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Deval Patrick sees ‘very different Boston’ for minorities

Deval Patrick sees ‘very different Boston’ for minorities
deval patrick

By Kyle Cheney / State House News Service  |   Monday, July 25, 2011  |  http://www.bostonherald.com |  Local Politics

As advocates for urban communities laid out the challenges facing black residents in Boston – in health care, education and criminal justice – Gov. Deval Patrick described Monday a “very different Boston” than the one he remembers in 1976, when he was a junior at Harvard University and the National Urban League last held its national conference in Massachusetts.

“The campus was a relatively safe and comfortable place to be, friendly enough. But you never knew then what you were going to get when you went off campus. The city … was totally engrossed, involved and riven over the question of public school busing,” he said at the outset of the National Urban League’s 2011 annual conference. “Today, Boston is smarter, more diverse, younger, more dynamic, prettier in many respects. There are places that my niece and her pals hang out in the city that were just totally off limits in 1976.”

Patrick described efforts to fund public education and close an education achievement gap for poor and minority students as examples of work his administration had done to support the minority community. He described upticks in procurement for minority-owned businesses and an increase in the number of minority managers in his administration.

“We even have a black governor,” he added with a smile. “The first in America ever reelected.”

His remarks accompanied the release of an Urban League report, “The State of Black Boston” – crafted in conjunction with UMass Boston and the Massachusetts chapter of the NAACP – that concluded, “the tone of race relations in Boston, and a good many of the substantive indicators, are far better than they were just a few years ago.”

“But other indicators show that many racial inequities have not closed, and some are moving in the wrong direction,” according to the report.

For example, according to the report, black residents – about a quarter of the city’s population – have a “significantly shorter” life expectancy than their white counterparts, driven in part by disparities in education, income and employment. And even when socioeconomic status is factored out, the report concluded, black women see a much higher rate of infant mortality, indicating that “racism is a primary factor in perpetuating health inequities.

Researchers recommend factoring in racial implications in health policymaking and discussions.

Similarly, black residents are “overrepresented at each level of the criminal justice system,” including the juvenile justice system, state prison and houses of corrections. The report recommends expanding policies to ensure that residents with criminal records aren’t automatically disqualified when they seek jobs, as well as asking nonprofits to provide reentry services for those leaving prison, often without supervision.

Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League, described a “full court press” from Gov. Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other local advocates to bring the national conference to Boston this year.

“I’m very, very proud to count Gov. Patrick as a friend and a supporter of the Urban League movement,” Morial, a former New Orleans mayor, said.

The conference, which will continue on Wednesday at the Hynes Convention Center, featured remarks from Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, as well as Marie St. Fleur, an aide to Mayor Menino and former state lawmaker.

Article URL: http://www.bostonherald.com/news/politics/view.bg?articleid=1354019


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