opinionated on the internet since 1999

Sat., July 28, 2018, 2:54 p.m.

On Wed. night I attended a panel talk at the MFA, part of their The City Talks series (which is always excellent and is why I became an MFA member in the first place). This was The City Talks: Power, and focused on the question, "How can we redirect systems of power within Boston to support people of color?"

The next City Talks event is on Aug. 22. Let me know if you want to come along! I've consistently found them inspiring and enlightening.

A few notes about panelists' comments that stood out to me:

Liz Miranda, executive director of Hawthorne Youth and Community Center in Roxbury and now candidate for State Rep, talked about the need for more people of color in visible leadership roles. There's been a minuscule increase in Black leadership in Boston from the 1980s to today (.1%, I think she said?), so this isn't just happening on its own.

Bashezo, a performance artist and MassArt professor: "I want to reimagine how we can be on this land, live, garden, grow... share space.... I want to reexamine how we can take the resources we have and share them" without traditional hierarchies. "I don't want to just change figureheads, change leadership.... This is broken, and I want something completely different."

Miranda, speaking from the perspective of local government: How does housing inequality impact everything? How does being a homeowner confer power, and who is locked out of that? She talked about redlining and its impact on her community of Roxbury.

Hansy Better Barraza, architect and RISD professor, spoke about the Boston Globe Spotlight's piece on the Seaport, and how Black developers and investors were shut out of a taxpayer-funded creation of a new Boston neighborhood.

What are responses or strategies to counter negative uses of power or build on positive uses of power in Boston?

Bashezo, who was utterly delightful: "As a performance artist, I get tired of performing just in front of white people. What would it feel like if everyone I looked at was a POC? ...What if instead of non-white, we thought of non-POC, non-indigenous? That's way more healing to my old fag ass!"

Barraza's prescription for creating opportunities and pathways to leadership for a truly diverse Boston: "AIM: Assess who's in charge. Include whoever's not at the table. Make a change in bylaws" to open opportunities for people without a record of success, since lack of POC opportunities is self-perpetuating. She recommended requiring 60% POC in leadership.

Miranda, speaking about the importance of civics education (which is going to be part of the 8th grade social studies curriculum as of 2019!): "Learning the systems of government allowed me to use my voice."

Miranda, in response to an audience question about how to handle feeling overwhelmed by all the crises: "I try to ask myself, where can I make the most impact? And usually that looks like creating and building with people I know will be there" when the latest crisis is over.