Carry on RBG’s legacy by working toward equity in Boston

There’s a reason the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg earned the sobriquet “Notorious RBG” — her record for fighting against gender discrimination, for women’s rights, and championing minority, immigrant and LGBTQ rights was well known and respected.

RBG’s pro-equality legacy will always be valued and respected. One of the best ways we can honor her work is by staying the course of justice and equality exemplified by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Here are just a few things we can do close to home.

1. Desegregate suburbia — There are more Black Lives Matter signs than ever before in areas one never thought they’d be seen. Just drive down Route 9 — past suburban spots where few Blacks have homes, regardless of their ability to afford them. That’s nothing new. And forget about “affordable” housing areas such as Brookline, Newton, Needham. Wellesley and Weston. Affordable housing has unfortunately become a code word for housing for minorities — Trump made sure of that. Coincidentally, these are also places where Blacks are frequently stopped while driving, walking and simply existing. Let’s take active steps to end our national reputation for segregated housing and communities.

2. Support businesses that contribute to the vitality of our communities — Cool it with the proliferation of marijuana shops in communities of color. I spoke to the dilemma of  having a pot shop on every corner in a previous column months before any shops were designated. Today, there are two within a few blocks of each other, and a move to site another one in Nubian Square. Please, find another location on the outskirts of the business community we are working to revive. Nubian Square has long been a struggling business district and still combats major detriments to commerce not the least of which is the migration of the drug- and alcohol-addled from nearby Methadone Mile. And I take great exception that all of the sales tax from marijuana sales goes into the Massachusetts General Fund and disbursed to cities, towns and agencies across the state. A better, more equitable idea might be to make sure funds generated by shops owned by people of color, or operating in communities of color, benefit those communities.

3. Prioritize and boost business opportunities to generate jobs and build wealth. Sustaining and growing businesses in Roxbury’s Nubian Square and throughout communities of color hit hardest by the pandemic has always been a matter of survival, even before the pandemic hit. It is why I so appreciate the work of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. I believe our community leaders engaged in Roxbury development oversight and the Boston Planning and Development Agency need to be more flexible and creative in prioritizing support for businesses that buttress our community and keep badly needed dollars circulating in those communities. The Nubian Square Ascends proposal, a retail, restaurant, arts and cultural development project, is one of the best plans for the area. Nubian Square Ascend’s principals Black Market and Nubian Gallery (formerly the Hamill Gallery) are not only homegrown but have a strong stake in the community and operate their businesses there.

4. Clean up Methadone Mile with compassion and greater state support — The situation is getting chronically worse with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. It has become a wholesale “meat market” — tragic for the addicts who say they seek recovery but find only degradation on the streets. Let’s look past setbacks like the Long Island shelter shutdown and Quincy’s non-cooperation on the Long Island Bridge. Instead, let’s come up with alternatives other than hotels or needle exchanges that are sure to draw more users. The state also has to pony up more because so many of the addicted are coming to Boston from all over the state for services. Something needs to be done as winter is approaching.

If Ruth Bader Ginsburg taught us anything by her life and work, it is that we must do more to bring about fairness and equity even in the face of overwhelming odds.

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


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