city of Cambridge is a stormy hotbed of politics and social issues,
and no person has weathered its vicissitudes better than Mayor E.
11, Simmons held a town hall meeting she dubbed “A Citizen’s
Assembly” on race, gender, class and culture.
recognize the division and increasing polarization in the country
that reverberates in Cambridge, too. We cannot divorce ourselves from
what’s happening in the country,” Simmons told the
proudly dubbed as “The People’s Republic of Cambridge,”
is ranked as one of the most liberal cities in America. And with two
of the country’s premier institutions of higher learning -
Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology - that
draw students and scholars from around the world, Cambridge’s
showcase of diversity and multiculturalism rivals that of the UN.
when you scratch below Cambridge’s surface, there is also a
liberal racism that is as intolerant as Southern racism. Just like
Southern racism that keeps blacks in their place, liberal racism
does, too. For example, Cambridge’s liberal ruling class
maintains its racial boundaries not by designated “colored”
water fountains, toilets or restaurants, but rather by its zip codes;
major street intersections known as squares, like the renowned
Harvard Square; and residential border areas that are designated
numbers, like Area 4 (now known as the Port) ), which was a
predominantly black poor and working-class enclave now gentrified by
the biotechnology and pharmaceutical boom.
reminded the audience when renowned Harvard professor Henry Louis
Gates was mistakenly taken as unknown black man breaking and
entering into someone’s home that happened to be his in 2009.
It was a story that went viral internationally, leaving a pox on the
in this city is not only along race lines but also class. Poor
working-class whites and white immigrants do not experience the
fullness their white skin privilege would abundantly afford them if
they too were part of Cambridge’s professional and/or monied
her tenure as mayor, Simmons has made her chamber an open space,
leading a series of conversations looking at how the city treats its
citizenry. And, as a lifelong Cantabrigian and the country’s
first openly African-American lesbian mayor, Simmons has a deep
commitment in diversity and in improving the quality of life for all
is a resource-rich city. I want a city where everyone is respected,
have access to equal opportunity, equal advantage, equal treatment in
employment, schools, municipal services and our police department,
regardless of their class, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity or zip
code,” Simmons told the crowd.
education viewed as a passport to opportunity and success and with
the imperative to strengthen Cambridge public schools, Simmons opened
the town hall meeting with remarks from Kamaria Gooding. Gooding is a
sixth-generation African-American Cantabrigian and a 17-year-old
graduating senior from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School who will be
attending Spelman College in the fall.
is noted as a bastion of liberalism, tolerance and multiculturalism;
however, many in the audience were shocked, as I was, to hear
Gooding’s plea asking to reform the school’s curriculum
toward a more racially just pedagogy. Gooding articulated the
demoralizing and deleterious effects of valuing whiteness and
teaching an exclusively all-white Eurocentric curriculum, especially
in English and history classes.
white supremacy with no knowledge of black Americans’ influence
in Cambridge, the country and abroad. ... Black subjects are offered
as electives,” Gooding told the audience, highlighting the
tokenization she experienced.
sees her job and employees at City Hall as public servants and as a
legislative body working and addressing the concerns of citizens. The
town hall meeting successfully aimed to do just that. The audience
was divided into seven breakout groups focusing on three questions:
issues involving race, gender, class and culture would you like the
city to address?
do you feel is the impact of race, gender, class and culture in
regards to the quality of services such as employment, housing,
public safety and education, to name a few?
past decade, where have you seen progress in race, gender, class and
culture relations in Cambridge?
top three concerns from all seven breakout groups were access to
quality public education, racial profiling by police and other
community members, and affordable housing.
has been championing these issues since the 1980s as the executive
director of the Cambridge Civic Unity Committee and now as a two-term
mayor. Simmons’ indefatigable energy and efforts to make
Cambridge a model world city were heard in her charge to us all.
want to make Cambridge a proactive city and not a reactive city. I
know we can do better and we must do better. If anybody can get it
right, Cambridge can. We have the ability. We just need to have the