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HAROLD WASHINGTON VICTORY

DOUBLE ISSUE:
VOL.I7, NO.6 & VOL.IB,NO.1
�.....;,.;

THE

MEL
KING
CAMPAIGN
& COALITION POLITICS
IN THE EIGHTIES
Editors: Margaret Cerullo, John Demeter, Marla Erlien, Phyllis Ewen, Ted German, Linda Gordon,
Joe Interrante, Susan Mitchell, Jim O'Brien, Donna Penn, Ken Schlosser, Gail Sullivan, Ann
Withorn and Renner Wunderlich, Interns: Liz. Westerfield and Deb Whippen.

Staff: John Demeter.

Associate Editors: Peter Biskind. Carl Boggs, Frank Brodhead, Paul Buhle. Jorge C. Corralejo,
Margery Davies, Ellen Du Bois, Barbara Ehrenreich, John Ehrenreich, Dan Georgakas, Martin
Glaberman, Jim Green, Michael Hirsch, Allen Hunter, Mike Kaz.in, Ken Lawrence, StaughlOn Lynd,
BellY Mandel. Mark Naison, Brian Peterson, Sheila Rowbotham, Annmarie Trager, Martha
Vicinus, Stan Weir and David Widgery.

Cover: Drawing and design by Nick Thorkelson

Eflen Shub photo

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AMERICA
Vol. 17, No.6-Vol.18, No.1 1983-1984

INTRODUCTION 2

THE MAKING OF MEL KING'S 9


RAINBOW COALITION: Political Changes in
Boston, 1963·1983
James Green
AMERICA'S NEW URBAN POLITICS: 35
Black Electoralism, Black Activism
James Jennings
THE MEL KING CAMPAIGN AND THE 41
BLACK COMMUNITY
Candice Cason
POEM 46
Brenda Walcott
WOMEN HOLD UP MORE THAN HALF THE 49
RAINBOW: Notes on Feminism and the Mel King
Campaign
Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien

AINT NO STOPPING US NOW: Notes from the 59


Community
Ellen Herman

LATINOS FOR MEL KING: Some Reflections 67


Melania Bruno and Mauricio Gaston
GRASS ROOTS POLITICS AND BOSTON'S ASIAN 80
COMMUNITY
Mike Liu

LAVENDER IS A COLOR IN THE RAINBOW: 89


Lesbians and Gays and Boston Politics
Margaret Cerullo, Marla Erlien, Kate Raisz and
Jessica Shubow
WHERE FREEDOM TRAILS: Race and the Mayoral 101
Election in Boston
John Demeter
BLACK POLITICAL PROTEST AND THE MAYORAL 111
VICTORY OF HAROLD WASHINGTON: Chicago
Politics, 1983
Abdul Alkalimat and Don Gills
INTRODUCTION

Mel King is a black radicaJ who took 35 percem of the vote in a second place finish in the
Boston mayoral election of November 1983. He was the first Third World candidate in the
city's history to make it into the final election. That fact. contrasted with Boston's recent
racial turmoil. attracted national and international aneolion to the election. Mel's pro­
gressive credentials are uncompromised: he has a 30-year history at the forefront of every
significant local struggle: anti-racism, feminism, anti-imperialism, gay liberation. He is not
just a decent social democrat. During the campaign he continued to raise troublesome inter­
national and social issues which no "practical" politician would touch: the right to abortion
(not just "choice"); welfare rights (not just jobs for poor women); sexism (not merely "pro­
tection" for women). He visited Cuba and compared Castro's domestic policies favorably to
Reagan's. And he suggested that a Catholic cardinal might have encouraged anti-Semitism.
With such a record it should not be surprising that almost all leftists in Boston supported
Mel King. It may however be surprising that he ever became a serious candidate in a city as
conservative and racist as Boston. In this special issue we try to capture the energy, spiril,
and hopes of the Mel King campaign. We also try to examine some of its contradictions an d
problems and their implications for Boston, the Left and electoral politics.
��
One of the greatest misconceptions that many outside of Boston have about this carnp rg
.

aJ 0y
is that it split the Left. Even Manning Marable, who came to Boston to speak on beh
Mel, later reported that about one-third of Boston radicals supported Mel's opponen. ,
I l
{�n
R,
"ln g_
Flynn. In fact, all organized�eminists, including liberal feminist groups, supported

2
contrast to Chicago where many women's For most of us, the campaign was our first par­
organizations supported Jane Byrne rather than ticipation in the electoral arena. Our involve­
Harold Washington) because of his un­ ment in this type of work, even in this obviously
equivocal stands on key feminist issues. Vir­ "deviant" variation, also exposed us to the
tually all politicized lesbians and gay men sup­ limits of electoral strategy. It brought us up
ported King except for a small liberal gentry against some of the concrete obstacles to unity
stratum of gays who supponed Larry DiCara or even to coalition building. Even as it allowed
(an anti-union, pro-business "liberal") in the many white leftists to work in a multi-racial
preliminary. The only leftists who supported campaign, it highlighted the tensions between
Flynn, to our knowledgel, were whites, largely many white socialists and feminists and the pro­
white men al that, orientcd to a social­ gressive majorities in black and other Third
democratic perspective, and connected either World communities.
with unions or organizations committed to a The articles in this issue attempt to identify
"populist" strategy. Even within this grouping, and examine these and related issues. Together
women active in local tenant organiz.ing failed they articulate a few themes which emerged
to rally strongly behind Flynn when the Boston from our experience and together they raise a
Tenants' Organization endorsed him. Whatever number of common questions. First, they sug­
the actual numbers, the more important ques­ gest the importance of a black candidacy in
tions (see Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien opening up the issue of racism in society at
on feminism and the King campaign) is what large and within the Left. Contrary to the argu­
definition of "left" or "progressive" would ments of the social democrats that we shouldn't
allow support for Flynn in the name of social waste our energies on a "symbolic" candidate
change. The only logic that makes sense of Ihis like Mel who could not win, no white candidate
position is one that expects social change to be with Mel's politics could have come near poll­
led and defined by white men. ing a third of the vote. As James Green and
As we began work on this issue, it became John Demeter point out, the King candidacy
clear that we were ourselves pulled in con­ grew out of years of anti-racist struggles in the
flicting directions as we tried to evaluate the city. But it also exposed the complexity of ad­
meaning of the campaign. All of us in the col­ dressing racism. Mel's history as a critical actor
lective, like most of our political comrades in in all the city'S racial struggles over the past two
Boston, had been involved in the clection in decades "injected' race into the election, as the
some way. Some had worked extensively either press described it, but it remained unclear to the
in neighborhood organizing or at the central of­ King campaign, how to discuss racism. If Mel
fice; olhers had canvassed, worked the tele­ tried to insist that the candidates discuss their
phone banks, or promoted special events; the stands on racism, he was accused of polarizing
RA editorial board collectively helped to raise the city. And the mainstream media, along with
money. Though all while, we are a varied the local social democratic Flynn supporters,
group. What drew each of us to such an un­ somehow made the argument seem credible that
usual level of commitment and unanimity was the best way lo"unify" the racially torn city
the cha�ce to be involved in a broad-based, was to elect an Irish politician from South
multi-racial coalition which seemed open to us Boston with an anti-busing history. The King
as socialists, as feminists, or as lesbians. "For campaign did embody an important message
once I did not have to dcny any part of my iden­ about race. Mel said, "You know where I
tity in order to work in a political campaign - stand," and he was right; he walked through
let alone an election, " was how one person South Boston and shook hands in South Boston
described it at a public forum that Radical bars, symbolically saying that he could repre­
America organiz.ed two months after the elec­ sent all the people. Nevenheless, in terms of the
tion. The campaign seemed to be a social move­ mainstream press, he remained the black candi­
ment with a receptivity to radical ideas that date. Flynn was not the white but the "unity"
?
8 1I wed us to overcome long-standing skep­
. candidate, and the King campaign did not suc­
tiCism about thc usefulness of electoral politics. ceed in forcing a full-scale public discussion of

