Creating a New Boston, Designed to Include Us All:
Introduction: Freeing Ourselves from Plantation America and its Corporate Masters, the 1%.
I was blessed to have been born into a family with a love of knowledge, a passion for teaching, and a commitment to the advancement of our people. Given that legacy, I have devoted the fifty years since my graduation from college to the pursuit of knowledge, a passion for teaching through the process of organizing, and my commitment to the liberation of my people.
Initially, I defined the objective of our struggle as one of liberation from the legacy, residue, and remnants of slavery, neoslavery, and the ever present discriminatory behavior that blocked our participation in the political, economic, and social life of America. As I gained more experience and understanding, I began to realize that our problem was much more complex than I had originally thought.
I began to recognize that the system of thinking and behavior that governed the political, economic, racial, and moral life of the nation had to be changed if we the descendents of slaves were to gain full equality in this country. I also realized that we had to take responsibility for eliminating the psychological after effects of slavery and neoslavery that could block us from standing up for our rights and exercising our responsibility to think critically and creatively regarding our actions.
An equally important awakening was the realization that the majority of other people of color as well as whites were also trapped in a sensuously beguiling Ponzi scheme called the American democratic system of free enterprise and material prosperity. Despite the mythology of the American dream, I could see that the majority of people of all races were trapped in a nightmare where a few controlled the politics and economics in their interests to the detriment of the majority. The Occupiers have named those few the 1%.
For fifty years, the driving force of my life has been the desire to contribute to the struggle for justice in this country. My objective has been to use the organizing process to build alliances having the strength to overcome the racial and class injustices surrounding us. During this fifty year period, I have seen people accomplish goals that others said were impossible to achieve. I have been and continue to be reminded of the truth that “What the human mind can conceive, the will can achieve.”
I have seen a highway stopped and replaced by a mass transit oriented transportation corridor facilitating the movement of working people throughout the region. I have seen the U.S. Supreme Court approve a plan that grew out of neighborhood action in Boston to link affirmative action to the right of Boston workers of all races to a share of the jobs on every construction project receiving any type of public assistance.
I have seen Boston neighborhoods through political organizing gain a voice in zoning and land development decisions through locally elected Neighborhood Councils. I have seen unemployed workers and workers with criminal histories build an organization that played a key role in passage of a state law barring discrimination against workers with criminal records while establishing a staffing agency for placement of its members.
I have seen tenants and foreclosed homeowners in Boston band together to stop illegal eviction of tenants by financial institutions while fighting to restore home ownership rights to those scammed by those same institutions. That same alliance played a key role in the passage of a state law blocking banks from evicting tenants from foreclosed homes and giving foreclosed homeowners additional tools to retain ownership.
These and many other accomplishments in Boston came from people’s determination to be free . Grace Boggs, ninety seven year old activist from Detroit, recounts in her book, The Next American Revolution, actions by the people of Detroit creating new realities through cooperative action. Gar Aperovitz, an activist and academic, documents in his book, America Beyond Capitalism, people taking action to create build institutions to improve the quality of their lives.
Every day people are demonstrating to themselves and others that what the human mind can conceive, the human will can achieve. As human beings, we have the capacity to work together to use the natural resources of the earth to create a world that can serve our needs not just individually but collectively. Let us not forget in this era of unrestrained individualism that the earliest recorded societies were ones where people acknowledged their human bonds and cooperated in establishing mutually beneficial ways of life.
Yet, as many of us prepare to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the situation of African-Americans, people of color, and whites grows more ominous every day. In fact, from an African-American perspective nationally and locally we are rapidly moving backwards in every way as a people. A recent editorial in the Bay State Banner documented the growing gap between the net worth of blacks and the net worth of whites in this country.
The editorial focused on a study by Brandeis University which tracked 1700 black and white households between 1984 and 2009. In 1984, the median net worth (difference between assets and liabilities) of the black families was $5,781 and the median net worth of whites was $90,851. In 2009, the median net worth of those blacks was $28,000 and the median net worth of the whites was $265,000. The gap had tripled from $85,070 in 1984 to $236,500 in 2009.
