Over 600 Boston residents attended a public discussion hosted by Mayor Marty Walsh Saturday about racism and its connection to resilience. The first of several conversations to come, the gathering was part of the city’s work as one of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities. Walsh also released a report outlining principles that will underpin Boston’s resilience strategy, to be released in early 2017.
“At this moment in history, Boston will take a stand. We’ll answer the call to put the safety, the rights and the equity of everyone in our city at the top of our agenda, every day,” said Walsh in a statement. “If we want to be a strong city, we have to be able to depend on each other, trust each other and understand each other.”
Recognizing that the most disadvantaged are often hit hardest during emergencies, “The Blueprint: A Preview of the Principles and Framework for Boston’s Resilience Strategy” lists four foundation points: recognizing how contemporary and historical racism have shaped the city; creating a collaborative, inclusive government that includes citizens in decision-making; opening up equitable economic opportunities; and increasing transportation connectivity for low-income communities.
The first acknowledges that at times of crisis, deeply rooted traumas and inequities often rise to the surface, much as Hurricane Katrina brought to national attention how disinvested New Orleans’ poor neighborhoods were. Just acknowledging the past doesn’t alleviate the resulting problems, the blueprint recognizes, but it’s a necessary first step to a more equitable future.
“A truly resilient city is one that works to achieve equity: ensuring that important services reach all residents, including the most vulnerable; providing access to opportunity for all and actively fostering cohesive communities,” said Otis Rolley, 100 Resilient Cities regional director for Africa and North America. “Boston is offering its residents, and its nation, a glimpse into what’s possible when challenges are acknowledged openly and honestly.”
The city will continue to hold conversations on racism in neighborhoods through 2017.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.