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The Wire

The mayoral candidates participate in a forum addressing issues of concern to Boston's communities of color at the city's Kroc Center.

The mayoral candidates participate in a forum addressing issues of concern to Boston’s communities of color at the city’s Kroc Center.

It’s right down to the wire (no Kanye or Chaka Khan) with less than a week remaining until the Sept. 24 primary election.

Since six-term serving Mayor Menino announced he won’t run for reelection, the twelve mayoral candidates have worked tirelessly to plead their case to the people of Boston over the last few months.

Fifty-three percent of Boston is now comprised of residents of color and/or those with ethnically diverse backgrounds, according to a recent Boston Globe article. And given the turnout of over 350 people at last Tuesday’s mayoral forum at the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Dorchester, they know and understand the potency and power of their vote.

Perhaps it was because the candidates were addressing issues of concern to people of color that drew such a large crowd. Or maybe it was easy access to the event because it was in the community or because for some, they would now be able to put names from posters to faces.

Whatever the case, the Boston NAACP, Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Boston’s Commonwealth Compact, Coalition of Community Groups and the Kroc Center hosted a game-changing event that received tremendous support and praise.

“The benefit of hosting in a venue is candidates have to respond to what you believe the issues are [and] what the community believes the issues are,” said Michael Curry, 45, Esq. and President of the Boston NAACP. “Having an opportunity to convene a mayoral forum meant that issues like the desperate unemployment rate, the violence within our communities, the unsolved murder rates, the disparities in health could all be front and center and all the candidates would have to respond to those issues and not use standard campaign rhetoric but would have to speak specifically to communities of color.”

The candidates were not prepped with the questions they were asked by the evening’s moderator Peniel E. Joseph, PhD. and history professor at Tufts University. All that was shared with them was the opening question: “If you became mayor what would that mean for communities of color?”

As the evening progressed the moderator asked intricate and insightful questions that got down to the nitty gritty of what the candidates would do for the audience — the very people they are trying to obtain votes from.

The result was emotionally charged responses from the audience who remained engaged and enthusiastic throughout the program’s two hours. On several occasions Dr. Joseph had to ask people to simmer down things had gotten so heated.

“People reacted to substantive policy issues like they were watching a football game!” Curry noted.

“Although we’re a majority-minority city, often times the community of color is sort of put on the left side and I think [we] felt really powerful and engaged to hear [the candidates] answering to us. I felt in the room a lot of energy, pride and power so I really commend the NAACP, the Urban League and the other people who came together because from the time you walked in from outside there was all this political fire and I think we’ve been missing that for a very long time,” said Liz Miranda, 33, of Roxbury.

Tuesday’s event was proof that contrary to popular belief Boston’s community of color is not apathetic and detached from the mayoral race.

It further proved residents do have a vested interest in the leadership change underway and made clear that the next mayor must take into account what the people want — their ability or inability to do so will reflect in the success of decisions he or she makes. And in garnering that success, the needs of black and brown faces often marginalized in society cannot be overlooked or ignored.

“Our community is a lot times characterized as not being politically engaged so I just think that this was a good step showing that our neighborhoods and communities of color will be more engaged if more effort is taken to meet the community where they’re at instead of trying to have meetings and forums at City Hall and the State House. Bring some of those meetings to those neighborhoods and you’ll be able to see some of the political engagement increase,” said Rufus J. Faulk, 31, of Roxbury.

“This mayoral forum went above my expectations,” said Tayla Andre, 30, of Dorchester who brought her children Asariah, 7, and Anari, 10, with her. “I was hoping to get a better understanding on whom [I’m] going to vote for. At this time I’m still in the air but the forum did help me get a clearer understanding of who I’m not voting for.”

The Boston NAACP issued a Communities of Color Mayoral Questionnaire to all of the candidates and received responses from 10 out of 12 candidates. Visit www.bostonnaacp.org to read their responses in their entirety.

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