During a community conversation this week led by our friend Lori Lander, we reflected on why Cambridge has fallen short of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Dream. It was exactly the kind of reality check our community needs to tackle our most pressing issues this new year. As many expressed the shared values of our city, the call also stirred the hope we need as we strive to move forward the vision and work of Dr. King.
Speakers referenced data from our Equity & Innovation Cities report: Just 44% of Black students and 59% of Latinx students achieved benchmark 3rd grade reading scores—and our district achievement goals are significantly lower for students of color. Fewer than 30% of Black and Latinx CRLS graduates obtained a post-secondary degree in six years. And, over the past decade, gentrification and market forces swept through and displaced long-standing populations, shot up the cost of living, and increased income inequities.
Elijah Booker of My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Cambridge Taskforce was spot on when he said, “In Cambridge, we know and acknowledge the issues that exist in our city. But the real question is, how are we going to address them?
“We need to start seeing each other’s success as our own success.”
Our community will only thrive as the just and equitable city we dream of when we work to ensure the wellbeing of every individual. Across the board, panelists asserted that systems of accountability and a shared civic agenda can help us get there.
Cambridge has all the ingredients to turn our discourse into action: ample resources, intellectual capacity, values of inclusion and diversity, and a special sense of compassion and kindness. For a just and equitable future, we must organize ourselves and work across silos, with a laser-sharp focus on issues and values that bind us. Real progress must be made towards equity, affordable housing, and the transformation of our education system, while holding our institutions and leaders accountable.
Thank you to Cambridge civic leaders like Elijah, Lori, and many more who are challenging us to transform thought into action and to Many Helping Hands 365, MBK Cambridge, and YWCA Cambridge for hosting racial justice conversations this week. I look forward to the work ahead for our community, and I hope you’ll join us.
Special thanks to fellow panelists in the Jan. 19 community conversation: Sarah Gallop, MIT, Co-Director of Office of Government and Community Relations; Christopher Hope, The Loop Lab, Founder and Director; Officer Michael “Whytee” Daniliuk, Cambridge Police Department; Deborah Downes, former CRLS Teacher and Administrator, active in community organizations in Cambridge; Elijah Booker, MBK Cambridge; Niko Emack, MBK Cambridge.