1
racism in Boston. Even some of the Left media rights. this difference was virtually obliterated
repeated the idea thai the avoidance of such de­ from public view, and this despite the
bates was evidence of "growth and harmony" numerous feminists working daily on the cam­
rather than a missed opportunity. paign. Does this reflect an old problem of self­
Internally, as Candice Cason argues, the effacing priorities among women? Is there a
campaign also may have missed some oppor­ tension between blacks and white feminists that
tunities in dealing with racism as well. There inhibits black feminist activity? Or is there
were a variety of concerns in the black com­ perhaps an inherent radicalism to feminist ideas
munity about the influence of white socialists, that makes them particularly difricult to ex­
feminists, and gays within the campaign. In the press in an arena dominated by electoral tactics
interests of unity or due to the pressure of "get­ and campaign "platform" statements?
ting on with business," conflicts, reflecting Finally there were many problems in the cam­
racial and cultural differences, about both the paign that seemed to us produced by its very
organization and content of political work were success in the electoral arena. In American left­
managed, rather than engaged. Such tensions wing electoral politics, the candidates are usual­
should have been acknowledged and discussed, ly marginal, " not serious," either in their treat­
but were not. ment by the media or in public consideration.
Both the external and internal difficulties of Candidates perceived as "serious" are not
addressing racism pose central problems. How usually radicals, or are in the closet. However,
can the goals of confronting racism, stopping sometime in the summer of 1983, Mel King be­
racists, and giving more power to people of came non-marginal without losing his identity
color be addressed when the raising of such as a radical. His victory in the preliminary,
issues, especially by a person of color, is viewed though, had a mixed effect on the campaign.
as provocative or divisive? Yet, we were also As Ellen Herman suggests, the euphoria and
impressed by Mel King's own insistence on the the satisfaction of feeling powerful was offset
need for a "positive campaign," as he called it, by a centralizing tendency that weakened the
and the recognition that simply denouncing campaign as social movement and, she pro­
racism does not necessarily lead to change. poses, even as an effective electoral machine.
Other aspects of the complexity of building a The question remains whether it is possible for
multiracial coalition come from understanding any electoral effort to achieve success while
the importance in Boston of Latinos. Asians, maintaining a democratk. decentralized. and
and other Third World groups, and the contra­ diversified structure and strategy.
dictions within and between those groups. Two Ironically, success in the preliminary election
articles in this issue, by Mike Liu and by may have weakened the overall impact of the
Mauricio Gaston and Melania Bruno, address campaign. Success definitely increased the
such problems. In both the Latino and Asian pressure against confronting internal dif­
communities, the Mel King campaign sharpen­ ferences and disagreements such as those dis­
ed contradictions already existing between dif­ cussed above. Here if anywhere our skepticism
ferent kinds of conservative and patriarchal about electoral politics surfaces. While the King
political machines and younger, progressive campaign does show that it is possible to retain
rebels. King supporters among both groups saw values and principles it also showed us the enor­
that national and international issues may play mous pressure to homogenize and dilute posi­
important roles even in local elections, as James tions, all on the admirable premise of remaining
Jennings also poims out in his analysis of na­ open and accessible to the whole city.
tional black electoral activity.
Another problem. even a mystery. of the • • • •
King campaign had to do with the women's
vote and the role of women's issues. Cerullo
e Abdul
and Erlien examine the paradox that while the We are also pleased to include her
le on the Harold
King-Flynn difference was nowhere greater Alkalimat and Don Gill's artic
Chic ago because W�
than in their stand on feminism and women's WaShington campaign in

4
think that the King campaign cannot be under­ the gains to be made by seeking innuence
stood in isolation from the national black within the bureaucratic terms of electoral
political movement of which it is part. It was in parties and politics and aware of the dangers of
fact the visit of Harold Washington to Roxbury loss of a radical vision. And yet, the reality is
in August that many see as the turning point in that Reagan is in power, the Left is isolated, the
generating enthusiasm and active support for Right strong and vicious. Still, we believe we
Mel King's campaign within the black commu­ must continue to ask questions and not assume
nity. The difference in Mel's vote among blacks answers about how electoral work fits into at­
since his 1979 campaign (a jump from 56 per­ tempts to defeat Reaganism, and to reverse its
cent to 95 percent) must be partly related to this policies. We remain resistant to the headlong
larger momentum. Although this issue is focus­ rush into electoral politics, even to the idea that
ed on the King campaign - and, in Chicago, "above all we must defeat Ronald Reagan."
on a parallel local effort - we are aware that it Mel King's campaign is significant, as an
leads to interest in and questions about the electoral effort which stretched, as far as any
Jesse Jackson campaign, which both rides on we know, the possibilities of making electoral
and fuels the wider momentum. For us, con· politics serve the dynamics of social move­
sideration of the national context underlines the ments. And yet, the articles in this issue mostly
need to examine, concretely, the role of elec­ all point to the gap between the dream of the
toral politics in our current political work. Rainbow Coalition and the political realities of
While we became involved in the Mel King work in the campaign. We must not forego
campaign, none of us has abandoned our reser­ assessing the costs and losses of electoral
vations about electoral politics. The lessons slTategies, even if we participate in them. For
learned from the civil rights, anti-war, local Boston activists, we must sharpen the
women's, and gay movements still live. They questions that this campaign has raised.
taught us that it is powerful and disruptive Mel King, Harold Washington, and Wilson
movements outside the electoral arena that Goode are not the same, as James Jennings
force the system to bend. We remain cynical of shows. The national dimensions of Jesse
Jackson's campaign pose a host of distinct tions. We wiJI print the material in our next
political questions. Not only are Jackson's own issue and apologize for the delay.
political commitments unclear, but troubling .-ootnolfS
COn!radictions emerge when a progressive I. Manning Marable ·'Three Socialists Look at the Left in
movement aspires to actually winning the the 80s: lis Lessons, tts Visions, and Its Future" Chon8�
March-April 1984, p.] I.
presidency, a position which, in our view. by
2. The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) ran a candidate,
definition means superintending worldwide op­ Eloise Linger, in the preliminary election. Linger r<"1::eived a
pression and exploitation . Despite these con­ liule over 200 VOles.
cerns and reservations, we have been impressed
with how elections in Boston. Chicago, and
southern states indicate the power of black-led
campaigns to sharpen progressive perspectives.
force them onto the national political agenda,
and mobilize those who have been heretofore
excluded from political activity.
We hope this issue can add to the national
discussion of these questions. We hope that
readers will respond with letters and articles,
and also, if you like what we are trying to do,
with subscriptions and contributions, since this
issue is much larger and more expensive than
our normal issues.
Despite our criticism, the overwhelming im­
pact of the Mel King campaign was 10 raise our
spirits. Indeed, the criticisms offered here are
the distillation of a rich. complex learning ex­
perience. The Mel King campaign telescoped in­
to a few months the kinds of learning that can
only happen in times of in!ense activity when
many new things happen every day, when we
�-------------------------,
leave our normal communities and meet new
people, when we encounter the human energies : CORRECTIONS :
that normally lie crushed by daily survival I :
I
stresses, and when we conrron! differences and f The cover of Vol. 17, No. 4 featured a photo of
take unusual risks. : a painting by artist Freida Kahlo. Inadvertantly, 1
We dedicate this issue to Mel King for being the credit for the painting was left out of the :
central in evoking all this, the more so because issue. We apologize for the omission. I
,
he would criticize us for doing so and would in­ ,
,
sist that the dedication belongs to the people In that same issue, in the article by Catherine ,
,
who were his campaign . Mac Kinnon, The Male Ideology of Privacy: I
• • • • A Feminist Perspective on Abortion, a line was
Finally, a brief note to readers and sub­ missing in the righl hand column on p. 27. The
scribers. Two articles that appeared in RA Vol. : last sentence of the first paragraph should read:
17, No. 4 (july-August 1983) - Boaz Evron's
"Holocaust: The Uses of Disaster" and !
I
"In feminist terms, applied to abortion law, (he
logic of Roe consummated in Harris translates
Catherine MacKinnon's " The Male Ideology of
: the ideology of the private sphere into individ­
Privacy: A Feminist Perspective on Abortion "
: ual women's legal right to privacy asa means 0/
- received a lot of response. We had hoped to
include the leiters and comments, along with
:I subordinating women 's collective needs to the
imperatives of male supremacy." The italicized
I
the authors' reactions, in this issue but were f section was left out.
I
prevented from doing so by space considera- �--------------------- ---------
___•••

6
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anicJes that have appeared in RA since 1967: Black •••••••••••••
• 00
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Articles, commentary, poetry and art by C.L.R.


