Story at a glance

  • As the first elected woman and person of color takes Boston’s mayor's office today, many feel defeated that none of the Black candidates running against Wu came close to beating her.
  • Cities across the country this year elected their first Black mayor.
  • Wu has promised to address systemic racism during her tenure.

Many in Boston today are cheering as the city’s first female and first person of color is inaugurated as elected mayor. But to others, the swearing in of Michelle Wu, who is Asian American, is a painful reminder of what could have been. 

Running against Wu were three Black candidates, none of which came remotely close to clinching the city’s highest office.

"I got home, and I cried," Danny Rivera, an artist and civil rights activist in Boston, told NPR on Tuesday. "I cried my eyes out because I don't know the next time we'll see a Black mayor in our city."

Cities across the country this November elected their first Black mayors in the wake of racial justice protests, and many Bostonians felt the timing was right for a Black person to lead the city, a quarter of which is Black.


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In her farewell address last week, acting mayor Kim Janey, who is Black and had inherited the job just under a year ago after former Mayor Marty Walsh left to become Secretary of Labor, bid a tearful goodbye to the mayor’s office in the city where, as a child, she was pelted with rocks and racial slurs.

Janey finished fourth in Boston’s preliminary election in September, squashing her hopes of serving a full term. Still, Janey said she was “proud to pass the baton” to Wu.

“While I am proud to be Boston’s first woman mayor and first mayor of color, I am also very proud to know that I will not be the last,” she said in her farewell address.

In the September election, the three Black candidates combined received roughly 75 percent of the vote in areas of the city with the highest concentration of people of color, according to an analysis of election results and Census data. But the candidates won just about 25 percent of the vote in the city’s whitest areas.

"I mean the data speaks for itself, and it's troubling," former Massachusetts State Rep. Marie St. Fleur told NPR.

"For those of us born or raised in Boston, and who lived through some of the darker days, the fact that we blinked at this moment is sadness," she said. "At what point in the city of Boston will we be able to vote — and I'm going to be very clear here — for a Black person in that corner office?"

Wu has said her administration will work to tackle systemic racism during her four-year term.

"I have heard and want to continue acknowledging the disappointment of many in our community who wish to see representatives of the Black community," she told NPR while attending Janey’s farewell address.


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Published on Nov 16, 2021