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History Made: Kim Janey Is First Black, First Female Boston Mayor

Acting Mayor Kim Janey has been making firsts in Boston all her life, and now she is the first woman and Black person to lead the city.

Janey succeeds Martin Walsh and 53 other white men as the new head of Massachusetts’ largest city. She was sworn in by Kimberly Budd, the first Black woman to lead the state’s highest court, and Ayanna Pressley, the first Black Massachusetts congresswoman. Walsh left the post to become Secretary of Labor under President Joe Biden.

Breaking new ground is nothing new for Janey — she comes from a long line of fighters, and she has her own powerful story to tell, too. Janey’s ancestors escaped slavery to Nova Scotia through the Underground Railroad, and some of them settled in the Boston area some seven generations ago.

As an 11-year-old child in 1976, Janey herself was bussed from the predominantly Black neighborhood of Roxbury to a middle school in the much whiter, grittier neighborhood of Charlestown. Surrounded by people who hated her for her skin color and what she represented by being there, Janey told The Guardian she “saw them throw rocks, bottles, sticks,” and “yell racial slurs … ‘Go back to Africa’, ‘You don’t belong here’.”

Yet she persevered, carrying that inner fight and power to overcome her own life challenges and turn them into opportunities. Janey attended community college while supporting her daughter Kenisha, who she had at 16.

(via The Guardian): She transferred to Smith College, where she was cleaning bathrooms to pay for her degree when her studies were interrupted to care for a relative.

Before entering politics, she worked as an activist and project director at Massachusetts Advocates for Children, promoting educational equity.

All of those skills and background will serve her well as she faces Boston’s current challenges. Janey says she is focused on “fair vaccine distribution, especially getting more shots to underserved Black communities, returning children to school safely, and centering disadvantaged workers in the city’s economic recovery.” She will also work on reforming the police, possibly by redirecting or cutting some of the $414m police budget, and infusing social programs with $300m in city funds.

Janey is reportedly “seriously considering” running for Mayor in November, but she has not made a formal announcement to date.


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