Fulp: A mayor of color.
Culpepper: Thanks, Carol.
Fulp: Not a minority.
Culpepper: A majority mayor (laughter from the group). On economic equality, the gap is so wide when you talk about corporate America, law firms, and our city government. How do we close that gap? Now that the majority has flipped, we have to bring the manifestation of that majority into our homes and bank accounts.
Fulp: The responsibility is ours to take it to the next step. How do we change the culture so that those who are in charge economically understand a person of color can help me attract marketplaces?
Lee: I agree. The question is, do we need to have real, strong leadership on all levels to make that happen? We can see all this demographic change, and some people would react to it with fear. I feel like we are not as good at saying even louder, “look at where our common good lies.”
Cooper: I want to come back to equality in schools. When the Boston NAACP started the push that resulted in Garrity’s order, the goal was access for black children to quality schools. Now, in trying to find a new student assignment process, there’s the same problem — the poor quality schools are in African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
Culpepper: I don’t think there’s any school assignment plan that will work until there are quality schools. Then it won’t matter.
Lee: I cannot agree with you more. I have always been really concerned about quality public education. It can be done, because there are examples. The Quincy School is an excellent example.
Three partners you need for any school to work. Not only do you need a strong principal and teaching on one end, you need to be partners with families. When our families cannot play that role, for whatever reason, the community and the rest have to make up that difference. We have the human, institutional, and cultural resources to make that happen for every school. That’s where I think we need to put our energy, and never mind the student assignment plans.
Fulp: The responsibility isn’t only the civic community’s, it’s the civic and business communities’, because this is our next generation of employees.
Cooper: Where do you think Boston is headed on diversity? What’s it going to look like in 10 years?
Lee: Boston always wants to be a global city. You cannot be a global city unless you are welcoming and on every level reflective [of diversity]. Now there’s a danger. We can be a global city by hiring people from the whole world. But what happens to the people who grew up here? That has to be the real test.
Villacres: Economically, I think there’s a lot of progress, but we still have a wide gap [between] people who are powerless economically. As a human race, we have advanced technologically, but emotionally we haven’t had a true leap of loving each other in a healthy way.
Culpepper: I’m convinced in 10 years we will have a “majority” mayor. The coalition is set to go. But there has to be a leader to bring the coalition together. When that coalition comes to flex its muscle, the city will change.
Fulp: I agree. I think in 10 years, we will have a majority individual as mayor. I think the coalitions will come together and the commonality of our interest is so powerful that we will be represented.
Kenneth J. Cooper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, is a freelancer based in Boston.