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Good evening welcome to the black perspective. A half hour feature focusing on black information issues and lifestyles in the communities of Boston and salt sure. I'm your host Charles Desmond. And tonight we're very pleased to have with as State Representative Byron Russian who represents tonight Suffolk district which includes the south and the Fenway Mission Hill extension in the presidential and Copley Place developments all of that and all of that is your ex for all of this good to be here. It's always a pleasure Baron to have you on the show because you are so you stay so much in touch with what's going on in the city and you are continue to be a very strong community based advocate as well as a competent ineffective legislative leader nice introduction I have to invite you over the next time I have to have somebody introduce But obviously that's why I do that a lot. Let me say that I'm we're all. Very pleased and obviously why among other reasons why we want to have you on the show today is to talk a little bit about this recent. Recognition that's been accorded you in your election to head the Boston the Boston delegation of
the legislature and I thought we might spend a little bit of time on one how does something like that come about. And secondly what kinds of things do you see happening for your direct constituents and for the city of Boston as a whole as a result of it. Well I think that first of all clearly that anyone who is in the legislature works knows that there are a number of concerns that come before the legislature that have to do with with the largest city in the Commonwealth which is Boston and it has been the experience of state representatives in the house anyway that when they are. In unanimity around an issue it's a lot easier for them to put their all of their concerns across and so several years ago during the time when when Boston was having a major fiscal crisis and we had a piece of legislation to became known as the trade bill of the
state legislators from Boston at that time came together in an organized fashion. To try to come to some agreement on how they would proceed and what kinds of legislation they would try to get through the house around that concern of fiscal stability for the city. There were of course successful and then decided to stay together and to have a Boston delegation as it's called. This is actually something that happens a lot in other cities in state legislatures and other cities it's really something that Boston has come to lately. And what it is really is it is the informal organization of the legislators. The state representatives from Boston and every terminal every two years the members get together and decide who should cheer. That delegation and this year when when that time came around people were looking around and trying to make some
decisions. One or two of us were interested in it. We talked to a number of members and there was an election that was elected. So that's how it happens now. But essentially my job is to make sure that all the representatives from Boston are informed about those issues that we might have to at some point during the year make some decision about legislatively. And so I tried to stay in touch with the mayor's office because most of that a good deal of that legislation was going to come out of of initiatives that the mayor has and priorities that he has. But also try to stay in touch with other parts of the government and and private and nonprofit organizations that have concerns that really go across any particular boundary lines for any particular district. But speak to the concerns of the city of Boston
city as a whole. One of the things that. But I have no power. I'm really a coordinator. I mean I know. That's the best of it and I don't regret any type of power of that type of power over people who say they don't have any. But they get elected not to help. But that's where you and the young have a sense that right that power is really raw power is really like a bank account you know and as long as you don't use it in draws interest you accumulated a debt service anyway. Do you think though that you are your strong position on so many of the issues that are of importance to the city of Boston such as you know the particularly in your own areas the questions of housing and affordable housing for the city for people in the city ensuring that there are jobs for people in the city and I think that I mean do you think that your strong position on so many of the issues that seem to be of critical concern to people presently in the city is sort of positioned you in a way to be seen as the type of person who could
sort of. Organizing and directing gives some substance to these various Live hosting concerns. I hope that my selection meant was that my colleagues felt that I am an articulate spokesperson for the things that I'm interested in and so that if I have to if I am called upon to represent the whole delegation and they're comfortable that I would do that well I think that there that some people were also concerned that the chairman of the delegation be clearly someone who has a reputation of independence that has no problem with agreeing with Amir when they think the mayor is right but has no problem disagreeing with Amir when they think the mayor is wrong. And I think that I have certainly demonstrated that in the past that my independence from City Hall I have a strong love and concern for the city of Boston mounding anybody can say that that's not true I represent. I represent the downtown neighborhood.
