Boston History: Mayor Kevin White & My Father

Boston Mayor Kevin White
Left to right: Barbara Christopher (8th grade), Boston Mayor Kevin White, Mrs. Gardner, Dallos Perry (8th grade), Thomas Johnson. (February 4, 1971)

Last week, while looking through photos at my mother’s house, I found this rare gem. A picture from 50 years ago!

Since my father’s passing in 2018, it’s especially nice to find “new to me” old photos of him. And this one is for the history books. He’s with then Boston Mayor Kevin White.

I’m not sure exactly what the occasion was for this photograph, but it must have had something to do with his work as a Boston school teacher. He taught in the Boston Public School system for more than 20 years. Writing found on the back of the picture gives the names and date.

The timing of finding this picture seems especially poignant. Sometimes it feels like overall not much changes in the world. But it does. Step by step.

The week that I found this picture, showing one of Boston’s most influential mayors from last century, Kim Janey made history as the city’s first woman and first Black mayor of Boston. Janey is the 55th mayor and White was the 51st.

And the way it happened was completely unexpected! I remember being so excited when Michelle Wu decided to run for mayor back in September. Then just weeks later, Andrea Campbell put her hat in the mayoral ring. Boston could have a woman of color as mayor!

Then several others decided to run and there’s been speculation about even more. With so many people, it wasn’t as exciting anymore and I was over it. After all, I don’t even live in Boston, so I wouldn’t actually be voting.

But then, out of the blue, President Biden tapped Mayor Walsh for Secretary of Labor. Suddenly, we have a Black woman becoming mayor during Women’s History Month. And the mayoral election had nothing to do with it. Plot twist!

When the time is right, change happens in ways we can never imagine. Like the way the first woman mayor in the United States was elected back in 1887. It was supposed to be a cruel joke — only Susanna Madora Salter won.

My father loved politics and was quite the conversationalist. When a major event happens, I always wonder about conversations we would have had. Which makes me think even more about this picture.

Since the opportunity presented itself, I’m sure my father must have said something to Mayor White. I can only imagine. But on that day back in 1971, Mayor White got the chance to have a conversation with Thomas Johnson. Which is something that I now miss everyday of my life.

Quote of the Week: Amanda Gorman

“We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace.

In the norms and notions of what just is

isn’t always justice.

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken,

but simply unfinished.”

~ Amanda Gorman

Watching the inauguration this past Wednesday was a breath of fresh air — a spiritual cleansing for the nation.

The previous two Wednesdays featured an insurrection and then an impeachment. It was heartbreaking. While our democracy is still in a very fragile state, it feels good knowing that our current president, unlike the previous one, is not actively seeking to harm our country.

So I will bask in the balm of Amanda Gorman’s words. This amazing young woman, the National Youth Poet Laureate, is helping us move in the right direction.

Quote of the Week: John Adams

“Posterity!
You will never know, how much it cost the present generation, to preserve your freedom!
I hope you will make a good use of it.
If you do not, I shall repent in heaven, that I ever took half the pains to preserve it.”

~ John Adams

Thinking about the presidential election has occupied way too much of my thoughts. Especially over the last couple of months. And the last couple of weeks. But how can I not think about it?

At the end of September, I visited Peacefield, which is part of the national park system and the historic home of John Adams and John Quincy Adams. It’s not even a ten minute drive from my house, so one day when I was feeling especially distressed, I decided to visit the garden. I walked around and then sat for a bit. Looking at the old house.

And then I prayed. Prayed to the spirits of those presidents to protect this country and keep our democracy. When John Adams spoke of posterity in the quote above, I took it personally. Posterity included me and he was thinking about me and the people in this time.

If these former presidents had any kind of pull with the election, I figured that going to their former home might be enough to get my prayers over to the other side. Autumn is said to be the time when the veil between life and death is thinnest, so I might as well take advantage of the season.

I looked at the magnificent tree in the garden and wondered about all that it has lived through. How long had it been there? Did its roots begin back when these presidents were alive? Did they sit and admire it too?

Joe Biden won the election, but our current president is doing everything to prevent a peaceful transfer of power. He has no respect for democracy. He has no respect for anything. I fear for our nation.

It’s been about three weeks since I last blogged, which is far less than normal. I’ve been waiting for something definitive to write about and to feel less stress about the democratic process. But the stress is still here. When I’m upset, sometimes I stop writing. But that’s the time that I need to write even more.

So I’m writing. But like with the pandemic, we are stuck in the in between. Waiting for the inauguration in January when Biden’s presidency will be real. Waiting for the vaccine, so we can start a new normal way of life without the virus. Just waiting.

Until then, I’ll write for the future. One day, months or years from now, I’ll look back at this post and feel grateful that this period in time is over and our country is still standing. And hopefully John Adams does not regret the pains he took.

AKA Sorority Sister Kamala Harris

2020 will never be remembered as an easy year. Nor one of the happiest. It certainly isn’t a boring one though. My mom said that Kamala Harris’s nomination for Vice President is one of the most exciting things to happen in a long time. My mom is an AKA, just like Harris, so they are sorority sisters for life.

Growing up, I always knew that my mother was part of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and that pink and green were the colors. Two of her best friends, my godmother and my brother’s godmother are also her sorors and they are all thrilled.

While I never pledged to a sorority myself, being part of the AKA sisterhood has been part of my mother’s identity for as long as I can remember. With nearly 300,000 members, Harris has a powerful force standing behind her and financially supporting the campaign as well. Founded in 1908, that number is significant to the organization.

It’s not surprising, that soon after Harris became Biden’s running mate, thousands of donations in the amount of $19.08 showed up. According a Washington Post article, more than 14,000 of these donations poured in, adding up to more than a quarter million dollars. And the money keeps coming in.

While you may see women dressed in pink and green at some campaign events, you won’t see any AKA symbols, says a Richmond Free Press article. Also, don’t look to see an endorsement of Biden and Harris. As a tax-exempt nonprofit entity, there are limits to their allowed political activity. Keeping their tax-exempt status requires compliance with IRS regulations. Non-partisan voter education drives are generally okay, but not much more than that.

The debate between Pence and Harris is tomorrow and I’ve been looking forward to it. However, given what’s going on with the spread of the virus around the White House, I’m a bit nervous. Pence was at the superspreader event, so he really should be in quarantine and not out and about. Apparently they will be separated by plexiglass, so that hopefully will make the event much safer.

Every day appears stranger than the last. I cannot even imagine the drama that tomorrow’s debate will bring.

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Photo Credit: Luke Harold | Flickr