Strategy, Innovation, Intention Help Improve Race Relations In Boston

By Lisa Hughes http://boston.cbslocal.com/2018/05/24/boston-race-relations-wbz-tv-black-latino-police-schools/

BOSTON (CBS) – Leaders working to improve opportunities for people of color in Boston say strategy, innovation and intention are the three keys to success.

One example is the Omni Hotel project in the Seaport. Opening in 2021, it will be Boston’s fourth largest hotel, and 30-percent of the investors, architects, construction workers and employees will be women and people of color.

“The goal was to really open everything up, not just the workers at the site which has been a traditional concern,” Massport CEO Tom Glynn told WBZ-TV.

Massport felt conditions were right to make a strong statement about diversity, weighing it as heavily as management, design, and the budget. There were six bidders and in a more recent project with the same diversity requirement, Massport got twice as many proposals.

“We think people have embraced this and they want to make it work,” Glynn said.

It is the kind of intentional effort Boston NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan says leads to real progress.

“It shows that when we want to make it happen, we can,” she told WBZ.

Changes are also happening at Boston Public Schools. Forty-four-percent of the teachers hired for this school year – more than ever before – were people of color.

“When, with great intentionality, the district focused on this teacher diversity, we actually saw the numbers increase,” says Sullivan.

Forty-nine-percent of the state’s black teachers and a quarter of all Latino teachers work in Boston.

Documented Latinos represent 17-percent of Boston’s population, but less than 10-percent of the police force. The 200 members of LLEGO, the Latino Law Enforcement Group of Boston, are now working to change that.

“We’re feeling that maybe the Latino community isn’t properly served. And, rather than point fingers and say somebody is at fault, we’re saying how can we be a part of the solution?” said LLEGO Chairman, Boston Police Officer Izzy Marrero.

Lieutenant Detective Luis Cruz says hiring more officers who understand the Latino community’s language and culture, will lead to safer and more connected neighborhoods.

“If we recruit more Latino officers we’re improving the community policing aspect of law enforcement and we’re building a relationship with that community.” Cruz told WBZ.

The outreach won over a dinner crowd recently at a restaurant in Jamaica Plain.

“When they like, interact with them, they feel like they’re just hanging out with a friend,” said waitress Laura Martinez.

Through LLEGO, Officer Angie Oller wants to be the role model she didn’t have.

“We’re hoping to be able to mentor the recruits coming into the academy, helping to hold them so they don’t fail out of the academy, guiding them,” says Oller.

Officer Oller says LLEGO wants to send the message to Latinos that they can do anything they want to.