The Case for Black With a Capital B



Boston: Perceptions Beyond Race (Nat’l Urban League 2011)

Boston: Perceptions Beyond Race (Nat’l Urban League 2011)
By Talia Whyte

After a year of preparations, the National Urban League conference came through Boston without a hitch.  State and local officials as well as leaders from the city’s communities of color went above and beyond the call of duty to make sure NUL attendees not only had a satisfactory conference, but would also leave with the best possible impression of the city.  

For the last 30 years, Bostonians have suffered with this unfortunate reputation of being “racist.”  However, after speaking to numerous attendees on and off camera about their experience in town, some of these attitudes might be changing.  One thing I noticed was that the preconceptions of Boston varied by the age group.  Many people who were old enough to remember busing would tell me about the TV images of black and white students fighting in front of South Boston High School.  

Whereas younger people I spoke to may have heard things here and there about racism, but really said they wouldn’t come to Boston because as one guy said “the nightclubs here shut down at 2AM and the subway shuts down at 12:30AM - how do you people in Boston party?”  Maybe this is a sign of the times, and the charges of racism are fading away with younger generations.   If the worst complaint from black visitors is the lack of an exciting nightlife, fixing that issue would be a heck of a lot easier than changing longstanding, debilitating racial attitudes.

As a matter of fact, most people I spoke with seemed to have a pleasant experience in Boston.  The only complaints I heard about were related to conference logistics, and specifically the location of the Boston Convention Center.  For many people, the conference center’s location seemed isolated from the rest of the center, and it was hard for them to go out and navigate the city, unless one had a car.  So many people ended not even leaving the conference center area.

“I really wanted to go out and see things in the black neighborhood, but everything was too far away,” said Miriam Bakker of Mobile, AL.  “It just took too long to walk anywhere. The buses and hotel shuttle times were confusing. So I ended up just staying in my room.”

Another woman from Missouri complained of limited (and expensive) food options at the few restaurants in the conference center area, as she has both diabetes and celiac disease.  Luckily, she got a ride to the nearest Stop ‘n’ Shop at the South Bay Mall.  

Jarrod Martin of Denver said he came to Boston five years ago for a conference at the Hynes Convention Center.  While it is not as modern as other convention centers, he said that the bonus of the Hynes was that it was located in Copley Square.

“Everyday I remember doing my morning jogs along the Charles River and walking to the [Copley] Public Library to eat my lunch in the outdoor courtyard,” he said. “I really liked that area; there was shopping, restaurants and culture, which is very lacking at this other conference center we are at today.”  

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Black Boston | Politics

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Boston, Urban League, Race