BOSTON (CBS) – The idea for this interview actually started at Fenway Park.
It was September and the newly named Boston Police Commissioner William Gross, the soon to be Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and Sheriff Steve Tompkins were all on the field before the game during a special ceremony.
The WBZ-TV photographer shooting video for the event told me he was filled with pride with what he was seeing. Photographer Ron Mitchell, an African-American man from Boston, said he was inspired to see the first black Boston Police Commissioner, first black Congresswoman for Massachusetts and the second black Sheriff to be elected in a row in Suffolk County– all together on the field.
If Ron was moved by it, I assumed many other longtime Bostonian’s were as well. So, I invited Gross, Pressley and Tompkins to sit down with me for an interview about the historic changes for Boston. Never have our local leaders been so diverse.
With Ron Mitchell behind the lens, we spoke to the three newsmakers about race in Boston. Where we’ve been, and where we need to go.
Congresswoman-elect Pressley told me “These are victories that the entire city celebrates in and that’s something I felt that night at Fenway. People were just so excited to see us together.”
“Because of our ethnicity, it shows some people – a lot of people- are seeing past the color of our skin and just saying ‘Can you do the job?’ and the voters have spoken,” added Commissioner Gross.
“I think it sends a good message to the city, especially a city stigmatized by racism,” added the Sheriff.
The change in Boston has been dramatic.
In 1940, five percent of Boston’s population was black. Now minorities make up a majority of Boston’s population. Still, the city remains a punchline to joke’s about racism.
The sheriff says he still hears it from friends in his native New York.
“What do you say when they say it’s racist?” I asked.
“I say it’s going to take time to change that impression,” Tompkins said. “I say it’s not as racist as it was when I arrived in the 1970’s, but it’s not as good as it could be.”
“‘Not as racist’ is not a ringing endorsement.”
“But it’s the truth,” said Tompkins.
Boston’s leadership though has never been so diverse. Rachael Rollins was just elected as the first black woman to be Suffolk County District Attorney.
Congresswoman Pressley says it’s all a step in the right direction. But just a step.
“Making history is one thing but we want to make headway,” Pressley said. “I didn’t want to make history. I want to make change.”
In so many ways, these three already have.
Watch: Extended Interview