And I have attempted to try to in my career up at the State House to say that there the city of Boston should be a city that is open to everybody and both and that means everybody in terms of race everybody. In terms of sex everybody in terms of sexual orientation and I've I've said that across the board I think that that is something that is respected not always agreed with but respect. Well obviously you know this is a black perspective. It is obviously significant and important that there be the elected officials would see you as if you were a black representative. Now you obviously carry some new information into the mix and you provide a different type of leadership in the sense that it's from a black perspective not necessarily a black agenda only but you can bring a different perspective to some of the issues that are on the table do you think. I say this is extremely healthy and I keep believing that there's something going on in
Massachusetts right now that we all have to tune in to. Well I differ I try to do that I mean I don't I don't see this position as one where I should somehow tone down the way that I've been expressing my beliefs about where we should be going and just the opposite. It's a time when I should be even clearer about the directions that I think that the black community should be going in in the city and state and also how the city and the state should in the direction that city in the state should be going. I think that that we have a. Beef up a real opportunity of beef before it's in Massachusetts. And I think it's something that we have to really grasp a whole grasped at this time because I know that it's not going to last forever. I think that we do have an amazing economic revitalization that is a going that is going on in the city in the Commonwealth. And that's
and we have to look at that in two ways. On one hand black people have to say to that look we have this revitalization going on but clearly the pockets of that that are very definable and unfortunately defined usually in terms of ethnicity and race that are not benefiting from this from this economic renaissance that's going on that's going on in Massachusetts at this time. How do we how do we connect those people with the with the with the objective tangible benefits from this not the you know I feel good kind of benefits from it but the benefits of actually more dollars more space you know a better living conditions. And I think that's a that's a major concern that we have to have. But on the other hand I think that we shouldn't go around and say that there are no benefits now because there are if there are collect groups of black people who are not getting any benefits there are no benefits at all and there are no benefits to be had because that's just not. True that's true and there are benefits
to be had and I think that we have to also put ourselves in a position to make sure that the government both the city government and the state government are encouraging black people to take to to apply for those benefits. Let me be more specific about that but about that second concern and that is right now in the state of Massachusetts the unemployment rate for black people is lower than the unemployment rate in the country for everybody. So that means that clearly this is a good place to come if you're looking for a job in the city of Boston the city of Boston and the state. It is a good place to come if you're looking for a job. If Boston did not have the reputation a negative reputation it has and black communities across this country right now black people would be coming here for black people not coming here. Black middle class people are not coming here. I mean clearly most of those jobs that we're talking about are jobs for for professionals that are going begging in this state right now and those jobs are available to black people black people could have those jobs the black people have to
come here and we have to be saying outside of the state we have to say we want black people to come here. That what that our political base is not going to increase unless we have more bodies and we are not going to get more political power. Actually we will not have get more political power so that we can help those black people who are here who are not getting what they should get. Until we draw more black people into the state. It's an interesting kind of an interesting scenario. That's right but it's I think it's very true when people say how come the politics in Boston black politics in Boston is not like black politics in Chicago or New all and I say look you cannot You're comparing apples to oranges from what you have to do is compare Boston to a comparable city a city about our size was about our percentage of black people. And what's the city in the United States and I don't want to start first. I want to ask yes what's the one that's closest to Boston in size of the total city and the percentage of black people. That's a good question I'd have to Anybody want to call on them to suppose go out find
out a great concert. Let me say that I'll ask you to leave it out I'm going to tell you the answer before I leave. Let's say that I'll leave this one to our listening audience that I will ask that you reserve giving us the answer and I ask people to submit their cards and in the car and said Which city in the United States most closely approximates a compositional composition of the same number of people say Boston has about 550 to 600 thousand people and about 20 to 25 percent of the population is black. OK let me say first of all that I give everyone just a brief moment during this break to think about this a little bit. Let me say that you're listening to ninety one point nine and you're listening to this is black perspectives will be turned shortly after this break. So we can have fun with jokes like this when you need a lawyer. It's no laughing matter. You want someone who's had experience with your particular kind of problem. Call the lawyer referral service toll free at 1 800 3 9 2 6 1 6 4. We'll put you in touch with someone who can
help. The lawyer referral service is a public service of the Massachusetts Bar Association. We're back from a brief intermission on WNBA FM ninety one point nine. I mean host Charles Desmond You're listening to black perspectives. Tonight we're discussing with Byron Rushing his recent emergence in the seat chairing the Boston delegation of the Massachusetts state legislature. And just prior to our break he gave us all a great challenge and those of you who didn't hear it need to know that we're we're asked to send our comrades in to UMass WNBA and tell us which city in the United States most closely matches up with Boston size population and racial composition. That's right what the United States is closest to Boston Boston being about 550 to 600 thousand people total with about 20 to 25 percent black. And that's and that is the city that we should usually be comparing Boston with when we want to make that comparison
nationally. I think that was one of the things is that we tend not to compare Boston to other cities that are like us. And so when people say well black people how come black people don't have as much power as they have you know. Exactly. Wait a minute wait a minute there's some other factors here and you can't compare these are injuries to these bananas you know I mean you really got it. Let's look at something closer let's see. And that and then if we look at something closer to us and we find out that they have more political power than we do. Then you have a case right. You know my case I really believe that the bottom line for black people politically in this city in the state is more black people that the reason that what we have to try to figure out is how to keep black people here and to bring more black people in that that really we need we need of institution a vehicle in Massachusetts and in Boston that is that is like the old the Chicago Defender.
