“She will be remembered in the history books”: in Roxbury’s Nubian Square, locals hail Janey’s story

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“I want to congratulate Labor Secretary Walsh, a proud son of Dorchester, on his confirmation. He will passionately serve the workers of our country in Washington DC, and I know he will bring our city with him, ”Janey said in a statement.

“Now we look forward to a new day – a new chapter – in Boston history. “

In Roxbury’s Nubian Square – an area where Janey’s family roots run deep – some voters, like Danny Hardaway, call her political success a tangible sign of progress in a city with a long history of racism.

“She means a lot to this community,” he said, speaking to a reporter before. The promotion of Janey. He recalled a time when the city “was not a place where you wanted to be as black”.

Hardaway, who owns a boutique, Final Touch With Class, in Nubian Square, said he believed Janey cares about all Boston communities and its biggest challenge will be helping small businesses get back on their feet amid the public health crisis.

Being mayor, said Hardaway, “it’s going to be a lot of work, it’s going to be a tough job.”

Outside of the Hardaway store, the daily hustle and bustle of Nubian Square Bus Station continued at a brisk pace. Buses came in and out of the bays. Vendors peddled merchandise, including T-shirts and phone cases. A couple of beggars asked for change, while a group of men smoked outside a convenience store as soca music drifted onto the stage.

It’s the heart of Janey’s neighborhood, a neighborhood she has called “ground zero” for issues facing Boston as a whole, including economic and racial inequalities, an affordable housing crisis, an opioid epidemic. and transportation issues. Roxbury is among the poorest neighborhoods in Boston, with a median household income of around $ 30,000, the lowest in the city. Twenty-three percent of its population has not completed high school, and nearly a third of residents live in poverty, according to city data.

Over the past year, Nubia Square has been the starting point for numerous demonstrations and marches to protest against police brutality and systemic racism.

Janey lives a short walk away on Copeland Street and spent part of her youth in a duplex on Norfolk Street less than a mile from the square bus station. Her sister, Kai Grant, owns the Black Market Retail Incubator in Nubian Square. Grant, along with her husband, Chris, are planning to acquire the 4,300 square foot two-story building at 2136 Washington St. that housed the market.

Kim Janey, now acting mayor of Boston, waved to a passerby as she stood outside the Roxbury branch of the Boston Public Library.Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff

Janey was first elected to city council in 2017, to a seat representing District 7, succeeding Tito Jackson, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor. She became chairman of the board in early 2020, marking the first time anyone from Roxbury has held the post since the mid-1980s.

Janey led Boston’s first ordinance to bring racial and economic fairness to the burgeoning marijuana industry. She also pushed to probe the process by which the city contracts municipal contracts for services such as garbage collection and food distribution, an effort that has prompted the city to explore new ways to diversify its contracts. The issue of municipal contracts has recently come under further scrutiny, with the publication of a study showing that businesses owned by people of color and white women were massively under-represented in contracts awarded by the city.

Janey provided an overview of her agenda in a March 11 speech, in which she stressed the importance of a fair recovery from the COVID-19 public health crisis, including ensuring that communities of color harshly affected have equal access to vaccines.

Overseeing the continued reopening of schools in the district and implementing a new municipal police watchdog and addressing the city’s current affordable housing crisis are other tasks Janey faces.

Now that the transfer of power is complete, Janey will also face more pressure to finally say whether she plans to join the already crowded race to become the next long-term mayor, a question she has so far dodged. . Many in Boston political circles expect her to do so.

Either way, Janey will remain a historical figure in the city.

Referring to Boston’s long record for racism, Grant, a Roxbury resident, called his sister’s town hall an “incredible moment.”

“I’m not sure if there was a turning point that signaled change and representation in a way that is authentic to demographics,” as did Janey becoming mayor, she said.

In Nubia Square, several people said they knew Janey and recognized her while walking in the neighborhood. Others greeted the news of his impending town hall with indifferent shrugs. Only one of the more than a dozen people on the streets questioned about Janey’s rise had anything negative to say about her. The woman, who declined to give her name, said she felt Janey only showed up when she was campaigning.

Many had opinions on the problems of the square, the neighborhood, the city. Joe Benzan, who works at a tax services store, said homelessness and its underlying mental health issues are a major challenge.

“People with mental health issues have to do something, they have to help them,” Benzan said.

Destry Jenkins, who is staying at a homeless shelter, called street violence his biggest concern.

“We need it”, he said. said of a Janey town hall.

Joe Figueroa, owner of Joe’s Famous Sub Shop, called Janey an exceptional leader and advocate for small business, someone who understands that “people can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Indeed, Janey pointed out her personal experience with gentrification in the past. In a 2018 Bay State Banner article, she wrote that her family lost a South End brownstone they had owned for decades on West Canton Street when the area “began to gentrify in the 1980s.” .

“We need to have more women in power,” Figueroa said as a grill sizzled behind the counter. “If this world were run by women, we would be much better off. “

Rebeca Bachier was among those unaware that Janey would step up to the post of interim mayor. Informed of the news, Bachier, sitting in the office of a repair shop on Warren Street, said he was delighted: “It’s really good, especially a woman, because it’s hard on the women there. .

“We are breaking down barriers,” she said.

Steps away, Roxbury seamstress Beverly Roberts took a break from her sewing machine at a Warren Street store not far from the Janey’s Copeland Street house to give her assessment of Boston’s future mayor.

“For me, I think it’s a good thing,” she said. “She will remain in the history books.”

Jeremiah Manion of Globe staff contributed to this report.


You can reach Danny McDonald at [email protected] Follow him on twitter @Danny__McDonald.

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