I do not have comparative figures for whites and blacks in Boston. However, given the impact of the targeting of Greater Roxbury home owners and home buyers in the mortgage scam, I assume that the Boston area gap has also grown. Another grim economic indicator of the economic health of the Greater Roxbury black community is that 50% of the apartment dwellers in the Greater Roxbury City Council district I represented required rent subsidies to afford apartments of one bedroom or more with rents that begin at $1000 a month for an unfurnished one bedroom apartment.
While Governor Patrick highlights a Mass unemployment rate of 6.7 %, unofficial estimates of unemployment of blacks who are out of work (not just the most recent) lead to rates in Boston of 25% to 30% plus with youth unemployment being in the 40% to 50% range. Given that the national poverty rate is in high teens, my assumption is that poverty for African-Americans is in the high twenties ($23,000 a year for a family of four) in Boston.
Boston schools are improving but the schools in predominantly black communities continue to lag behind. Particularly troubling is the continuing gap between the achievement of African-American males and whites. The fact that over a twenty year period in Boston almost half the homicides have been by blacks under 25 on other young black men lead to the conclusion that young black men in Boston are taking out their rage and frustration on each other. (Deaths of white youth in Boston resulting from drug overdoes have been even higher).
Added to these problems is the fact that over 50% of those incarcerated in this country (1.3 million of 2.3 million) are black. As these men (primarily) and women reenter their communities, they are ineligible for public housing or federal housing subsidies. In addition, they face an employment situation where they are competing with large numbers of the unemployed who do not have criminal records. Is it any wonder that the recidivism rates are high?
A realistic appraisal of our situation as African-Americans nationally and locally gives clear evidence that the almost fifty year experiment of integrating into the social, political, and economic life of America has had a devastatingly negative impact on us as a people. Of course, we have our stars in various fields. We also have professionals who are doing well. However, an honest and realistic assessment has to acknowledge the crisis situation that we face as a people.
An analysis of the income and net worth statistics of other groups of color will show the majority of these groups either frying at the bottom of the American melting pot or floating so near the bottom that they are being seared by the heat. Ironically, even the majority of white people are beginning to realize that their dream is turning into a never ending economic nightmare as more and more sink into the low income and poverty classifications.
A March 25th Boston Globe article entitled, “Long term joblessness hits older workers hard”, stated “The number of people 45 and older who have been jobless for more than a year has quadrupled since 2007, accounting for nearly half of the 3.5 million Americans out of work for more than a year according to the US Dept. of Labor.”
Andy Sum, director of the Northeastern University Center for Labor Market Studies, commenting on the situation from a Massachusetts perspective said, “Historically we’ve never seen anything that comes close to this. These numbers are unbelievably high and the longer you’re unemployed the more likely you are to leave the labor force and the more likely an early retirement for you.”
Regarding the racial demographics of the group of elderly, long term unemployed the article goes on to say, “The majority are older white men according to the Labor Department including many college educated workers who rebounded from job losses earlier in their careers only to see employment prospects dim in what should be their prime earning years…..After years of financial independence, many must lower standards of living, deplete savings, or rely on spouse’s income.”
A clear indicator of the economic disaster that is faced by the majority of the people of this country is a December 15, 2011 article by Associated Press entitled Dismal Prospects: 1 in 2 Americans are Now Poor or Low Income:
“Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans—nearly 1 in 2—-have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income. The latest census data depict a middle class that’s shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government’s safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families”.
Let’s look at some the facts that underlie the A.P. article:
1) By the 1990s, real hourly spendable earnings of private industry nonproduction workers had fallen below the levels they had reached in 1967.
2) Between 1973 and 2011, wages and salaries for nonfarm, private workers fell 15% from $340 per week to $294 due to stagnating and declining wages and decline in hours worked per week.