You know that right after World War One decided they wanted more black people that newspaper want to more black people in Chicago and they just started advertising they started talking talking about all of the Ben I'll be one of the thing that was right. And they are and and it wasn't. And the combination of that newspaper with with what was a growing understanding of political power. And so you had a group of of of black men and women who wanted to begin to build a political base who actually when the people started to come in immediately went to say OK you know how you get in and like an Indian saying we're coming from the farms of Mississippi and Alabama and moving into rooming houses and in lots of ways you say was it was it better. Well they had they had work they had a little bit more freedom than they had where they were. But they said but they came together and they were they were coming intentionally. And that's what I think is so so important. You know I mean political power that is intentional. It's always sold different than the political power that you get
because everybody else resent you and right you know I mean when when when you when black people take over a city because you know white people left in it you're going to have a very different kind of scene than you have when black people have to fight for or intentionally acquire that power. That's why Chicago is so exciting. That's why this recent election. Of Harold Washington in Chicago so so exciting because there was that that was a struggle and that black community organizer so to take it and they couldn't and it was not by default I mean they had a struggle and they were able to put together a new coalition a new coalition that will right now. And he is in there to stay. Yeah. Well I think that that Harold did do an outstanding job of clearly representing the fact that the simple fact of having black leadership in the political sense doesn't necessarily mean a negative for City. And I think that he clearly demonstrated in Chicago to blacks whites Asians and Hispanics that he could provide effective leadership in a city that had been starving for good effective leadership for the last decade and a half.
And you know and I think that I hear you saying that black leadership in Boston can it has something to offer which was the point that I was trying to. We have four and we have to but we have to go in that direction positive attention or power right of attention only acquiring power. And so you can't say that you know that's why the argument. When people were talking about prospering cooperation last year the argument that eventually black people will be able to take over in Boston because eventually our population will increase to a point. No that's that's that's not satisfactory. We have to be intentional about it. We can't just wait for that happens to be there. You know so that we can pick up those crumbs because you can imagine what will be taken away by the time that time comes. We have to be intentional. We have to be intentional either to redraw the boundaries so that we have our own community polit that we can control politically or if you want the whole of Boston then we have to be intentional about bringing black people in here and forming those alliances and building those coalitions to
take over right away. In the political context when you're taking over you mean taking over in the sense of having a direct control over those forces those agencies those political structures that can effectively make the quality of life for people in those in those communities better. Let me let me go back to let me go back to one of my other laws when I teach. There are we do and there really are too considerate for any or for any group of people. You're really have two kinds of politics you have the politics of influence where you worked with where you have from from where you are from your base you go out and you try to make other people change their minds about you. And if you're a nation that kind of that kind of politics call foreign policy I mean you go and try to get the Soviet Union to change to change a little bit and sign a treaty and stuff but they don't have to do that. You can't make them do that you can't tell them because you want you don't run their country.
