Change comes to South Boston

If you know anything about South Boston it is probably from the busing crisis of the 1970s when images flashed across the country and no one could believe they were from Boston and not Mississippi or Georgia.  Images like these.

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Or maybe it is from reading “Common Ground”, the Pulizer Prize winner by J. Anthony Lukas which followed families through the crisis.  If this is what you remember, it has all just changed.

Yesterday, May 1, 2013, we all woke up to the reality that the next state senator from the district that includes South Boston will be Linda Dorcena Forry.  The “Southie Seat” has moved into a new era.  Boston has changed.

Linda Dorcena Forry held her daughter Madeline Forry, 2, as she celebrated a possible close victory at Phillips Freeport Tavern in Dorchester. (taken before Nick Collins conceded.)

Linda Dorcena Forry held her daughter Madeline Forry, 2, as she celebrated a possible close victory at Phillips Freeport Tavern in Dorchester. (taken before Nick Collins conceded.)

Linda is Haitian-American married to Bill Forry the Irish American publisher of the Dorchester (MA) Reporter.  South Boston, like it or not, is represented by a woman of color from a mixed marriage.  My fearless prediction: they will come to love her.  I have yet to meet anyone who can resist her enthusiasm and energy – or any of her four children.  I first met her nine years ago, before she ran for office, and have followed her career ever since.  She will win over those Collins (and Dahill) voters from Southie.  The Globe story this morning points out

The race was no easy win for Forry. The Wednesday morning hugs and handshakes among her, Collins, and Dahill came as the candidates were processing an Election Day fraught with mishaps. Voting day began with incorrect ballots distributed at some South Boston polling locations. Then, as votes were being counted that evening, the Associated Press erroneously ­declared Collins the winner, ­only for the final tally to show Forry with a 378-vote lead.

Forry’s path to victory was carved in Dorchester, Hyde Park, and Mattapan, and despite her poor showing in South Boston.

She will have the support of Collins (no word on Dahill) and of former Mayor, Ray Flynn.

For decades, men from South Boston have held the First Suffolk seat, which also includes Mattapan and a portion of Hyde Park.

Jack Hart Jr., who resigned the seat in January to take a job with a law firm, has held it since 2002, when he was elected to replace US Representative Stephen Lynch, a native of South boston. Before Lynch, the seat was held for 25 years by William Bulger.

“I never refer to it as the Southie seat,” Hart said in an interview Wednesday. “The reason South Boston has historically held that seat is because they’ve had higher turnout.”

Now, Hart and other members of South Boston’s political old guard insist that residents will unite behind any leader, from any part of the district, who listens to their needs. That includes Forry, a Haitian-
American, who finished a distant third among South Boston voter.

I know Linda and she will be out there with her family and the South Boston residents she meets will fall in love the way the rest of us who know her have.  Times have changed.

“I thought Collins should have won it,” said Bill Barrett, a 65-year-old South Boston resident, as he sat on the park benches on Castle ­Island, where people gather to catch a sea breeze and gossip. “It’s been a long time since that seat has left South Boston, but [Forry] seems like a nice lady.”

Barrett said that the neighborhood and district are different from those he remembers as a young man, but that change is not always bad.

“Change can be good,” said ­Barrett, who is retired. “There are a lot of young people moving into South Boston, but I think ­Dorchester also wanted a voice, too.”

She still has to win the special general election but her opponent, Dorchester native Joseph Anthony Ureneck, has already all but conceded.  It will be fun to see Linda inject some life into the annual St. Patrick’s Day breakfast next year.

Photograph of Forry Jessica Rinaldi for The Boston Globe

Photographs of busing from democratandchronicle.com, civilrights.wikispaces and busingproject.blogspot.com

Civil Rights and Gay Rights

In case you didn’t see it, Jonathan Capehart had an excellent and thoughtful essay in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Titled “Blacks and gays:  the shared struggle for civil rights”, it laid out the reasons why blacks (and I might add Asians, Hispanics and other minorities) need to support gay rights.  I am going to try to give you the highlights, but you really should read the entire essay.

It opens

You may recall that last month Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and I sparred over same-sex marriageon “Morning Joe.” You may also recall that at the end of the interview, the show’s anchor, Joe Scarborough, asked me, “[W]ould you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.”

“It’s an issue of civil rights, as you said. It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,” I said. “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

That didn’t go over so well with more than a few African Americans. They don’t see the struggles as comparable, equivalent or even related. Last Wednesday, @Brokenb4God tweeted to me, “@CapehartJ still can’t believe u think the choice of being gay is congruent to the struggle of blacks. Ain’t never seen no gay plantations!”

Clearly, she’s from the misguided pray-the-gay-away cabal, so no need to address that. I’ll leave the cheap and provocative “gay plantations” stink bomb alone, too, and get to my main point. What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.

Capehart goes through several points of similarity under topic headings:  “Bullying and Murder”, “Denied equal protection:  the right to marry” and finally, “Black leaders.”  He quotes Reverend Al Sharpton and John Lewis.  Lewis quoted Dr. Martin Luther King during the debate in 1996 on the Defense of Marriage Act. 

You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say when people talked about interracial marriages, and I quote, ‘Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.’ Why don’t you want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

Lewis supported Massachusetts activists during the debate over marriage equality.

In a 2003 opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Lewis wrote, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”

Much of the resistance to the Maryland Marriage Equality law came from black churches who are traditionally unwilling to acknowledge a gay and lesbian presence in their own communities.  One exception is my husband’s church, Union United Methodist in Boston.  Their pioneering was highlighted in this recent article in the Boston Globe

Eziah Karter-Sabir Blake swiped the play debit card through a plastic reader during a game of Monopoly recently. Another multimillion-dollar sale. The buyer, Giftson Joseph, rubbed his hands together, a glimmer creeping in his eyes as he playfully nudged the Rev. Catharine A. Cummings.

The three – one gay, one transgender, one straight – sat around a table at a new youth drop-in center at Union United Methodist Church, a historically black congregation in the South End, the heart of Boston’s gay community.

Simply by being there, the trio was straddling a divisive line between the gay community and the black church, where many gay and lesbian minorities have long felt ignored or unwelcome in the pews.

“It’s a big risk they are taking in the black community,’’ said Joseph, an 18-year-old African-American college student who is gay. “There’s already enough stigma in the church. But this is a church that is accepting of all races and sexual orientations.’’

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In 2000, Union began the process of educating themself about homosexuality and gay rights.

 In 2000, church member Hilda Evans pushed Union United to again change course, and the church agreed to defy United Methodist leaders by declaring itself an open and affirming congregation to gays and straight people alike. It held its first gay service in June 2007 at the height of the state’s same-sex marriage debate.

Other black church leaders and churches in Boston have not followed Union’s lead.  But as the Globe story pointed out

Union United has a long history of bucking tradition. In the 1800s, black worshipers walked out of their segregated Beacon Hill church home after whites grew uncomfortable and complained about their vibrant, African-style of worship. In 1818, members founded the May Street Church, which became a stop on the Underground Railroad, according to the church’s website,

What the Globe does not point out is Union’s civil rights activism during the 1960’s.  You can read about that in the J. Anthony Lukas classic, Common Ground..

It takes a long time for people to see themselves in someone else’s stuggle but we can look at Jonathan Capehart for his articulate arguments about what is right and to places like Union United Methodist Church for leading the way.