3) Production and nonsupervisory workers who have made up approximately 85% of the labor force between 1965 and 2011 experienced a drop in the share of wages over that period of 18% from 75% to 56%. In other words supervisory workers and managers representing approximately 17% of the work force receive over 40% of the wages.
4) Between 1965 and 2011, US production and nonsupervisory workers share of U.S. Gross Domestic Product (the total of goods and services) dropped from 30% to 20%.
5) In 1995, the six largest bank holding companies (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley-some of which had different names at that time) had assets equal to 17% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). By the end of 2006, their share had risen to 55% and by 2010 (Q3) to 64%.
6) Between 1973 and 2006, productivity increased by 80% while wages went up by less than 1%, thus benefitting corporate profits not workers.
7) During the Clinton administration (1993 to 2000) 45% of the increase in disposal income went to the top !% of wage earners. During the Bush administration (2001 to 2008) 73% of the increase in disposal income went to top 1% of wage earners.
8) Between 2009 and 2011, 88% of national income growth went to corporate profits while just 1% went to wages.
9) In 2010, 93% of all income gains went to the top 1%.
10) The CIA World Fact Book puts US behind Cameroon and Ivory Coast and just ahead of Uganda in terms of income inequality.
As you can see, The Occupiers are right, the 1%, the super rich in this country are getting richer and richer while the majority of the people of this country are becoming poorer and poorer. I believe that for people of African-American descent, while we must continue to be vigilant and fight against discrimination based on race, this fight alone will not prevent our impoverishment and continual destruction as a people. The 1%’s control of our economy leads to the exploitation of all regardless of race, creed, or national origin.
Reflections from Behind the Wall:
Creating a New Boston, Designed to Include Us All.
Introduction: Freeing Ourselves from Plantation America and Its Corporate Masters, the 1%: Part 2:
Let’s pause for a moment to look at the question of who I am referring to when I reference the 1% who control the economic life and manipulate the political life of the country. Graeme Wood writing in the conservative journal, the National Review gives a helpful analysis when he identifies three groups within the millionaires of this country:
1) One group is composed of those having assets like home savings accounts and pensions worth a million dollars. Mr. Woods estimates that “the majority are working people”. Some 5.6 million households in this country fit this category. Assuming that four is the number of people in the average household, this groups comprises 24.4 million people, representing 8% (.08%) of the 280 million people in the country.
2) The second group consists of those who earn a million or more a year. Five hundred thousand, half a million households fit into this category which represents 2 million people, .007% of the population.
3) The third group is the one that should be considered the true financial aristocracy of of this country. This is the group that Woods says represents approximately 200,000 households that have $20 million or more in assets. According to Woods, these assets represent “the financial equivalent of a perpetual motion machine, capable of spontaneously replenishing itself and fairly reliably producing large amounts of money for its fortunate owners.” This group is comprised of 800,000 people, .003% of the population of this country.
Based on the above analysis, I consider the members of groups two and three the true 1% of this country from the standpoint of financial and economic political power. They also are the numerical 1% since the 2.8 million members of groups 2 and 3 equal 1% of the 280 million people of this country. However, it is important to keep in mind that while they are the driving force of the American financial and political empire, they do not operate by themselves. Their allies are legion.
What is the situation today in Plantation America. Nationally unemployment hovers around 7.6% (higher in some states) although many economists say that the real rate if all unemployed were counted is near twenty percent. The economy is essentially stagnant although prices keep going up. Neither the Democrats or the Republicans have a plan for ending the unemployment through government resources or persuading the 1% to invest the over 1.7 trillion held in corporate bank accounts. And yet, the stock market is at it’s highest point in history.
Labor’s voice and strength is anemic with only 11% of the labor force, public and private, organized and with more legal obstacles to organizing facing them than exist in any western country. Yes, the Tea Party is protesting government policies but as has happened repeatedly in history, the 1% has co-opted the movement and is using it to strengthen their own wealth and power. It is ludicrous to listen to The Tea Party bray about the national debt when it was their hero, Reagan, and the two Bushes in a twenty year period, increased the national debt as a percentage of the US Gross Natiional product by 43%.