James, Sara Evans, E.P. Thompson, Herbert Mar­
cuse, Diane DiPrima, Kcn Cockrell, Marlartl Ran­
dall, Staughlon Lynd, MannillJ Marable, Todd
Gitlin, Marl Jo Buhle, Ann D. Gordon, Ellen Willis,
Michael LesY. David Monl,omery, Aime Cesaire,
Bernice Johnson Reagon, Sonia Sanchez, Dan
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Mark Naison. Sheila Rowbotham, David Wldgery.
Ron Aronson, Harvey O'Connor, Lillian Robinson,
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"FACING REACTION" - Special double issue on
the New Right and America in the SOs .•. Vol. 15, Nos. ••••••••••
I & 2 (Spring 1981)... 160 pages, illustrated.
Featuring: IN THE WINGS: NEW RIGHT
ORGANIZING AND IDEOLOGY by AJlen Hunter;
THE CONTINUING BURDEN OF RACE: a review
by Manning Marable; ABORTION: WHICH SIDE
ARE YOU ON? by Ellen Willis; THE LONG
STRUGGLE FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS by
linda Gordon; THE WOMEN'S MOVEMENTS:
FEMINIST AND ANTIFEMINIST by Barbara
Ehrenreich; RETREAT FROM THE SOClAL
WAGE: HUMAN SERVICES IN THE 80s by Ann
Withorn; also THE NEW TERRAIN O F
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7
THE MAKING OF MEL
KING'S RAINBOW
COALITION: .

Political Changes In Boston,


1963-1983

James Green

On October 11, 1983 something electrifying happened in Boston. An inter-racial crowd


jammed the Parker House and flowed out into the streets to celebrate a remarkable evem in
Boston's political history. Mel King, a militant black activist, a man of peace with feminist
and socialist sympathies, had run a principled campaign for mayor. and stunned the city by
winning a place in the run-ofr election. He finished in a dead heat with City Councilor Ray
Flynn, formerly a State Representative from South Boston. Characteristically, King led a
demonstration from the Parker House down Tremont Street to City Hall Plaza where he
gave an impromptu speech on what the place would be like when the people took over.
The press loved comparing the two finalists, "the craggy faced Irish battler from South
Boston" and the "brawny, bald, bearded activist" from the South End. "The two men
were the most leftward in (he race, both running on a promise to shift money and urban
planning energies away from glamorous downtown and harbor front development toward
rebuilding Boston's neglected working-class neighborhoods." The two candidates'
"POpulist appeals were so evenly matched" that Time magazine could not distinguish them.'
Indeed, each candidate did still live in the "rough Boston neighborhood where he was
born and raised."l Both men had fathers who worked on the Boston docks and both at-
=

9
tended public schools. Lefl unsaid was the fact white and black communities. As a Globe col­
that Mel King went to one of the city's few in­ umnist remarked: "The winners of the first
tegrated schools, "the little United Nations" in post-White mayoralty preliminary are two can­
the South End, while Ray Flynn starred in three didates who weren't supposed to be there. Pas­
sports at all-white South Boston High School. sion counted for more than money, ideology
The two rough neighborhoods the candidates for more than TV ads. Populism beat charisma.
came from responded very differently to And the media got shut out. '"
Boston's historic busing crisis. While white However, Finnegan's defeat also had some
mobs stoned school buses full of black children troubling implications for the King campaign.
in South Boston, parents in the South End I f Mel had faced Finnegan in the final, he might
formed escort groups for the white kids being have been able to win more white working-class
bused into their schools. King and Flynn were votes from people hurt by the kind of economic
both raised in poor, working-class neighbor­ and social policies that favored the dowmown
hoods, but more than the murky Fort Point over the neighborhoods. But instead King faced
Channel and the Amtrak yards separated the Ray Flynn, who had carefully crafled his cam­
wide-open, multi-racial South End from the all­ paign, and indeed his recent political career, to
white, intensely parochial neighborhood Ray appeal exactly to those white working-class
Flynn had represented in the State House.' voters hurt most by the pro-business policies of
Flynn and King had both declared their the White administration, and most offended
mayoral candidacies assuming that they would by the arrogant, preppy style affected by both
face Boston's incumbent, four-term mayor, Mayor White and David Finnegan.
Kevin White. As this article shows, White's ad­ Mel King began his career in electoral politics
ministration was in crisis for many reasons, in­ in 1961 as a candidate for School Committee
cludi�g the pressure of a federal corruption and a dedicated enemy of racial segregation in
probe. When Mayor White decided not to run schools and housing. Ray Flynn began his
for a fiflh term, the field opened up to include career as a South Boston politician in the hey·
not only King and Flynn but also seven other day of Louise Day Hicks, the arch-segregation­
candidates. Five were men of Irish or Italian ist, and built his career in the State House and
background. There was one woman contender City Council as a "Iunchbucket liberal" and a
the Socialist Workers Party candidate, who ha d leading spokesman for anti-busing, anti­
trouble distinguishing herself from Mel King, abortion forces. King attempted to make
and there was a provocative candidate from the racism an issue in the mayoral campaign, and
crazy, right-wing U.S. Labor Party. spoke out on (he issue in a constructive way
The front-runner in this field was David Fin­ when he talked to audiences in all-white areas.
negan, a slick talk-show host and former Flynn insisted that racism was not an issue, but
School Committee chairman, who raised tons during the primary he passed out different
of money from downtown and suburban busi­ lea nets in white and black areas. King iden­
ness interests, and inherited many of Kevin tified himself as a feminist and spoke oul
White's supporters . Flynn and King both aimed against homophobia, while Flynn presented
their attacks on Finnegan as the candidate of himself as a changed politician, a progressive
the rich who would carry on Kevin White's pro­ who now opposed all sorts of discrimination. In
business housing and development programs at recent years Flynn renounced his opposition to
the expense of the neighborhoods. This iden­ the Equal Rights Amendment and supported
tification proved to be Finnegan's undoing, and laws to prevent discrimination in housing based
he finished a poor third to King and Flynn, on race and sexual preference. But when he was
even though he outspent them by a vast margin. asked how he would deal with violent attacks
The preliminary election results were a repudia­ against women and gay men, Flynn simply said
tion o f the pro-business "limousine he would hire more police. And though he noW
liberalism" that had governed the city for claimed to support equal rights for women,
decades. The election also ..recorded a major Flynn did not renounce the amendment he
assertion of working-class discontent in both sponsored in the State House to cut off
=

10
Medicaid benefits for abortions to state dependence from the Democratic Party in 1977,
employees and welfare recipients. enhanced this feeling by consistently referring
King and Flynn had different political to the "we" of the campaign and by looking
histories, different principles and strategies, beyond the elections to the long process of
and as a result, they developed very distinctive popular empowerment. Participation in the
grass-roots coalitions. Mel King's Rainbow Rainbow Coalition eased many leftists' feelings
Coalition developed out of the militant struggle of isolation and marginality. This foray into
against segregation waged by the black com­ electoral politics offered us an unusual oppor­
munity and its white allies, a struggle which IUnity to transcend the limits of one-issue cam­
came to include Asians and Latinos in the past paigns. We could work in a muili-national,
decade. Because of King's active and principled multi-cultural coalition that brought together a
opposition to all forms of discrimination, range of issues and offered a progressive pro­
feminists, gays, and lesbians joined the coali­ gram we could take to ordinary people. For me
tion, as did most Boston area socialists who and for many other white leftists campaigning
were impressed with Mel's leadership in a range in largely white working-class areas like Hyde
of radical causes and by his ability to connect Park, the effort allowed us to continue anti­
issues of discrimination, economic exploita­ racist political work in a new and more positive
tion, imperialism, and militarism. All the leftists way. Mel King provided the leadership and en­
under the Rainbow also appreciated Mel King's couragement we needed to take our politics to
courage, his willingness to maintain his prin­ people in these conservative areas without being
ciples and to fight back against race-baiting, negative, defensive, or moralistic. Mel asked us
red-baiting, and homophobia. to treat everyone as a "potential aUy." This ef­
King's preliminary campaign had a decen­ fort proved discouraging in many respects, as
tralized. movement quality about it, somewhat John Demeter explains in his report from an
reminiscent of the civil rights movement. And Italian neighborhood, but it also gave some of
the candidate, who had declared his in- us a hopeful sense that if the Rainbow Coali-

