
Nine months after the release of a report detailing a pattern of bias in police stops of blacks in Boston, the Boston Police Department has instituted new guidelines for its officers that explicitly prohibit stops based solely on race, gender or physical characteristics.
Legislators, diplomats attend State House event
As the independent nation of Cape Verde turns 40, Cape Verdeans reflect on the historic significance of the date.
City officials, business boosters gather at Strand Theatre
More than 400 came to the Strand Theatre last week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Boston Main Streets program, which has helped revitalize 20 neighborhood business districts in the city.
President Obama’s call to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state capital in South Carolina in the wake of the Charleston church shooting bolstered the growing backlash against the divisive symbol.