It’s important to understand that the 1% didn’t acquire this wealth and power by accident. The purpose of the Founding Fathers, the original 1%, in declaring independence from England was to remove any and all fetters on their ability to accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth. As Bush said in 2003, “Mission Accomplished”. By then, the 1% and their economic and political allies had been able to turn America into a 21st century Plantation with the American workers of all races reduced to being wage slaves while owing their souls to the corporate store.
The 1% has not only turned the American workers into wage slaves through economic exploitation and political manipulation but also used its media to turn them into psychological slaves. Media has promoted the idea in every way imaginable that value as a human being is gained only through the display of material wealth. Yet, the majority of workers do not have the wages to attain the “stuff” necessary to satisfy their psychological need for a sense of personal value and self worth.
Anticipating the workers’ need for emotional comfort given their propaganda barrage, the 1%’s prepared for the need by having their banks develop credit cards which promised credit at outrageous interest rates. As the psychological strain of the self deception begins to destroy the mental and physical health of the workers, the 1%’s pharmaceutical companies have exorbitantly priced drugs, often developed at government expense, to “reduce” the pain.
Given my view of human beings as the crown of creation, not only endowed by our Creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice but also a mind and the potential for divinely inspired creativity, it is outrageous to see the !% psychologically and materially exploiting the American people as well as the people of the “free” world. We are on earth to develop our capability to be stewards of the earth and its beings not to be enslaved for the psychological and material benefit of America’s financial aristocracy, the masters the American Plantation.
While the 1% may believe they were created by God to control and exploit the people of the earth, it is appalling to see so many of us acting as if we believe it’s the true. Yes, they have inordinate wealth and “apparent” power. However, they are living a lie. They have no inalienable right to exploit the earth and it’s beings. They have no right to make a mockery of the concept of American democracy and make slaves of its people. However, as long as we allow them to continue this fantasy, we will continue to be participate in the American nightmare.
In this the 50th year after the March on Washington, I think it is time for us as black people to stop giving validity to this charade and hypocrisy. Our ancestors engaged in a four hundred year struggle with the expectation that their descendents would continue to advance the struggle for economic, political, and social justice given the theft of their economic and human rights. Our responsibility is to continue that fight for a just system not collaborate in order to “get a piece” of the pie.
The toil, blood, and sacrifice of our ancestors can only be redeemed through our working together as a people to build a foundation for our future generations as our ancestors built a foundation for us. This foundation will enable our descendents to build a New America through which they with Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Cape Verdeans, and whites can demonstrate the divine creativity which resides within the heart of every human being. However, we can not let our individual desires distract us from our collective responsibility.
I do not believe that our purpose for being on earth is rooted in the acquisition of material wealth and ego satisfaction. We are here to build a foundation for the next stage of our advancement as a people as well as our human evolution. Our challenge is to build character, self discipline, unrelenting honesty, the spirit of cooperation, the capacity for unconditional love, and a commitment to the building of the families that slavery continually worked to destroy. We are here to model the thinking, feelings, and actions of human beings who are not enslaved by our desires or the desires of others. Think of the sacrifices, pain, and hardships that our ancestors endured in order to create a foundation for our future. Can we do less for future generations?
We have been distracted by the glamour and glitter of a world designed to enslave us. We have allowed ourselves to focus on the realization of our material desires rather than the manifestation of our mental and spiritual powers for the benefit of others as well as ourselves. Having experienced the toxic nature of the American system from the inside, it is time for us to purify ourselves. The shedding of the old and the generating of the new is not an easy task. Yet, it is essential if we are to pull ourselves away from the slave mentality encouraged by the 1% and their system of emotional entrapment.
