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Ferriabough Bolling: Black candidates face an uphill climb to victory

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Ferriabough Bolling: Black candidates face an uphill climb to victory

Acting Mayor Kim Janey did not ride to victory in Tuesday’s preliminary election on the wings of the so-called power of incumbency. But that’s nothing to be ashamed of — she still comes out a winner. Her contributions over the last five months have been considerable and lay a solid foundation for the next mayor to build upon.

As the city’s first Black mayor, her history-making turn has already opened the door wider for the two remaining women candidates, Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi-George. And she may indeed prove to be the queen maker in the general election.

Unfortunately, many in Boston’s African American community feel Boston can’t pat itself on the back just because we will have a woman of color in the corner office. Sadly, for the African American community, it’s always one step forward, two steps back when it comes to empowerment — electoral or otherwise. Sadder still, many times we are complicit in our own undermining.

For one Black candidate who also didn’t make the top two to snipe relentlessly at her Black rival throughout the campaign ensured no victory for either. For too long there’s been a practice of “divide and conquer” with diluting the Black vote until it is all but negligible. Some call it political tactics. I call it a surefire way to short-circuit our progress.

Take the 2013 mayoral race. Charlotte Golar Richie lost going into the finals by a mere 3,800 votes. She started out with no money and faced a union onslaught mustered in support of one candidate. All she had was a stellar public service record and her homegrown African American base. When folks spoke of consolidating efforts around one person of color, people were accused of blocking democracy. Bull. I call it sound political strategy.

This year the Wakanda II movement, an initiative lead by former State Sen. Dianne Wilkerson to unite the Black vote around one candidate, essentially took a page from the Irish playbook on empowerment. But Wakanda II was slammed by folks outside of our community who felt they should be the ones to choose our Black leaders. Heaven forbid we should choose them ourselves. And look at the consequences. The two Black women in the race ended up with about 19% each in a disastrous election day count. We need to call for a recount of all ballots.

I can’t help but think in this year following the death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, Breonna Taylor, etc.,  that’s it’s so sad that there is not one African American woman in the final race, not even the one already in the seat and doing the job.

Equality can’t be whitewashed if you will by putting all “people of color” in the same bag or by assuming we all think alike. We don’t.

There is a very different relationship that Boston has with the African American community than any other “people of color.”

For many in the Black community, this election remains a story of divide and conquer and takes some of the shine off a historic occasion.


Joyce Ferriabough Bolling is a media and political strategist and communications specialist.

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