Key Takeaways from Change Can't Wait Event Series 

Michelle Wu’s election as Boston’s first woman and first person of color elected mayor promises to usher in an era of change in Boston. But for many in the city’s Black and Brown communities, questions remain about how to rectify structural inequities that have prevailed in Boston far too long. 

This fall, the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston partnered with HKS’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation, Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, Center for Public Leadership, and Harvard’s FXB Center for Health and Human Rights for the two-event series  “Change Can’t Wait: A Justice and Equity Agenda for Boston’s Black and Brown Communities.” The events, moderated by HKS Assistant Professor Yanilda Gonzalez and MPP1 student, David Corbie, explored what the mayoral election means for the historically marginalized residents of Boston and what should be at the top of Mayor Wu’s agenda to ensure justice for Black and Brown communities. Here are three key takeaways from the discussions: 

1. True democratic power happens when everyone has a say in the decision-making process.
The panelists agreed: City Hall needs to do a better job of listening to what communities say they need, rather than telling them what they need. To achieve equity and justice, Mayor Wu must put her campaign promise of “building a Boston for everyone” into action. Black and Brown communities need to have a voice in deciding how the city is governed and where funds and resources are invested, including democratizing the city’s budgeting process by allowing residents to vote on where resources are directed, also known as participatory budgeting. 

2. It’s finally time to make progress on longstanding inequities.
The same issues have plagued Boston for decades – from the lack of affordable housing to inequities around education and public transportation. The mayor can’t limit herself when it comes to tackling these challenges. The panelists want to see big, transformative change and discussed solutions such as funding for first-time homeownership programs, city grants for community organizations and artists, and more. 

3. Investing in Black and Brown-owned businesses will be key to Boston’s success.
For years, Boston has fallen short on efforts to advance equity through its procurement and contracting processes, with less than one percent of city contracts going to Black-owned businesses. Mayor Wu has already taken steps to address this, but the panelists also suggested efforts to support Black and Brown-led businesses such as making it easier for restaurants and small operations to get licenses and offering startup capital to Black and Brown entrepreneurs.

Take a moment to watch recordings of the events on the Ash Center’s YouTube channel and dive into these informative discussions about how we can turn the momentum and excitement from Boston’s historic election into real policy action.