WBUR: Local leaders discuss how to navigate Boston while Black

Apr 27, 2022

Local leaders discuss how to navigate Boston while Black


The inaugural ‘How to Boston While Black’ Summit is kicking off Thursday.

Local Black leaders, community members and allies will gather over the course of three days, taking part in workshops and panels that discuss how to best navigate Boston’s professional and cultural landscape as a Black person. The summit is focused specifically on building a thriving Black business network across the region.

Morning Edition host Rupa Shenoy sat down with Boston While Black CEO Sheena Collier and Boston’s Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion Segun Idowu to have a discussion on the importance of the summit and why it was needed.

Highlights from this interview have been lightly edited for clarity.

Interview Highlights:

On how the summit came about

Collier: It honestly came from my experience navigating Boston. I’ve been here for 18 years. I came here to go to graduate school and had a challenge feeling a part of my school community in grad school, as well as the Greater Boston Black community. And really that is that is how Boston While Black was created because I was seeking this community that I had to create for myself, and so I created it for others.

The summit is a three-day, in real life version of that and an opportunity to bring together the Black people across the city who are really experts about how to navigate Boston. We’re focused on specifically tech and life sciences because of the importance of that those industries in Boston. And then we have a whole day focused on navigating the city. So everything from how do you get civically engaged, to dating in Boston, to how to access mental health and wellness resources. [These] are the tools and resources people need to create the city they want to live in.

On attracting and retaining Black talent to Boston

Idowu: Well, I don’t think it’s an issue of attracting people. There’s no dearth of Black people or Black talent in the city who want to be a part of a community. And that’s where the rub is. That’s where Boston has been failing, is creating that sense of community for Black people of all varieties in the city.

The real issue is retention. There is no community, there are no spaces owned by Black people that you can just hang out and be yourself and not worry about the outside world coming after you like many of our experiences are. My job, and that of the Economic Opportunity and Inclusion cabinet, is to make sure that we are making Boston a place that is worthy of retaining all of this talent — creating those spaces, creating more opportunities for ownership, making Boston a fun place — because we shut down at 10 p.m. for some reason. Black talent wants to come here. It’s about us creating the conditions for keeping them.

Read or listen to the full interview here.