MI'lKi/lg OCkllO....ledges crowd


01 prelimillory \'ictory party. (ktobe" /983. EliI'll Shub photo
tion could build a base in some while areas by control struggle, King led the fight for a bill to
tackling community issues, as well as larger divest the state of funds invested in South
issues, then people in those areas might open up Africa. While the Councilor from South
to the kind of message Mel was sending. Boston was doing favors for constituents, Mel
In his campaign Ray Flynn maintained his King was doing that and more by taking leader­
anli-busing, anti-abortion stance and took no ship on larger issues that concerned people of
chances on alienating his core constituency color, visiting Cuba, and trying to bring
among conservative whites. He refused to together a Black Caucus of state legislators.
recognize Boston's racist past or to use the term King's record on economic issues was much
racism. He insisted the issues were the same in more progressive than Flynn's. Indeed, it was
South Boston and in Roxbury. He turned his King who developed two key proposals which
back on a historic opportunity to join Mel Flynn later endorsed: the idea of linking
King and to address white people on the harm­ neighborhood economic development to
ful effects of racism. He even refused to use his downtown growth and the Boston Jobs for
own immense innuence in South Boston to in­ Boston People program establishing quotas on
tervene in the City Council campaign in his public jobs for city residents, minorities, and
home district between Jimmy Kelly, the ultra­ women. But King lacked the visibility and
right hate-mongering candidate of the anti­ credibility Flynn achieved in many
busing movement, and a liberal social worker. neighborhoods around the city o n very specific
Ray Flynn propelled himself into the final by issues.
distinguishing himself from the other white
liberal Democrats. He campaigned as a populist
defending the little people in the neighborhoods
against' City Hall and downtown business in­
terests. At one point he confronted David Fin­
negan on City Hall Plaza declaring angrily,
"This building is not for sale, David." Flynn
understated and at times obfuscated his reac­
tionary voting record on issues like busing and
abortion. Of course, he already had the support
of his conservative white, anti-busing, anti­
abortion constituency. But this group would
not be suWcient to make him a winner. Indeed,
several single-issue anti-busing candidates had
been defeated in the seventies. Flynn needed a
broader base, including white liberal voters,
and sought to widen his appeal by emphasizing
his progressive record on economic issues,
especially housing. As an at-large City Coun­
cilor, Ray Flynn had assiduously cultivated
union and community support throughout the
city, visibly involving himself in supporting
strikes, ren! control campaigns, restrictions on
condo conversion, while doing many political
favors for individuals. While Flynn used his Ci­
ty Council seat to cultivate citywide support,
Mel King represented one district in the State
House and tried to speak out on a wide range of
issues concerning discrimination, exploitation,
and militarism at home and abroad. While Ra)'mond FI)'nn. Ellen Shub pholO
Flynn played a highly publicized role in the rent

12
Mel King's preliminary campaign clearly with significant minority membership and left­
represented empowerment for people of color. ist leadership. But these defections to Flynn
When King challenged incumbent Mayor Kevin hurt. Progressive leaders like Manning, Bozzot­
White in the preliminary ele(.;tion of 1979, he to, and Lew Finfer of the Tenants Organization
finished third with 1 5 percent of the overall respected King but argued that Flynn had
vOle and 65 percent of the black vote. But in "done his homework" and used his position on
1983 Mel nearly doubled his percentage of the the City Council to be very visible on the issues
total vote, swept the black community with 90 and very helpful in doing favors. Other pro­
percent, and carried the Asian and Latino pre­ gressives and social democrats used a different
cincts with big majorities. His campaign and kind o f pragmatic argument: that a black can­
the idea o f the Rainbow Coalition had dramati­ didate was not viable or electable in racist
cally boosted voter registration in minority Boston and that it made more sense to back the
areas with 23,000 new vOlers registering in the best white progressive. Flynn's leftist sup­
three weeks after his preliminary victory. porters went beyond this, taking the incredible
King's 1979 mayoral campaign had seemed too view of the liberal Boslon Globe that their can­
radical for many black leaders, especially the didate showed a "greater willingness to reach
ministers, but in 1983 national events altered out" than King, even though a miniscule
the context for local politics and gave enormous number of people of color supported Flynn.'
impetus to progressive candidates like King. They also criticized Mel King for being
Harold Washington's historic victory in ideological and divisive by injecting the issue of
Chicago created new excitement and unity in race into the campaign and thereby stirring up
Boston's black community. When Mayor racism. And they tried to defend Flynn's ter­
Washington came to Boston in mid-summer to ribly conservative record on race and women's
endorse King, his campaign surged forward in issues, by emphasizing his e(.;onomic populism
its re(.;ruitment and fund-raising activities. and his recent support for some anti-discrimi­
Visits by Andrew Young and Jesse Jackson ad­ nation laws. So when Flynn's supporters em­
ded even more enthusiasm to the campaign and phasized the "ground floor economic issues"
solidified King's black support. Soon the polls and criticized King for raising the issue of
showed that Mel King had a chance to make the racism and for allegedly acting like "the black
final run-off be(.;ause most of the newly candidate," they implied that race would not be
registered voters were people o f color who plan­ a decisive factor in the final election.
ned to vote for him. But in the final election Boston did vote
During the primary each candidate did make along racial lines. Flynn beat King by a two-to­
a populist appeal to the "poor, the near-poor one margin, carrying 80 percent of the white
and working class that felt left behind in Kevin vote and only a small fraction o f the vote cast
White's glitzy downtown . " And though both by people of color. King's supporters naturally
candidates did run similar campaigns on viewed this as a discouraging defeat . Blacks in
"ground-noor economic issues" like jobs and the Rainbow Coalition had reason to be
housing, there were some obvious dirrerences.' especially depressed. Once again white liberals
Though Flynn based his coalition on a tradi­ had failed to support black people. Many did
tional white anti-busing, anti-abortion consti­ not vote and many others ignored Flynn's
tuency, he did attract significant liberal and record of opposing desegregation, and decided
social democratic support from progressive to "back a winner." Though many white voters
leaders like Frank Manning of the Older said they admired and respected Mel King per­
Americans and Domenic Bozzotto o f the Hotel sonally, they refused to support him. Indeed,
Workers and from groups like the Massachu­ one discouraging poll showed that one-third o f
setts Tenants Organization and Nine to Five. the white voters interviewed would not vote for
king of COurse had far more progressive sup­ a black candidate under any circumstances, no
PDrt: from all of the women's groups and matter how appealing the candidate's proposals
organizations representing people of color, happened to be.'
rrom gay and lesbian activists, and from Though naturally discouraged by the lack of
unions
=

