Congratulations to Mr. Mark Conrad for his appointment as the chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board, and congratulations to Sandra Larson for the well-written article on Mr. Conrad and on the significance of the position.
However, in our appreciation of the events of the present, it is important to remember our history. While Ms. Larson did not state that Conrad was the first African American so honored, she did not state who was. That honor belongs to Matthew W. Bullock, a graduate of Dartmouth and Harvard Law School who was appointed chairman of the Massachusetts Parole Board in 1944 by Gov. Leverett Saltonstall.
Adelaide M. Cromwell
The recent Bay State Banner stories on development projects in and around Jackson Square offer encouragement that progress is being made, after many years of hard work, false starts, missteps, delays and a housing foreclosure mess that nearly brought us to the brink of another financial crash.
We can all breathe a sigh of relief for only a moment though. The challenges ahead are formidable. Of the challenges we face, none is more daunting than that of economic development. It’s a steep ascent! But one we must face honestly, if we are to have any chance of addressing it.
At our last Jackson Square CAC, one of our guest panelists, speaking on job placement for local residents, informed us that work is “tribal.” If you’re not a member of the tribe, chances are you won’t get the job. Wow, we got more than we bargained for. We got brutal honesty!
So, if we’re not a member of a particular work group, union or other organization, our chances for work aren’t very good. Too often the working tribe doesn’t represent the indigenous tribe, particularly when nearly 90 percent of the indigenous tribe are people of color. Who said affirmative action wasn’t needed?
We also learned that hiring, contracting or partnering with Minority Business Enterprises (MBE) is the best way to ensure communities of color maintain a working constituency that is representative.
Add shortfalls in local worker utilization on other projects, with the concept that, in a down economy, developers have pulled back plans for affordable homeownership and retail space at Jackson Commons — both of which provide an additional catalyst for economic mobility — and one is left asking: Where’s the economic development?
The sigh of relief at Jackson Square must be followed up with continued effort that ensures we have: retail spaces that are balanced and provide affordable business spaces for JP and Roxbury residents; affordable homeownership options that allow Roxbury residents the opportunity to grow wealth like their JP neighbors’; and, finally, acknowledge many in the work world are still disenfranchised.
While developers are getting better at addressing this, much work remains to attain parity in neighborhoods of color where development is concerned.
Jackson Square CAC Chairman