New City Commission on Black Men and Boys Comes to a Vote

Photo By Zengzheng Wang

BOSTON, Mass.—The founder of the New Democracy Coalition, Kevin C. Peterson, recently wrote an opinion piece in the Boston Herald giving Boston’s officials a red flag.

“The status of black and Latino men and boys must become one of the city’s priorities,” Peterson said. “If it doesn’t, we are just kicking the can further down a very dangerous road.”

The statistics, according to an earlier article published in SPARE CHANGE NEWS, reflect the critical situation that Boston’s black and Latino men and boys are facing: a 25 to 30 percent higher unemployment rate in neighborhoods with large black populations, such as Mattapan and Dorchester, a Boston public high school dropout rate of 1,000 black students each year, a life expectancy of 58.9 years in the poorest part of Roxbury – and the list goes on.

Last month, at a Boston City Council meeting, Councilor Tito Jackson brought the ordinance creating the Commission on Black and Latino Men and Boys to the floor for a historic vote.

Similar to its alternative, “My Brother’s Keeper,” a program President Obama announced this summer to ease the same crisis from a national perspective, the Commission on Black and Latino Men and Boys aims at dealing with the health and success of young black and Latino men throughout the city.

The proposal of the Commission, which Councilor Jackson introduced in a formal Boston City Council meeting in February, unanimously passed with a vote of 13-0. Not long after the passage of the proposal, Councilor Jackson held two public hearings to address the issues among the local black and Latino community. Both hearings were well-attended, engaging over 300 people.

During one of the hearings this past May, a couple of heartbreaking stories were brought up by several local civil rights activists. One of them involved the death of the commissioner’s brother.

“The peoples’ stories pushed me to take an inclusive look at the state of black and Latino men and boys,” Councilor Jackson wrote in the press release. “What I saw was what many people saw. That is, when we look at graduation rates, crime rates, poverty rates and employment rates, blacks and Latinos are facing similar challenges.”

Councilor Jackson suggested the City of Boston should come together to support black and Latino men and boys, because the slogan “Boston Strong” applies to all Boston’s residents and neighborhoods.

In order for the ordinance to take effect, the City — both the City Council and Mayor Martin Walsh — must support the establishment of the Commission.