13
white support, the King campaign did point out not "excite any great interest."
that Mel received 20 percent of the while vote, In order to understand the changes that pro­
more than Harold Washington received in duced Mel King's Rainbow Coalition, as well as
Chicago or Andrew Young in Atlanta, even Ray Flynn's populist coalition, we have to ap­
though King ran a more radical campaign in a preciate the popular reaction that developed to
more overtly racist city. Many observers, as the way Boston was governed from the early
well as key black activists. thought that cerlain 19505 through the four-term Kevin White ad­
controversial statements alienated Catholics ministration, 1968-\984. By 1983 both coali­
and cost King white vales. Others noted the tions were fueled by real passion, grass-roots
gains Mel made in white areas over his 1979 political enthusiasm, and class resentment. But
campaign, even though he lacked a base in if we are to understand the differences between
those areas and lacked the kind of sUPPOrl the King and Flynn coalitions we must see how
Flynn had developed in the unions and in the the policies of the White regime affected people
neighborhoods during his term as a City Coun­ of color in particular and we must review the
cillor. The people who took Ihe King campaign long struggle over school desegregation. School
into while neighborhoods had certainly hoped busing was not a major issue in the 1983 elec­
10 do better. but they also thought they could tion, despite King's efforl to make Flynn ac­
win far more support the next time around if countable for his anti-busing, pro-segregation
Mel King and the Rainbow Coalition could record. But the core of each candidate's coali­
maintain visibility and activity in those areas.' lion took shape during the busing connict that
Though Mel King might have done better polarized the Hub in the mid-seventies, and in
among white voters under different cir­ some subtle ways the 1983 campaign was
cumstances, he did not mourn his defeat on fought along some of Ihe same battle lines
election night. After all, his campaign had em­ drawn during the desegregation conflict.
powered people of color in a very impressive
way. The upsurge of voter registration among The "New Boston" Coalilion
blacks, Asians, and Latinos was in itself an im­
portant achievement. The campaign had also Kevin White's four-term administration
forged a very vibrant coalition of people of col­ ( 1 968-1984) was Ihe longest and most successful
or, women's groups, and white progressives that of the liberal "pro-growth coalitions that rose
reoriented electoral politics in Boston. Though to power in many cities during the late 19605.1'
he had lost the race, King declared that the Actually. the groundwork for White's regime
Rainbow Coalition had not been defeated. He was laid in the 19505 and early '60s by a
thanked the crowd for allowing him 1 0 lead business/reform effort to create a New Boston
such a movement through "what historians will out of a run-down, depressed
city with
recognize as a turning point in the social, machine-controlled government. During the
cultural and political history of Boston. "9 last administration of Boston's colorful boss
Future struggles will be required to confirm James Michael Curley (who left office for the
this inspiring statement. BUI looking back over lasl time in 1949) a business/reform coalition
the past two decades of Boston politics. it is formed in response to an urban crisis caused by
clear that the black struggle for equality has industrial decline, suburbanization, an eroding
provided the leadership for an even broader tax base. rising government expenses, and the
movement for social tolerance and progressive "cancerous growth of the slums." All of these
change. The making of Mel King's Rainbow things made Boston an unattractive place for
Coalition did not begin in 1983. but during that capitalist investors, as renected in the
year the movement for economic, social, and remarkable absence of skyscrapers
from
cultural equality showed that il was ready to Boston's skyline. The Brahmin business elite
contest for political power. There have been reacted with undisguised hostility to the city's
some big changes in Boston politics since 1%1, arrogant, charismatic Mayor Curley. He
when Mel King first ran for the School Com­ showed liale interest in downtown develoP­
mittee in a campaign that, as he recalled, did ment, displayed blatant ethnic and class pre-
,
-

14
judice in awarding city jobs and setting tax country's firSI "pro-growth coalitions. " It in­
rates, and brazenly escalated the cost of city cluded a younger generation of ethnic politi­
government by expanding public employment. cians, "a new breed of government
As the cost of city services rose and the tax base bureaucrats, large corporations, central
declined (due to industrial migration), Mayor business district real estate developers, mer­
Curley drastically boosted assessment rates on chant interests and the construction trades."
commercial and industrial properly, Ephron The coalition also had the estimable support of
Catlin, a senior official of the First National Richard Cardinal Cushing, head of a very
Bank in this period, recalls that in Ihe minds of powerful Catholic archdiocese and an arch­
businessmen "there was a feeling that Boston rival of Mayor Curley, who failed in his last
was in the hands of the supercrooks. Nobody two attempts to regain City Hall in the 19505. 1 1
had ever seen an honest Irishman around here, Using lax breaks, federal grants, and big­
in the Yankees' opinion. God, they hated bank financing, the New Boston coalition
Curley.' · 1 1 pushed for highway construction, slum
After a fifty-year career in which he became clearance, downtown development, and
kind of a folk hero to most working-class government efficiency. Hynes initiated the
Bostonians, James Michael Curley lost in a "clearance" o f the New York Streets
close election 10 John Hynes, a bland young neighborhood where Mel King was born and
politician who had the backing of the New raised, and then the infamous deSlruclion of
Boston Commillee, a business-based reform another muhi-ethnic area, the West End, which
displaced 2,600 families and warned inner-city
residents what the New Boston had in store for
them. 1 3 In 1959 a traditional machine politician
from South Boston, John Powers, tried to
revive the old Curley coalition and regain City
Hall from the ruling group. Powers caused the
City's Brahmin bankers and bond holders to
break into a cold sweat when he threalened
that, if elecled, he would declare bankruplcy to
solve Ihe city's fiscal crisis. Business leaders im­
medialely formed a special coordinating group,
soon dubbed "the Vault," and backed a pro­
business candidate named 10hn Collins who
defeated Powers and began (0 reform city
governmenl, laying off 1 ,200 city workers and
hiring New Haven's redevelopment czar Ed
Logue to get on with "slum clearance . " I '

The Civil Rights Movement

During the 1960s Boston's highly segregated


scho·::>l and housing systems became targets of
organizing and protest efforts that would lead
to significant changes in city politics. In 1961
the NAACP sued the Boston Housing Authori­
ty for practicing de facto segregation and the
courts found the BHA guilty. The public
schools suffered both from the neglect of the
city's new business leaders and the retrograde
and blatantly racist practices of the old machine
Jomf!S Michael Cur/f!Y
(Ieff) ond "radiO priest" Charles politicians who maintained control of the
CQUfhllll.

"
School Committee and School DepartmenLI I "resisted the whole establishment on behalf of
In 1960 Citizens for Boston Public Schools small people who never expect to make it big,"
(CBPS) formed to protest conditions and a year wrote Schrag. Hicks led all candidates in the
later it ran four candidates for School Commit­ 1963 election and Mel King failed to come close
tee. The two whites won and the two blacks in his second bid for School Committee."
lost. One of the losers was Mel King, a youth r
worker at United South End Settlements. In
1962 the Northern Student Movement, initiated
(Q support civil rights struggles in the South,
joined some black churches to set up tutorial
programs. In 1963 the Citizens' group, the
NAACP, and CORE all published reports
critical of de facto segregation in Boston's
schools and joined forces to pressure the School
Mel King in 1965 when was
Committee. When the Committee refused to
Selilemenls and a candidale for Ihl' BasIOn School Com­
acknowledge de facto segregation, students millf'e.
boycotted the system. An unexpected 9,000 During the mid-sixties Boston became a
students (about one-quarter of the student battleground of civil rights protest and white
body) participated in the Stay Out campaign of resistance around the issue of school segrega­
1963 and many attended Freedom Schools tion. The protest movement included parent
modeled after those in the South. The civil boycotts, student strikes, dramatic School
rights movement in Boston kept the pressure up Committee hearings, picket lines, marches, and
on all fronts. At the same time, Mel King led a the creation of "freedom schools," including
STOP day and asked people to walk off their one at South End Settlement House where Mel
jobs . to protest de facto segregation, police King was "principal . " This agitation
brutality, and other forms of discrimination. (highlighted by Martin Luther King's ap­
The NAACP and other established black pearance on Boston Common) led 10 the
leaders opposed the idea of a work stoppage passage of the state Racial Imbalance Law in
and called their own demonstration, a 1965. which demanded desegregation but pro·
memorial to slain civil rights leader Medgar hibited busing as a solution. After a brief lull,
Evers. But the two groups did come together in boycotts continued, notably at the Gibson
a "gesture of solidarity" marching through the School described by Jonathan Kozol in Dea/h
South End while singing "Freedom, Freedom" 0/ an Early Age. A new phase of the struggle
and "We Shall Overcome'''' to a rally on began. Black demands for "community­
Boston Common. controlled education" led both to voluntary
In response, the School Committee became plans for busing black children to suburbs and
more intransigent. The Chairperson, Louise to the opening of private community schools in
Day Hicks of South Boston, had been elected to Roxbury. In 1965 Mel King and other Citizens'
"keep politics out of the schools" and at first candidates again confronted Louise Day Hicks
appeared open-minded, but in 1963 she emerged for using the "fear-laden issue of busing and
as a leader of the white resistance to desegra­ race for her own political advantage,'" but
tion. That fall she campaigned for re-election without success. Hicks won an impressive vic­
s
on the race issue as a defender of segregation tory over the field because one in three citizen
and the "neighborhood school ." Indeed, dur­ voted only for her. But Mel King came in sixth
ing the summer of 1963 Hicks "identified in the race for five seats, and for the first time
in the city's history, a greater percentage
of
herself as the budding symbol of northern in­
transigence toward civil rights demands, " ac­ black voters than whites went to the polls in an
off-year primary election. A direct line �a�
CIVIl
cording to Peter Schrag. She also identified
herself with Mayor Curley's populist legacy and from the electoral mobilization created by
the
claimed to represent the "little people" of rights struggles between 1961 and 1965 and
South Boston and the citll- as a whole. She new level of black political activism in 198 ;(1

