by Tony Menelik Van Der Meer (Boston)
The Boston Marathon bombing has casted a huge shadow on this New England city. The spring bombing left Boston with a new moniker, “Boston Strong” as a way of boosting Boston unity, pride, and of course business. Many in the African American and other communities of color questioned if the new public relations name is inclusive to our conditions. Boston is now a city that has a population that is majority people of color. African Americans are the largest group of color, yet this is not reflective in the work field. The public schools, the public safety, and amount of elected officials do not reflect a strong presents of African Americans and other people of color. Poverty rates in certain sections of Boston’s Black communities are over 80%. Housing subsidies are decreasing while rents are high. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in the Roxbury neighborhood is $2,362. The medium household income in Roxbury is $34,433. What these numbers illustrate is a telling story of gentrification in this Neighborhood. Working class Black families are living between the grips of increasing poverty and despair.
There are several major issues that African American activist are engaged in. There has been a long standing struggle around policies of the Boston Public schools. Black activist are involved with the Coalition for Equal Quality Education. They have fought over the city’s student reassignment plan to neighborhood schools viewing it as a re-segregation of Boston Public Schools. Black Activist is also involved with The Center for Church and Prison who is challenging public officials to change policies that criminalizes African American students in public schools, serving as a feeder system to the prisons. Activist in various Boston neighborhoods have also been fighting for safer streets. Since the Marathon Bombing there have been over 100 shootings in Boston’s communities of color. There are no significant programs in Boston that are addressing the root causes of violence and poverty in African American and other communities of color.
Non-profit organization are limited in their abilities to organize politically to address some of the root causes of social problems around education, housing, jobs, public safety, poverty, and the criminalization of African Americans and other people of color. Very often the non-profits compete for the same resources. They therefore shy away from criticizing public officials and financial institutions for fear of not getting funded.
There are a number of African Americans and other candidates of color running for Mayor. There is a possibility that one of these candidates can get into the final election. As a result of this possibility there is energy and excitement in neighborhoods. There is also a growing interest in developing a people’s assembly to independently push a community based agenda.
During the community march and rally for Trayvon Martin, African American candidates for mayor also attended the Roxbury rally. A diverse and fired up crowd of approximately 500 people participated.