We have to encourage those of all races to recognize how we are all trapped. We need to focus on our need to build a shield against the 1%’s historical attempt to persuade whites and other people of color that we are their enemies. This does not mean that the old prejudices will disappear. It does mean, however, that If we are to build an economy that sustains us and breaks the power of the 1% to continue to exploit all of us, we have struggle to build an alliance for our mutual benefit. We can focus on the past and continue to be enslaved or focus on the future in order to break through the neo slavery that entraps us all.
I understand that to some it may seem like an impossible dream that an alliance of people of all races could be built to break the stranglehold of the one percent on America. However, during the last fifty years, we have seen African-Americans break through the legal barriers of the system of neoslavery established after the civil war. We have seen other groups of color enhance their rights. We have seen students and their adult allies force the US to find a way out of the war in Vietnam. We have seen women advance their rights as well as gays and lesbians establish a legal basis against discrimination. We have seen environmentalists fight for environment to be treated as the life giving force it plays in our lives.
Over the last fifty years, we have seen the seeds of liberation planted by group after group demanding their right to be respected and treated fairly. We have witnessed a continuous validation of the principle that “What the human mind can conceive, the human will can achieve”. Through persistence and patience the seeds of an evolving human consciousness has been planted. We have reached a “tipping point” where more and more of all races have the ability to recognize our common exploitation. Will be able to move beyond the negative legacy of the past and work together to create a system that embodies our hopes and dreams through breaking the stranglehold of the 1%?
The Occupiers have awakened the American people to the reality of Plantation America and its corporate Masters. I believe that there is a growing cadre of people within this country ready to demonstrate our ability to liberate ourselves from the slavery imposed by the control and domination of the 1%. There is nothing that we can not achieve, If we can come together to cooperate and work together to free ourselves despite all the historical dividing lines. Almost 100 years ago, Marcus Garvey said to the black people of this country and world, “Up you mighty race, you can accomplish what you will”. If he was here to day, I think he would be delivering that message not only to all the people of this country but also all the people of the world.
Reflections from Behind the Wall:
Creating a New Boston, Designed to Include Us All.
Freeing Ourselves from Plantation America and It’s Corporate Masters, the 1%, P3:
it will take a national and international movement to free our country and the world of the cancerous grip of the 1%. However, we must remember that all movements are begun by people in their local communities struggling to break free from the forces that are oppressing them. The civil rights movement did not begin in Washington, D.C. It grew out of the struggles of people in Montgomery and throughout the South. It was built on the backs of the struggles launched by the known and unknown determined to be free of oppression.
The question for us in Boston is what are we and our brothers and sisters across the state going to do to break the grip of the 1% here in Boston and the Northeast. Boston (and Massachusetts) is a poster child for the power of the rich. Over the last seventy years, Boston has “evolved” from being an affordable working class city while struggling to cope with the disinvestment of the 1% (because of Irish and Italian political power) to become a regional if not national and international financial center designed to meet the needs of the 1% and their allies.
In an op ed piece in a recent Boston Globe, Tom Keene, former Boston City Councilor who represented the Back Bay, Beacon Hill, and Mission Hill celebrates the new Boston as he points to an unemployment rate of 5.9%; a median income of over $62,000; a median age of 31; and the fact that Boston has more high school, college, and advanced degrees (than other “big” city?). He continues by pointing out that Boston is #3 on the American College of Sports’ Medicine’s fitness index and #4 on Business Week’s analysis of desirable places to live.
While I don’t doubt his statistics, his Boston represents only a part of the Boston that I know. He left out the multimillion dollar salaries “earned” by the presidents and top executive officials of Boston corporations while Boston workers with low and moderate incomes struggle to pay for apartments that begin at $1000 a month and up for a one bedroom apartment in Roxbury based on rampant gentrification.
He left out the fact that these corporations get huge tax breaks from the city and state while every year our children have to beg the Mayor and the heads of these corporations for summer jobs. He left out the fact that City policies have turned the owners of the 1800 plus taxi cab medallions into millionaires while their drivers struggle to earn $25,000-$30,000 a year for 10 to 12 hours of work a day.