16
Kevin H. White's Regime business development policies of the White ad­
and Independent Black Politics ministration which led to luxurious downtown
growth while neighborhood business and hous­
In 1967 Louise Day Hicks decided to run for ing suffered.
Mayor on her segregationist record and her new In 1%8, White's first year in office, all of
reputation as a populist champion of the "little these opposition currents swirled through city
people" in poor white neighborhoods. This was politics. A third community-controlled black
also the year that Mel King became director of private school opened and the Black Panthers
the New Urban League and began a program to began a free breakfast program and visits to
help black parents confront school problems. white teachers' classrooms. Parents and
And it was a year of intense black protest. students continued to boycott the schools at
Mothers for Adequate Welfare occupied the certain times. In one incident a student was
Roxbury welfare office at Grove Hall. When suspended from English High for wearing a
protestors gathered outside, the police rioted dashiki, and black students walked out in pro­
and looting and burning broke out afterwards test, joined by some whites. A Black Student
on the black commercial strip. The police riot Union was organized. And in 1968 the first
and Hicks's racist mayoralty campaign called black labor union in modern times was formed .
for continued mobilization in the black com­ The United Community Construction Workers
munity. (UCCW) aimed to fight against discrimination
Kevin H . White, a new type of Irish politi­ by contractors and unions. The assassination of
cian from all-white West Roxbury, waged a Martin Luther King led to violent protest, and
liberal campaign against Hicks. He presented in its aftermath activists created a Black United
himself simultaneously as a reformer, as a Front (BUF) which included many important
developer who would continue plans for the groups (though not the NAACP, which was ap­
New Boston, and a Kennedy liberal who would parently offended by the group's nationalist
restore racial peace. After an intense, bitter politics). When confronted by the Front's de­
campaign, White beat Hicks by less than 5,000 mand for community-comrolled development
votes. He won because he received over 15,000 funds. Mayor White listened but then tried to
black votes after a registration drive and a push co-opt the BUF by forming his own group, the
10 gel out the VOle led to an unprecedented 68 Boston Urban Foundation, with the same in­
percent turnout among blacks. Along with itials. At the same time housing struggles inten­
Hicks's defeat, black and white supporters sified. The South End, a b�ttleground during
'
celebrated the election of Thomas Atkins, the (his stage of urban renewal, produced a strong
first black elected to an at-large City Council neighborhood advocacy group, CAUSE, and
seat. two lenant unions, one of them a Hispanic
Once elected, Kevin White began to build a organization. In 1968 CAUSE members, in­
patronage machine modeled after Richard cluding Mel King, occupied a Redevelopment
Daley's organization in Chicago with an impor­ Authority office in the South End to protest in­
tant arm in the black community. White adequate relocation plans. Then they picketed a
modernized the New Boston coalition by gain­ parking lot in the South End where the
ing more white liberal and black support. Redevelopment Authority had bulldozed
Though Kevin White governed more effectively liveable buildings, displacing one hundred
than many of the liberal pro-business mayors families. When CAUSE members blocked the
of the era, he-was not unopposed. First, the parking 101, twenty-three were arrested, in­
COntinuing mobilization of blacks and white cluding Mel King. A Tent City was then erected
allies against school desegregation took place on the site which has since become a symbol of
independent of City Hall and eventually led to popular resistance to the city's pro-business
the 1974 COurt-ordered busing plan which took housing policies. "
the schools entirely out of the city government's Black people supported Kevin White in his
bands. Second,
: there was less coherem but con­
uous unrest and protest over the pro-
1967 contest against Louise Day Hicks because
they hoped he would change some of these

17
policies. They have been disappointed. The six­ ment, but as events in the late sixties showed, a
teenth anniversary of Tent City is this year and new "organizing stage" had already begun,
the site is still vacant. Apparently a new luxury quite independent of the Democratic Party.ll
shopping center will use the land for parking For instance, in 1971 two-term City Councilor
and there will be no new affordable housing. Thomas Atkins decided 10 challenge Mayor
The support the black community generated for White in the preliminary even though the con­
Kevin White in 1967 was not unqualified or test also included Louise Day Hicks and even
unequivocal. Though White attempted to bring though the mayor aggressively wooed black
some black loyalists into his organization, he voters. White again faced Hicks in the final.
could not subdue the strong streak of in­ After pushing very hard for black and Latino
dependence that had been evident in Boston registration, he won the election by a big
black politics for a long time. margin. But this time White's victory over
Hicks did not depend on his black vote. And so
the mayor began to build a stronger base in
white working-class areas that had been solidly
for Hicks, and where he was known as "Mayor
Black" because of his promises to voters in
Roxbury. White could now pay less attention to
the Afro-American community because he
thought he could always count on black votes if
he faced a more conservative white candidate in
the final. It also meant that City Hall would be
less helpful with voter registration.ll
As early as 1926 black political leaders split
White incorrectly assumed, however, that he
with the Republican Party and tried to seek could take the black vote for granted. If
leverage with their small but often crucial vote
anything black voters were becoming more in­
in close nonpartisan preliminary elections. In
dependent. In 1971, along with the Atkins
1935 a united front formed, including
challenge to the mayor, a militant black woman
Democrats, Republicans, Socialists, and Com­
named Patricia Bonner-Lyons ran for School
munists, to nominate black candidates for city Committee. Even though she attacked White
office. Though lack of a strong political and made no secret of her Communist Party af­
machine has suggested weakness, in fact, as
filiation, she gained a solid black vote and near­
James Jennings argues, the independence of the ly won. In 1972 Mel King, by now a well·
black vote meant that Democratic politicians,
recognized militant and critic of City Hall, won
including Curley, often courted it assiduously. election to the State House from a mixed
A small patronage organization attached to the district with a white plurality.
Democratic Party did emerge during the 1950s
when the black population increased signifi­ The Dusing Crisis
cantly.2 0 And in 1958 the leaders of the
organization helped one of their members win In 1972 a group of black parents, supported
election to the State House. But this black by the NAACP, brought suit against the School
"machine," which taught Mel King his first Committee in federal district court to challenge
lessons in electoral politics, had very limited the continuing and increasing school segrega­
patronage. It fit into the "service stage" of tion. Judge Arthur W. Garrity issued his deci­
political development which, according to sion on June 2 1 , 1974 and ordered the School
King, involved "taking the white power struc­ Committee to implement his busing plan th� [
ture's handouts rather than organizing the com­ September. Massive and violent white OppOSl'
munity to demand satisfaction of black tion surfaced, led by School Committee ch r­ �
needs. ",. man John Kerrigan and City Councilor LoUist
t
Of course Mayor White tried to prolong the Day Hicks. There were doubts about the cour
"service stage" in black community develop- order in the black community, not only regard-
-

