BOSTON (CBS) – In a new series called Boston Voices, we are hearing from community leaders about the fight for racial justice and equality here in Massachusetts.
“It’s beautiful. It’s exactly what you want to see when the country is coming to heal.”
That’s how Boston City Councilor Lydia Edwards described the diversity of the demonstrators who have taken to the streets across Boston demanding racial justice.
“We all faced a trauma watching George Floyd die and we need to have collective healing, and it needs to come in all colors,” she said.
Edwards represents Boston’s 1st District which includes East Boston, Charlestown and the North End. She said the protests after Floyd’s death largely focused on police reform, but in order to bring out real change, we need to think more broadly.
“It’s not just the police,” she said. “The police are often dealing with the end result of a lot of inequities. We are asking them to be social workers. We are asking them to be DCF. We are asking them to deal with housing issues. We are asking them to deal with mental health issues. If we want better policing, we need to offer them a better society to police in.”
To do that, Edwards said we need to look across our society as a whole.
“That looks at our education. That looks at our housing. That looks at how we bank. That looks at who can become a homeowner. That looks at how we plan our city. That looks at so many different things and all of them are systemic.”
As a city councilor, one of her many priorities is city planning.
“I’ve called them [city planners] out and said, ‘Let’s be honest about how we got here. You put highways in Chinatown, breaking up that community and prioritizing suburban commuters over city residents. You did the Seaport. With the complete wonderful opportunity that that was and created a neighborhood that doesn’t reflect anything about Boston.”
Edwards also said it’s important for all of us to recognize this unique time as an opportunity.
“For the first time, I would say collectively, the nation is saying, ‘What next?’”
Edwards said she is optimistic that we, as a city and a nation, can make the most of this opportunity.
“These are manmade issues, so we as human beings can undo these issues and that’s how I see them. We got here through our hands and we will get out through our hands, peaceful hands.”
Edwards is already making progress on her promise to call out the city planners in Boston. Mayor Marty Walsh credited her with helping to craft a new zoning amendment aimed at providing fair housing opportunities, and holding developers accountable to make sure they don’t displace city residents.