Keene’s article symbolizes what our local and national politicians don’t want to talk about. There are two Bostons. The Boston that Keene describes exists. However, his Boston is not the Boston that I and many other Bostonians know and live in. As there are two Bostons, there are two Massachusetts and two Americas. In one America, people are doing well to very, very well. In the other America, the people are either mired in poverty or struggling with the financial inability to keep up with the world around them; trying to cope with all the problems that life presents for people in those circumstances.
A recent study by the Crittenden Union, whose work focuses on the needs of low income women, highlighted the depth of the state wide problem of income disparity. Its estimate was that 4 out of 10 two parent families in the state do not bring in enough money through work to make ends meet. The situation is even worse for female headed households who according to the Census make up 25% of Mass households with children. The Crittenden study estimates that 3 out of 4 female headed households don’t earn enough money to pay all of their bills.
The state study estimates that a single parent with one school age child and one preschooler needs to earn at least $65, 880 a year to pay for food, housing, transportation, child care, health care, and other household expenses. Given the cost of living in Boston, the expenses are even higher. In Dedham, $74,772 is needed. The median income for households headed by women in the state is $27,315. Compare that statistic to Boston’s $62,000 median income. The Working Poor Families Project estimates that nationally more than 10 million working families–nearly a third of all working families– do not have enough money to meet expenses and the number of families in that category is rising.
These two worlds are not only the result of the economic policies of the 1%. They are aided and abetted by our elected officials. Our state tax policy is obviously structured to favor the 1%. We Do Not have an income tax based on the principle of the more the income, the greater the percentage of tax. Instead, we have a 5% flat tax for all and a 6% sales tax which impacts hardest those with low and moderate incomes.
During my eleven years as a Boston City Councilor, the state balanced its budget by cutting social programs and aid to cities; state budget cuts lead to a continual decrease in the teaching staff of Boston schools and other public services with similar impacts on even smaller cities and town. As I write this, the Democratic controlled legislature by refusing to support Governor Patrick’s plan is risking a raise an increase in MBTA fares which obviously would have a negative impact on the low and moderate workers who depend on public transportation.
Why would a Democratic legislature risk forcing those with low and moderate incomes to pay more for basic transportation? They say they fear the financial impact of his plan which would lower the sales tax from 6% to 4.5% and raise the income tax from 5 to 6.5%. Since Patrick’s plan would financially benefit those of low and moderate incomes what is the financial impact that they fear?
The reality is that Patrick’s plan would not only reduce the sales tax but also have no income tax burden for those with incomes below $60,000. Its impact would b $300 a year for those with incomes from $60,000 to $100,000 and $700 a year for those with incomes over $100,000. Rather than support a plan with minimal impact on those with more, it proposes a gas tax which would put even more impact on those with less. Who does the legislature represent?
I could go on and on to document the reality of the two Bostons and the two Massachusetts but talk is cheap. The question is what are we going to do. If we want a city and state that is designed to meet the needs of all, we who want it will have to take responsibility for doing the work necessary to create it. If we’re serious about creating change, we have to develop a plan. The plan has to outline the need the change; define the goals; and describe the strategies and the implementation process necessary.
To stimulate our thinking, I will post a reflection on goals and strategies in the area of planning/development, governance, economics, community development, education, and public safety every ten to fifteen days. I don’t view my reflections as the answers to breaking the stranglehold of Boston’s 1%. I have learned over the last fifty years that none of us have The Answers. We each have a view of what the answers may be. The Real Answers to our common problems and concerns emerge as we work together to solve them.
Some of my reflections will focus on how I think we need to work together across racial lines in order to create new, mutually beneficial realities. Other reflections will focus more specifically on what I believe we in the black community need to do to remove the remnants of mental and emotional slavery and neoslavery as well as strengthen ourselves to build a foundation for future generations. However, I think many of these suggestions may be important for consideration by Latinos, Cape Verdeans, Asians, Native Americans, working class whites, and perhaps even the 1% and their allies.
