Janey sworn in as mayor
Kim Janey, daughter of Roxbury who endured hurled rocks and racial slurs as an 11-year-old riding a school bus to Charlestown during desegregation, was sworn in as Boston’s first Black, first female mayor last Wednesday. As city council president, she automatically became acting mayor after Martin J. Walsh resigned to step into the role of U.S. Labor Secretary. She was sworn in by the commonwealth’s first Black Chief Justice Kimberly Budd.
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, who had served as Boston’s first Black female councilor, and later was Janey’s colleague on the council, said during the ceremony that it was a proud day for Boston and all Bostonians.
“Kim Janey has always spoken truth to power,” said Pressley. “And now that she commands the corner office and has the power, executive power, I know she will continue to confront hard truths while doing the hard work to ensure that our city actualizes the highest ideals which it espouses.”
As she took her oath, Janey’s hand rested on her grandfather’s African Heritage Study Bible held by her 6-year-old granddaughter, Rosie Janey. Her mother, Phillis Janey, daughter, Kimesha Janey, and grandson, Chief-Jasaad Rogers, 13, were also among the small number of family members, friends, and public officials in attendance.
“I’m so excited my grammy’s the mayor,” said Rosie.
Although she said her own childhood was filled with the love and support of family, Janey recalled the trauma she felt in 1976 as a young girl with cornrows confronted with a police presence and angry people shouting racial slurs and tossing rocks, bottles and sticks as she rode the bus to the Edwards Middle School. Janey returned there Tuesday as her first official duty as mayor, and observed an educational experience much different from her own.
“What I saw yesterday was just young people engaged in learning,” said Janey. “I visited a classroom where they were studying this period in our city’s history, and it was just so powerful to hear the questions of our young people, and then to be able to share my story as living history, as someone who went through that experience, and then is now standing here as the first Black mayor of Boston was pretty powerful.”
Janey said that helping children to recover academically and emotionally, making vaccines accessible to all, and dealing with other issues exacerbated by the pandemic are among her top priorities
“Let’s be clear – the problems laid bare by the pandemic were here well before COVID-19. The issues of affordable housing, fair wages, public transportation, and climate change are not new,” Janey said as she addressed those gathered at her ceremony. “What’s different is that these problems now impact even more of us.”
Janey also said she will strive to close the racial wealth gap by increasing outreach and making sure to understand the barriers from the perspective of business owners of color. According to the city’s 2020 disparity study, only 1.2% of $2.1 billion in public contract work went to Black- or Latino-owned businesses. Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), the Greater Boston Latino Network (GBLN), and Amplify Latinx recently filed a civil rights complaint against the City of Boston in response to racial disparities in public contracting under the Walsh Administration.
“In addition to what the city does, [it is important] that we encourage the broader business community to also look at their practices and to look at ways where they can be much more inclusive,” she said. “We have to make sure that there are real opportunities for women, for people of color, for our immigrant community, for our young people who are coming up. We have to make sure that this is an inclusive city, and I will continue to do that work as mayor.”
Regarding the suspension of Boston Police Commissioner Dennis White, who held the position only days before Walsh placed him on leave, Janey said she is allowing the investigation into decades-old allegations of abuse against his former wife to run its course.
“I am meeting with different stakeholders in the community,” she said. “Certainly, there are members of law enforcement who have a lot to say on that issue, and I’m making room and inviting people in to share their thoughts on that, but I will wait for the investigation before making any decision.”
Janey, whose portrait already greets those entering the lobby to the mayor’s office, demurred when asked if she will seek to extend her corner office stay by joining the mayoral race already teeming with city council colleagues Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George, and Michelle Wu, as well as state Rep. Jon Santiago and former Boston economic development chief John Barros.
“Right now, I’m focused on being mayor, but I will make a decision and an announcement in the coming weeks,” she said.