18
ing the safety of children, but also over the lack While black leaders and parents rallied at
of community control involved in the plan. Freedom House in Roxbury to try to "keep
State Rep. Mel King had tried to develop an calm in the black community and to prepare
alternative plan that allowed blacks more con­ . . . children for the harsh realities that awaited
trol of schools in their neighborhoods and them in formerly all-while schools." something
would eventually make a majority of teachers very different happened in white areas. a
in those areas black, but the Boston Teachers Political leaders like Hicks and local organizers
Union killed the plan, refusing to give up con­ mobilized through organizations like ROAR
trol over anv jobs. I' (Restore Our Alienated Rights) and stirred up
When school busing began in September of white resistance in a threatening situation
1974 and white crowds attacked black students already filled with racial hatred. Ray Flynn,
and other people of color, the black community then a State Representative for South Boston.
and its white allies rallied to defend students' strongly supported ROAR, marched in its
rights to a safe, desegregated education. As the demonstrations. and emerged as "one of the
violence continued through the fall of 1974 and leaders of the anti-busing movement . " During
it became apparent that the White administra­ the 1983 campaign Flynn claimed to have been
tion and the Police Department would not take a moderating force within South Boston, but
sufficient steps to protect black people, Mel his public stance was anything but moderate,
King and others wondered if they "were doing especially his bill to abolish compulsory school­
the right thing" by supporting busing. Mel had ing and his vOles against the Racial Imbalance
his answer when he talked to a black student be­ Act.17
ing bused to South Boston High School. "We Race had been the key issue in Boston politics
have to go," she declared with passion. " I f ever since 1963 when Louise Day Hicks ran for
they run us out o f that school they can run us School Committee as a defender of segregated
out of the City." For this student, and for education. During the 1974 busing crisis groups
many other people of color, busing was not like ROAR pushed politicians like Ray Flynn to
"just a mailer of education; it was an intensely be more outspoken defenders of de facto
political experience" from which hundreds of segregation and more obstructive opponents of
young black people got a very practical educa­ busing. Just the opposite happened in black
tion. They would come to play a big role in Mel politics. In 1974 a new State Senate seat was
King's campaigns for mayor. II created in a primarily black district. An
�--�,� established leader, State Rep. Royal Bolling,

i: Sr., faced Bill Owens, a younger, more militant


State Representative. Owens had been directly
involved in the movement against segregation
as one of the parents who organized one of the
first community schools in Roxbury. He cam­
paigned as a supporter of mandatory busing
and as an outspoken critic of racist politicians
in Boston. Owens defeated Bolling in a divisive
contest. making an issue of Bolling's support
for a voluntary busing plan to replace the court­
ordered plan. During the fall of 1974 Senator­
elect Owens provided leadership for a large
militant march against racism and in favor of
busing. Up to this lime few socialists, except
those in the Communist Part�, had been in­
volved directly in anti-racist work." Now
many younger left activists became deeply in­
volved in supporting the black struggle for
desegregation. This anti-racist work laid the

19
basis for their involvement in the 1983 cam­ ing was not a problem, but poor and working.
paign. class residents and their professional allies
While white politicians moved to the right organized against the luxury housing
and some black politicians moved to the left, developers who were given a free hand and
the White administration antagonized both lucrative tax breaks by City Hall to
camps with its inconsistent policies and obvious "rehabilitate" the area's beautiful brick bow_
desire to save face during the crisis. front houses, thus displacing the poor and
elderly from the multi-national, low-rent
The Growing Crisi� of the district. By 1974, when some of the white gentry
White AdministratiOn in the South End brought suit to stop the
development of public, low-income housing,
While White tried, not 100 successfully, to even the mayor bemoaned the growing inner_
avoid responsibility for the busing conflict, his city class struggle over housing belween the
housing and development policies continued to " haves" and " have nots." What he did not say
generate grass-roots opposition, and the mayor was that his own housing policies were to
could not escape responsibility for those blame.'o
policies . Indeed, during White's first three White managed to keep a governing coalition
terms, Boston became a prime example of a city together despite major community protests
in which neighborhood residents mobilized against his policies, an inner-city class struggle
against pro-business development policies. As over housing, and the extreme racial conflict
neighborhood opposition to New Boston over busing. He proved far more adept than
priorities continued, City Hall turned away most of his contemporaries at responding 10
from slum clearance policies and the blatant crises that threatened 10 rip apart his pro.
land grabbing of the Redevelopment Authority business coalition. While other liberals &are
and focused more on fancy downtown projects way to "cop mayors" like Rizzo in Philadel·
like the suburban/tourist oriented Quincy phia or to black mayors like Young in Detroit,
Market. n For example, in the South End, bus- Kevin While stayed the course and continued to

'''"'lr-
. --_

Sowh E"d Slre('1 scene.


r

build up a patronage machine second only to White encouraged minority voter registration
the Daley organization in Chicago.l! to defeat Hicks in 1967 and used City Hall to do
In 1975 White won reclection to a third term so when he faced her again in 1971, his Election
over Joseph Timilty. a more conservative white Department became less helpful in the seven­
politician who had alienated mOSI blacks. But ties. In fact, the number of registered black
support for White was soft as turnout fell in the voters actually dropped in the three predomi·
black wards and discontent with racial violence nantly black wards from 28,637 al the stan of
and jobs turned to resentment. Moreover, the White's administration to 20,069 in 1979. This
State House Black Caucus was divided. Ac· resulted in part from lack of suppon for
cording to Mel King, a Caucus member at the registration, from growing opposition to
time, conflicts emerged between those White, and from continuing frustration with
"building personal power and those dedicated the at-large system of city elections which made
to empowering the community," especially in it very difficult for minority candidates to gain
efforts to "fight police harassment. a serious elected office. U
problem in Boston." "Some black elected of· In 1977 a plan emerged to return to district
ficials thought that the demands being made by representation, which Yankee reformers had re­
the community would be too radical, " King placed with at-large elections in a futile attempt
writes in his book Chain of Change. Some also to limit Irish political power. Mel King, who
felt that meeting these demands would jeopar. helped initiate the plan, rallied black support.
dize their standing with the black middle class. Politicians from areas like South BostOn who
"But how could any Black official be 'too radi­ had been successful in at·large elections vehe­
cal, ' " King asked, "given the oppression con­ mently opposed the plan and Mayor White did
fronting the great majority of Black people in not suppon it. It lost by only a few thousand
Boston?"!> Mel King has been answering this votes.!'
question with principled action for many years. Black suppon for district representation was
His consistency and courage continued to gain not diminished by the fact that a black person
him credibility among black leaders even did win election to the School Commillee at­
though he was still unable to bring them to­ large for the first time since the early 1900s
gether in an "independent political organiza­ when there was still district representation.
tion." As conditions worsened in the seventies John O'Bryant. who gained this important vic­
Mel King maintained his radicalism as a per­ tory in 1977. had been a guidance counselor
sonal conviction; but it also reflected more than and teacher for fifteen years and had struggled
ever the oppression of Boston's hard-pressed against the system from within. Though not a
black community. radical, O'Bryant was a close ally and friend of
Mel King and had managed two of Mel's unsuc­
Progressive Black Politics cessful campaigns for the School Committee in
the six.lies. O'Bryant was independent of the
Though progressive black politicians like White administration and he showed that a pro­
King and Owens had success in the early seven­ gressive black candidate could be successful in a
lies, division still ex.isted not only on the ques· citywide race. He was also a skilled political or­
tion of militancy but on the question of loyalty ganizer who knew the importance of mobilizing
to the White organization. The Mayor not only the black community independently. In 1978
used patronage as a carrot; he used his office to Q'Bryant led a group that included Mel King in
undermine independent politics in the black forming the progressive Black Political Task
community. He employed palronage to reward Force, which called for the empowerment of
friends and to punish enemies and to nurture people of color and made Olher demands in·
COoperative black political leadership. He also eluding full employment and "the redistribu­
treated an impressive public relations operation tion of goods and services. "J6 What James Jen­
to preserve his image as nings, a member of the Task Force, cal\s the
a liberal and he manip­
ulated various electoral proces "new face" of progressive black polilics was
ses, including
VOter registration , to his advanta clearly viable i n Boston by 1978.)1
ge. Though
=