And similarly states do that cities do that we all do that. And on the other hand though you have a base you have a place where you control just yourself that they were a bit of of the power to negotiate I'm sorry. Right. That's right. Exactly and it comes from that now if you don't have that then your influence doesn't really shake down to be anything. And more and one of the things that black people keep forgetting is that you cannot be influential without having the base and what and what we have to and what we have not concentrated on in Massachusetts is the developing of the base. We've spent a tremendous amount of time developing the influence. But one of the reasons why the influence becomes at so many times so tenuous is because there is no fallback. It derives from nothing. It only derives from the people we want to influence it draws from their goodwill. Because if we cannot do something to them ultimately if we can at the problem of something ultimately then it is only the goodwill that we depend on and that have that's ok sometimes when you're dealing with good
people but you're not always dealing with you know how is to deal with. And we have to work on our base. Now most people understand base in terms of land and the people who are talking about Roxboro as being an independent community they've saw that in order to have a base that had to be defined as land but a base doesn't always have to be defined as land and people have been able to form political to have a political base that simply the that that's formed around the people numbers. But in order to have it formed around the people that means you have a culture that everybody is willing to Shirin. Now that can work for some people if all who can see themselves. As somehow culturally that there are just some things that just go together that you cannot take away that they are always there. And that is true for say Jews Jews who are able to do this in times when they did not have a particular land base. Now they eventually decided that it was important internationally anyway that it was important to develop a let to have a land base to recapture or to to to or to release
something that that land right. OK so that was a decision that they made but they had a base before they had Israel to take Had they had an organized cultural base that black people. Us have been very it's been very difficult for black people to to use that themselves to to to to agree on that culture of a people because that means that there was some place where everybody will come together and all of those things don't count. Now what is there for black people. It is not the church not the church if the church gets the closest to it the church it would be the church if there was some church where every black person came together and said I'm a black Christian and therefore it doesn't matter what else I do therefore in this there is this place where I am this and nobody else is and no black person is not very varied. But we could use that if it is going to be the church and the black church needs to develop
its own ACU Menocal movement. Doesn't that doing too well at that right now. I'm not sure where that is but it but that's the direction that we have to head in. I think that the people who are talking about land are saying that they think that's the most practical place to do it right now is that we have to be this this this town this city. Yeah I thought well I think obviously the question of a black political presence in the context of using the analogy to use before just looking at the whole economic resurgence in the in the state that is a strong black political resurgence could assist in providing the type of black intellectual capital necessary to say to sustain that economic boom that we're having abs we need more brainpower when you know we need more intellectual resources in the Commonwealth to keep pace with the type of technological and economic growth that's taking place. If we had more people regardless of their color we could still sustain
the boom and perhaps push it even further in. Now why don't Economic I think I think we can I think we cause we can look and see ourselves as a whole market that is not being tapped that's right by the by white professionals and white institutions. That's right. So that we have both the market and then we have this whole level of openings for black people. Let me let me say again as you look now to to the city of Boston in the coalition of people that you're working with. What if you sort of sort of mapped out some of the major issues that you have to look at in the city of Boston with regards to the bust no Legation are you particularly concerned about this housing issue are you particularly concerned about this whole economic development piece how do we spread that into more of the communities. I mean we're talking from a black perspective here but there are non black communities also that are equally outside and struggling to get the type of human. Resource Development necessary to get them involved in this whole marketplace. Well if we can figure out the answer to that question that you just asked about how do you get white people working class white
people into this whole process the thing would be solved if we get everyone right now in Boston the biggest problem is the fact that Boston is too many levels as a segregated city in this any place where you have seen how detrimental segregation is to both Sorry to be also Austin. There's a reason why white working class people are under the under the pressure that they're under right now for housing and for jobs in this city right now is because they have not been willing to hook up with black people and brown people and with other ethnic groups. And and that really helped that those those barriers really have to be broken down and people and people can only break them down by themselves. I think that there are major issues for four in the way that relate to the state and in terms of Boston are how can the state be more responsive to the city of Boston in terms of providing aid for more housing for low and
moderate income people. That is a that is a major concern and it comes and it seems to be coming more and more down to money and that's something that we're just going to have to keep working on. But the but they bring everybody together. To ask for the same thing. And that is that the that the that funding be available for developing low and moderate income housing. We have we have begun that in the state we have a we have what I think is a good bond package before the legislature now it's something that everybody has to get and make sure that put pressure on the state representatives and the state senators so that it gets passed in this session and is not delayed for another year. I think that's an important piece another important piece is economic development and economic development again and especially around the use of state land such as Boston the pit boss of state hospitals I think it becomes it's essential that that development. The key to the development of the surrounding neighborhoods and that the priority for
any development that the state isn't gauged in is to help the people who are at our low and moderate income people and to provide more jobs and to provide more housing. And that has to be and that has to be a priority. And the way you make it a priority the way to demonstrate that it's a priority is one to make money available but also to set up the political structures that allow those people low and moderate income people to have some influence. Again some structural control of what happens in the land. And so the area I've just recently finished debating of the bill that passed successfully in the house now before the Senate to get 40 million dollars to Boston to help develop the area that is that is called South Bay the area around New Market that kind of area around the South River Southeast Expressway a lot of Roxbury exit.