As said above, it will require a national and international movement to break the cancerous power of the 1%. However, that movement will never materialize if we sit back and wait for someone else to take action. We can continue to complain about how bad things are. We can continue to point fingers at the 1% and the government officials that they control. We can continue to mourn our fate. Or we can take action as men and women who believe we have the power to change the conditions that oppress us. Enslavement or Freedom! The Choice is Ours.
Preview of Next Reflection:
To Create and Maintain a Stable Economic Diversity in Boston, We Must Understand the Role of Boston’s 1%’s ‘and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) in the Creation of post WW II Boston:1946-2013
When I moved to Roxbury in 1966, Boston was a city that was affordable for working class people of all races. In 1969, I bought a three bedroom, 3 story frame house in Roxbury (as part of a community development initiative) on top of what is now called Fort Hill for $7,000 with a 6.75% V.A. mortgage. Up to that time, my wife and I had been living in a one bedroom apartment that we rented for $100 a month.
By the mid 1980s, three family apartment houses sold for $150,000 to $200,000 and up in Roxbury and apartments were renting for $700 and up a month. Today the house I bought for $7,000 in 1969 is appraised at 240,000 plus and one bedroom apartments in Roxbury rent for a minimum of $1000 a month unfurnished. This escalation of price in Roxbury and throughout the City is a result of the decision after WW II by Boston’s 1% to change the City of Boston from an affordable, working class, union based port city to an upscale regional financial center.
One of the inevitable effects of the targeting of Boston by the 1% has been the accompanying gentrification, the escalation of housing prices. This obviously made it financially impossible for many low and moderate income families to continue to live in the city. Today, 50% of the families living in the apartments in the Roxbury based City Council district I represented require government rental subsidies to afford their rents.
This process was not and is not unique to Boston. It has gone on and is going on throughout our country. Simply put, this process begins with the a decision by the 1% to enhance its wealth and power by recreating an area to reinforce its wealth and power. This decision leads to gentrification which drives out all whose incomes are not increasing as quickly as the cost of housing is rising. San Francisco is probably the prime example in the country but Boston is following close behind.
Those who are part of Tom’s Keene’s Boston view this gentrifying process as progress. Others of us are concerned about the economic injustice of people being removed from their homes because their incomes are not increasing as rapidly as others or not increasing at all. Given the extremes of inequality cited above, stable communities with strong human infrastructures and family stability are essential for those who have low and moderate income to sustain a decent quality of life. How “free” are you if you have to move every time the 1% decide they want the land you’re living on.
Given the Pac Man like quality of gentrification, if Boston is to be a city affordable not only for all races but also all incomes, we have to have a strategy to mitigate the gentrifying effect of development. To provide an historical context for considering this question, this reflection will focus on the 1%’s manipulation of Boston’s political process after WW II and the creation of its development tool, Boston Redevelopment Authority.
If we don’t stop the process of financially evicting the low and moderate income through gentrification, New England’s 1% can use its success in Boston as a base to threaten the stability of low and moderate income communities throughout the state and region as it sees opportunities for wealth enhancement. If you have visited the Berkshire mountain area in western Ma recently where Governor Patrick has built his home, you have seen that the process we are struggling with in Boston is also confronting our neighbors on the western borders of our state.
Reflection on the Patriots’ Day Massacre
Words can not adequately express my sympathy for those who perished and were injured and for their families and friends. Their pain is not only felt by those of us in Boston but also by people throughout the nation and world. Let this tragedy serve as a grim reminder of the pain and horror being experienced by people throughout the world who have to cope daily with the continuous death and bloodshed from the wars that ravish their lands. Let the pain of our loss motivate us to stand together with them to fight for the justice and peace that all the people of the world need and deserve.