Equity advocates from around Greater Boston gathered at Harvard Law School on July 11 for a discussion about the region’s key priorities in promoting opportunity for people of all backgrounds. The event included speeches, panels and the release of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council’s “State of Equity in Metro Boston” Policy Agenda.
The agenda focuses on goals to improve health, climate change resilience, education, safety, regional segregation, and housing in Boston. Sponsored by Harvard Law School’s Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Action for Regional Equity, and the Mel King Institute, the event highlighted actions that are being taken – and those that need to be taken – to create a more equitable region.
In a keynote address, Angela Glover Blackwell, founder and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action institute that aims to advance economic and social equity by focusing on low-income communities and communities of color, defined equity as “a just and fair inclusion into a society in which all can participate and prosper and reach their full potential.” Blackwell spoke about the importance of improving equity in Boston, noting that the Policy Agenda’s goals of improving health, climate change, education, segregation, and housing could only be achieved through improvement of the region’s equity. She stressed the profound impact equity has on education, employment and housing in cities.
“We have to think about how to talk about this with people who are uncomfortable with the inclusion of this discussion,” Blackwell said.
Local advocates outlined four of the agenda’s key priorities.
Meredith Levy, deputy director of the Somerville Community Corporation, discussed preventing displacement of residents from neighborhoods near rapid transit.
Kalila Barnett, executive director of Alternatives for Community and the Environment, focused on ensuring that all residents can adapt to climate change.
Stephanie Ettinger de Cuba, research and policy director at Children’s HealthWatch, highlighted the need to reduce health disparities by providing access to good nutrition.
CJ Victor, a youth organizer at the Center for Teen Empowerment, spoke about creating statewide violence prevention programs. Victor, who grew up in Roxbury and is now a senior at City on a Hill Charter School, stressed the importance of equity initiatives for youth empowerment and violence prevention programs in Boston. He shifted from policy to personal, sharing that his cousin was murdered on a street in Dorchester. He said, “I was 14 years old when violence first impacted me and that impact would live with me for the rest of my life.” Victor joined Youth Empowerment with the hope of preventing more violence in his community.
Involving youth in Boston’s equity initiatives is one of many goals the Metropolitan Area Planning Council hopes to achieve.