And part of that is that we're going to be moving the Deer Island correctional facilities and building a new facility there that is not your only area in that area. And then we're going to be getting 40 million dollars to upgrade that area when we wrote that legislation we said that that 40 million dollars could be used on things like helping the neighborhood. There around that neighbors not just on on streets and sewers right around the jail but helping the neighborhood that is around. That is the South Bay. And in order to do that there should be a committee an advisory committee that has people from all those neighborhoods on that on it. And I think that's again the essential that we keep writing into this legislation and structural ways for people to be involved in the economic development the housing development in the city. Let me ask you you know we're getting sort of towards the end of our program here it's always exciting and enjoyable to talk with you because you have so many. Your background is such that you can weave in a lot of analysis into what you're doing from a public policy perspective which makes it good for our listening audience I
think and equally for myself. Let me let me ask you as as you look towards the remainder of this year you've sort of outlined two major pieces that you're looking at right now. What. On a personal level do you see yourself focusing in on. I mean what goals have you set for yourself that sort of are out there that you want to see happen. Well I have a I have some very some very parochial goals I mean my but my larger goals are all that is the whole question of of housing for low and moderate income people to the point where I would say my my goal there is to say. That there should be no market rate housing built to a public land. I mean and that there's enough profit to development for that and that we should just say no more and all that that the public land we have some control over should be for housing for low and moderate income people. My parochial concerns are I have a strong concern about about the Washington Street corridor that what is
going to happen along the street with a L in the elevator is now right. And I agree with the people who are saying that there has been no plan for that area and that we should that the first thing that has to happen is a plan where the people in that area that are the people in that area are involved in planning for that area. And until that happens we should be very careful about taking yelled down at all. And since there is a been a lot of concern about that that's right because taking down the aisle right now this is this moment if it happened in the next six months would mean that you would have of just a rash of speculation along that area and we would not be able to recover from it. Right and you will find that that rock superbly looking racially a lot different than it does now. If we do not do any planning do you speculate that there would be probably some public phones and Mail available to get a plan together or something like that would be some public funds available if we can if we also make some public funds not available to take the L down right. Right that's a good point there. Let me say that as usual you have always you have stimulated all of us you gave us all a question I want to
Black Perspectives
State Rep. Byron Rushing
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WUMB (Boston, Massachusetts)
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Guest State Rep. Byron Rushing of Boston discusses his new role as chair of the Boston legislative delegation, how to build black political power in Boston, the negative economic impact of segregation in Boston on both black and white people, the need for more affordable housing in the city, community concerns about development on Washington St. following removal of the elevated MBTA train, and other city development and land use issues.
Black Perspectives is a public affairs talk show featuring in depth conversations about issues of interest to the African American community.
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Politics and Government
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Copyright Holder: WUMB-FM
Guest: Rushing, Byron
Host: Desmond, Charles
Producer: Pierre Louis, Gary
Producing Organization: WUMB
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Identifier: BP14-1987 (WUMB)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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Duration: 00:30:00?
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Chicago: “Black Perspectives; State Rep. Byron Rushing,” 1987-09-09, WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed September 20, 2020,
MLA: “Black Perspectives; State Rep. Byron Rushing.” 1987-09-09. WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. September 20, 2020. <>.
APA: Black Perspectives; State Rep. Byron Rushing. Boston, MA: WUMB, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from