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Karilyn Crockett heads city’s new equity office

Dorchester native sees equity as necessary for city’s success

Morgan C. Mullings
Karilyn Crockett heads city’s new equity office
In her new role, Karilyn Crockett is charged with ensuring racial equity in city departments and policies. PHOTO: ISABEL LEON, MAYOR’S OFFICE

Last week, Mayor Martin Walsh announced a new Office of Equity for the city of Boston, appointing Dr. Karilyn Crockett to lead it. As chief of equity, Crockett will work across departments to determine whether city decisions are creating equal opportunities for all community members to benefit or contribute.

“We need somebody who can hit the ground running, somebody who understands … community government and how City Hall works,” the mayor said at a press conference June 29.

Crockett’s background as the city’s former director of economic policy and research, and director of small business development, as well as public policy professor at MIT, gives her a deep understanding of both policymaking and the city’s equity needs — not to mention she was born and raised in Dorchester.

“I feel like folks who are from Dorchester already have the experience of what it means to be in a multiracial democracy,” Crockett told the Banner in an interview last week.

The neighborhood’s racial and language diversity are “essential for our city, and how our nation has to work,” she said.

Since the office is still new, it is difficult to say what an equity team will accomplish specifically, but Crockett aims to start with Boston’s history of displacement and silencing of communities of color.

“My job is to look at this entire portfolio of work, to ask questions about how we are understanding the strategic intersection of our work,” she said. “How are we articulating that? How can we amplify the work of these offices to actually bring change across city hall?”

Some of the ways to address these questions, she said, will be to examine alternatives to increased policing and ways to increase access to affordable healthcare, and to take direction from residents.

Crockett knows that many city departments, such as the Office of Diversity, already have an equity mandate, but not every office has that lens built in. Though diversity work may ensure improvements in hiring or leadership, Crockett’s office can step in and see where other offices are creating barriers to entry for people of color.

“No matter the state of the budget,” Crockett said, the city needs to be focused on aligning all of its functions towards racial equity, especially considering the current racial wealth gap.

City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo proposed in February that the city declare racism as a public health crisis and create an independent office to assess city policies and procedures through a racial equity lens. He questioned whether the newly created office would be as effective as what he proposed.

“What [my] independent office creates is a stamp of approval. It says ‘Yes, this thing does what it says it does.’ That’s independent and it’s earned,” Arroyo told the Banner. The equity office proposed by the mayor, he said, would lack independence and the ability to be public-facing, since it works internally with the mayor and could cease to exist if he leaves office.

Elected officials also await specifics on whether Crockett will be reviewing internal policy, policy that directly affects the public or both – a large ask for one person. Still, Arroyo calls Crockett a “great hire” because of her credibility and background.

“Folks who care deeply about this issue … see Dr. Crockett as somebody who also shares that, and I think that’s incredibly important,” he said.

State Rep. Liz Miranda also called Crockett a “brilliant and compassionate woman” when sharing the news via Twitter. Councilor Andrea Campbell also welcomed her back to city hall on social media.

“This is a collaborative process,” Crockett said, “So I’m here to be in conversation with the city leadership.”

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