Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone worked with city officials and #BlackLivesMatter activists from Cambridge to hang a 4-foot-by-12-foot “Black Lives Matter” banner on the front of the City Hall on Wednesday morning. This incredible action showed solidarity with the uprisers and it’s a refreshing look at this entire struggle.
“We see this as an important opportunity for an important national conversation” about race, Curtatone said. He said the move was “a very clear statement we are making to the community that we recognize that structural racism exists in our society; it exists in our public and private institutions.”
Stephanie Guirand, lead organizer of Black Lives Matter Cambridge said, “He said all the things we wanted to hear about being on the right side of history.” Imagine seeing a Black Lives Matter banner on your City Hall, wouldn’t it put some hope in your heart that your community is attempting to heal itself?
Curtatone’s hanging of the banner is a call to action for other cities to open up conversations with activists to help improve race relations. He says it will stay up for as long as it has to, to drive the message home that Somerville wants to strengthen trust between the government and the citizens of the community. Equality and fairness is the big picture goal.
“I have a responsibility as the chief executive of public institutions in this city and our municipality to lead that,” Curtatone said. “If any one group feels that our public institutions are not treating them fairly, or our policies drive a certain structural racial overtone, I have a responsibility to lead that change.”
Curtatone says that not only does racism exist in Somerville, but it exists everywhere “in our public institutions, we can remove it.”
According to the Boston Globe, “Curtatone came out in support of the Black Lives Matter Boston movement in January, just days after protesters formed human barricades on Interstate 93 . The mayor said the activists should have been celebrated for their efforts — not chided by the public for causing traffic delays.”
Curtatone’s good work doesn’t stop at the display. He said, there will be educational components to the partnership that will involve both city departments and members of Black Lives Matter Cambridge and they developing plans for further educational efforts.
“The words are empty if we just hang a sign,” Curtatone said. “We have one goal in our community: to make it an exceptional place to live, to work, to play — for everyone.”
Hopefully other cities follow suit.