BOSTON MAYOR FINAL : THE COMMUNITIES OF COLOR COME OF AGE POLITICALLY

Image

^ a classic stump speech ; Clayton Turnbull saying it real for John Connolly

— — —

Boston’s voters of color — black, brown, or yellow — have come of age in this campaign like never before. Whoever wins on November 5th, the breadth and sophistication of participation in it by voters Black, Hispanic, Caribbean, or Asian far surpasses anything that Boston has seen at least since the Abolitionist Era. Yes, you can say that these voters’ participation in the election of Barack Obama in 2008 (and in 2012) was strong, broad, and passionate. But Obama is himself a person of color. The participation this time is to the campaigns of two “white guys.” One man fairly well known, the other hardly at all.

Image

^ the way it’s done — but until this year, not so much : State Senator Linda Dorcena-Forry going all out for Marty Walsh (with Felix G. arroyo at his side)

Not only the community leaders have participated, though they have upped their game in this respect. The new development is the participation of every sort of voter of color : union activists, church congregations, business leaders, hip hop DJs, restaurant and club promoters, artists, social networks, political operatives, contractors, and just plain folks. And not only are they participating; they are doing so with an issues agenda. On twitter and at facebook I have read their posts about the contest. Their observations show a knowledge of what’s at stake, and what’s behind the scenes, that matches anything I’ve read by anyone who isn’t a media pro — and show as shrewd a knowledge of the politics as even some media people. Nor is the participation in communities of color merely social mediating. Large numbers of folks are door-knocking, doing meet and greets (i.e., house parties), phone-banking, even fund-raising — for these two white guys who would be Mayor.

Image

^ into the heart of the matter : Pastor Bruce Wall and friends stand with John Connolly

As one who, back in his political operative days in Boston, was often given the task of co-ordinating the City’s Black wards (in those days it was 9, 12, 14 and part of 13 and 15), I well remember when Black participation — the City then had few Hispanic or Viet Namese voters, and Chinatown was an entirely different matter — in a major city election consisted of paying hired volunteers “walking money” to pay to people who would stand at the polling places on election day and hold a sign or pass out palm cards. The candidate himself would rarely visit the Black wards, and what Black leaders there were did not protest this. They expected it. The candidate really had no reason to visit. “Covering the polls” on election day, if you could actually get it done in most of those 40 or so precincts, was usually good enough to win the day. And after that, it was usually good enough for a Mayor to hire a couple of Black ward leaders, to appoint one as an election commissioner, and, eventually, to hire Black youth workers. Even after the horrific crisis over school busing, in the mid-1970s, this situation prevailed.

Change began with Mel King’s campaign in 1983. King was then a state Representative, but not just that. He had a long history of involvement with progressive (indeed, very Left-wing) activism in Boston running back to the 1960s with the implementation, in Boston, of a local adjunct of President Johnson ‘s anti=poverty programs. King had a large following ranging from Robert Kennedy-inspired “white progressives” to activists in the black community, and, with their support and votes King reached the Final election — the first Mayoral Black candidate to do so. Ray Flynn, of South Boston, eventually won the election; but he made a serious effort to visit Boston’s Black neighborhoods and to connect with its leaders. Few votes for him resulted, but there were some; and there were activists who supported him, some quite vigorously. Once elected, Flynn brought those activists into City government. And more : he added Felix D. Arroyo — father of Felix G. Arroyo — into his administration at a high level and also connected as widely as he could with King supporters.

Image

^ what Ray Flynn started with Felix D. Arroyo, Marty Walsh has summed up with Felix G. Arroyo.

What Flynn began, Menino built upon; but his building work was administrative. It remained electorally untested, for the most part. That phase has now definitively ended. Boston’s communities of color — and communities of new immigrants — are stepping now into the contact sport that is election politics and are being wooed by both Walsh and Connolly with an intensity that assures that henceforth the “communities of color” vote will be as necessary a part of any City campaign as “the Italian vote” has been for the past 60 years.

The prejudice evident in the Sacco-Vanzetti crisis of the 1920s, and its tragic end, made integration of Boston’s Italian vote into city politics a necessary goal. It took 30 years to complete that process. It has taken the city almost 40 years, after the “busing” crisis, to integrate its “communities of color” vote similarly, but it has now been done.

If nothing else comes out of this intense and sometimes nasty campaign, the work of integrating communities of color into Boston’s political establishment is an victory the city can take pride in.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Author: hereandsphere

Here and Sphere is an online journal of news, opinion, reviews, advice, & bits n' pieces of everything else - from HERE to SPHERE...... Co-founded by Michael Freedberg, a long-time Boston Phoenix journalist, and Heather Cornell, a South Coast Massachusetts columnist and editor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s