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Voices From "The State of Black Boston"

by Talia Whyte

The Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts (ULEM) hosted the “State of Black Boston” (SOBB) conference July 25 to announce its report of the same name, which showcases various social issues affecting black Bostonians.  This meeting was held ahead of the National Urban League conference, which is hosting its annual meeting in the city for the first time since 1976.

Many are hoping that the national conference will help erase the belief among many African-Americans nationwide that Boston is racist, due to the infamous school busing and Charles Stuart incidents.  While this hope to change racial stereotypes is in the air, others are weary that there is little change within the Urban League, specifically around issues affecting younger demographics.

“This might be the new Boston, but all I see are the same old faces,” said Somona Johnson, 28, of Mattapan.  “All I see here are the same people who run everything in the community.  Where are the young people? Who are the future leaders?”

Virtually all the people I interviewed on and off camera said the same thing.  The main complaint was that there were very few young adults and especially young black males at the SOBB conference.  They said that for the most part, the majority of the moderators and panelists were part of Boston’s “establishment” black community, and not many outsiders with alternative perspectives were invited.  Because of this, a couple of people questioned the relevance of the report in the community. There were also complaints that both the SOBB and the national conference were not well advertised to younger populations.

Miya Williams, 31, of Somerville said she only heard about SOBB just two days beforehand from another friend who happened to be in ULEM’s Young Professionals Network.  

“It seems like the only people invited to this were folks who are in somebody’s network or in the know,” Williams said.  “There should have been more marketing in the community to attract more young people.  A lot more awareness needs to be done if the Urban League wants to be around in the future.”