A Safe Space to Speak Out 

June 17, 2021

The resignation last week of two Latina Boston School Committee members over accusations of racial bias is a somber and important moment that we cannot let pass by.  

In our view, the comments made by Alex Oliver-Dávila and Dr. Lorna Rivera should be seen in the context of an exchange during a racially charged public hearing when the hurt from their own personal, lived experiences caused them to express their frustration to each other. At the exact same time that leaders of color are gaining more and more influence and prominence in public leadership, their words are being weaponized against them, without regard to their genesis, and aimed at extinguishing their activism on behalf of people and communities that have, for too long, been marginalized and disregarded in Boston’s public dialogue.  

We are deeply concerned that the calls for resignation that followed will have a silencing effect on others who want to speak up about racism in our communities.  Furthermore, it’s critical that we consider the detrimental impact this censorship will undoubtedly have on young people in the city who, finally, can benefit and be inspired by seeing leaders who share key aspects of their identity and lived experiences. It’s critical that we ensure that our young people see that they can bring forth their perspectives and points of view without the risk of being shouted down by the same forces that wish to reinforce the systemic racism that has reinforced deep and persistent inequities.   

No one should fear retaliation or being forced out for speaking about their personal experiences and the impact that a lifetime of personal and systemic racism has had on them. Rather than excoriate those who, for decades have been systemically held back from sharing their full and authentic perspectives, speak their truths, we should be inviting that truth-telling as a way of clearly understanding what work we need to do to create a fully inclusive and equitable Boston.   

We want our trusted partners to know United Way is a place where anyone should feel safe speaking out against racial and social injustices that they see or experience.  We are here to foster a culture of equity, inclusivity, and empathy.