21
In 1979 Mel King decided to challenge Kevin tween black and white progressives if it had not
White in the preliminary election. The effort re­ been stymied by long debates over process and
presented a "process" and a move away from program which discouraged participation by
the politics of personality toward decentraliza­ ordinary working-class people. The BPO tried
tion and participation. He renewed the struggle to be everything to everybody rather than to
for district representation and began pulling to­ focus narrowly on local neighborhood issues or
gether a coalition of the various new social to become primarily an electoral organization
movements against discrimination and repres­ 10 carry on with the kind of agenda Mel King
sion, with the intemion of building a "struc­ campaigned on in 1979. The Organization
ture" that would endure after the election. Dur­ failed 10 hold black participation after the elec·
ing the summer a network of white leftists and tion, partly due to Ihe insistence of some organ­
Third World militants active in ami-racist work ized white leftists on playing leadership roles.
staged an impressive concert called "Amandla: The BPO took part in the unsuccessful effort to
A Festival of Unity" featuring Bob Marley. defeat the tax-cutting referendum Proposition
Mel King appeared with Marley before a crowd 2 \.1 in 1980 and played a key role in the effect·
of 1 5,000 and connected the problems of racism ive 1982 campaign for charIer reform and dis·
in Boston with those in southern Africa whose trict representation. This victory injected real
liberation groups would benefit from the con­ energy into political efforts by feminists, gays,
cert's proceeds. Many of those leftists who pro­ lesbians. and people of color who could now
duced Amandla would also be involved in Mel's concentrate their power in a few district elec·
campaign. tions instead of being all disenfranchised by the
Although Kevin White maintained the loy­ at-large system. This important democratic reo
alty of some black voters and some leaders, form also laid the groundwork for Mel King's
notably the ministers, King won a majority of 1983 campaign and for the district campaigns
the black vote in 1979 and finished a surprising of several left candidates including Charles
third in the preliminary with a lotal of 1 5 per­ Yancey, a black progressive, and David Scon·
cent. Though he maintained his militancy and dras, a gay activist, tenant organizer, and
raised lillie money, King had demonSlrated the member of Democratic Socialists of America;
promise of progressive black polilicsY both were elected to the CilY Council. Several
After the election King's supporters formed of the leading while BPO activists look impor·
the Boston People's Organization.19 The BPO tant positions in Mel King's campaign, but the
might have provided a basis for more unity be- Organization itself did not survive. Indeed, the

Bob Morley sings/or Southern A/rico " Amundlo" benefit. BostOn. 1979.
Rainbow Coalition superseded it and hopes to departments which had remained lily white
succeed where its predecessor failed. during his first two terms. He also stood aside
Progressive black politics gained momentum during the bitter struggle of the United Com­
rapidly after 1978 for various reasons; a) the munity Construction Workers to apply "the
success of black candidates for School Commit­ Philadelphia Plan" for minority affirmative ac­
tee (O'Bryant won re·election in 1979 and was tion hiring in the construction industry, a fight
elected Chair in 1981, when a black woman, which ended up in the courts and not in City
Jean McGuire, joined him on the Committee); Hall."
b) the impact of Mel King's surprising third Faced with a recession and unemployment in
place showing in the 1979 mayoral elections, 1973, the UCCW had turned toward a new stra·
and c) the emergence of a new generation of tegy of allying with other minority workers. In
young black political activists who came of age 1975 the once all-black union reached out to
during what Mel called the "organizing stage" Hispanic and Asian workers. Blacks gave up
of community development and had taken part some of their power in order to make the union
in the difficult struggles for desegregation. more democratic and representative, an impor­
Moreover, mass discontent began to surface tant point in the making of the Rainbow Coali­
with the destructive policies and broken prom­ tion. They then secured federal money to set up
ises of the White administration. Boston had the Third World Jobs Clearing House. And in
become a more dangerous city than ever before 1977, under Mel King's leadership, minority
for people of color. Even after the stonings of workers developed a Boston Jobs for Boston
school buses subsided, other racist attacks con­ Residents program that also reached out to
tinued. Black homes were attacked in white white workers who lived in the city. The Boston
areas. Twelve black women were murdered in Jobs program demanded that a minimum of 50
six months during 1979 provoking angry pro­ percent of the total workforce, craft by craft,
test over official lack of concern. A black high be composed of Boston residents on all
school football player was shot down on a field publicly funded or subsidized development
in white Charlestown and permanently para­ projects in the city. A minimum of 25 percent
lyzed. And the police shot and killed three had to be minority workers and a minimum of
black men without being brought to justice. All 10 percent women. When negotiations over the
of these outrages led to anti·racist organizing policy broke down, King began to push Mayor
and defense work; and at the same time they White on the issue during the 1979 campaign,
certainly convinced many people of color that and the mayor responded by trying to co·opt
the White administration would not protect King's support: first with an executive order on
them. minorily hiring, and then by making the Quotas
Mel King's 1979 campaign also helped to in the King jobs campaign binding.'1 (Once
raise longterm economic and social grievances. reelected, White let the matter ride until the
Indeed, during White's regime employment Supreme Court declared the BaSion jobs resi·
conditions for people of color actually wors­ dency program constitutional in 1983.)
ened in the private sector. A recent EEOC study Though White's public relations people tried
showed that blacks "lost ground" in scores of to give him the credit for his policy, black
industries during the last several years. Minori­ workers knew that Mel King was responsible.
ties were under-represented in many clerical King's hope that the Boston Jobs Coalition,
and sales jobs that required mininum training formed in 1978, would attract white workers
and few speciali.zed skills, even though minority who lived in the city remained unfulfilled
people in BOston are better educated than their however. The white construction unions, whose
counterparts in other cities." Mayor White members lived largely outside the city, opposed
could hardly defend the unimpressive level of the residency program tooth and nail. But the
�inority hiring in city jobs that took place duro quotas the Jobs Coalitions advocated did affect
IDg his tenure, and of course he could take no hiring on the big Southwest Corridor project
credit for minority hiring that resuiled from and the massive Copley Place enterprise, where
COUrt suits against the police, fire, and school newly elected Mayor Ray Flynn has promised

23
to make sure the King hiring quotas are enforc­
ed. Now that the residency policy is in law, the
construction unions may try to e...ade it, but the The Housing Issue and Fair Shllre Populism
fact remains that far more minority workers
and women will now be employed in construc­ HOllsing became a terrible problem for poor
tion and in ser...ice jobs - and they can be and blue-collar working people during White's
unionized if they can be con...inced that the tenure as mayor. De...elopment projects like
unions are not their enemies. Copley Place created new jobs and tax re...e·
Under the White administration business nues, but they dro... e up the cost of housing in
boomed and jobs were created, but more for nearby areas like the South End and accelerated
suburbanites than citydwellers. The city added the pace of gentrification. During the early se...•
50,000 new jobs after 1970 but by the end of enties I li...ed in a South End lodging house, the
that decade 65 percent of the new jobs belonged kind of dwelling that once pro...ided shelter for
to commuters!l A key test for the future will be thousands of single and retired workers who
whether more white workers will see their inter­ paid only a few dollars a week for a furnished
ests as tied to the de...elopment of progressi...e room. In 1965 nearly a thousand lodging
black politics and the Rainbow Coalition, houses still existed in the South End, but by
rather than to the conser...ati...e policies of the 1974, after luxury condo and apartment de...eI·
white trade unions and old-fashioned pols. opers sunk their fangs into the property, only
King, though he seems anti-union in some of 250 remained. Now there are just 37. As a result
his statements, has reached out (0 white work­ of White's de...elopment policies many lodgers
ers in both of his citywide campaigns, asking ha...e been forced to li...e with their families or
them to side with the interest of the 80 percent ha...e ended up in the streets." White's housing
who remain unorganized and unrecognized by policies also remo... ed 18,()(X) rental units from
unions instead of the 20 percent who are mobil­ the market during the se...enties. About half
ized by union leaders interested only in preser...- were demolished and the other half rehabili·
ing limited pri...i1eges. tated as high-cost housing.

Boston Jobs Cooli/ion ikmOnSir(lfion.

24
While the cost of housing and other ne­ most oppressed by the housing situation - that
cessities soared, the incomes of working-class is, people of color - Ray Flynn, also a state rep
Bostonians failed to rise significantly. In 1980 during the seventies, took a more general ap­
the Hub was rated as having one of the lowest proach to the housing crisis. He became a
median family incomes of any major city strong advocate of public housing, rent control,
($1 6,062) and one of the highest cost of living and strict rules on condominium conversion.
figures. Under White's administration the These policies also brought him to connict with
downtown prospered and became "the most in­ the White government and allowed him to take
tegrated financial service cenler in the U.S. out­ advantage of the organizing led by citizen­
side of New York" with $300 billion of capital action movements whose leaders adopted a
in its bank vaults. Inner-city neighborhoods populist approach that ignored racism as a cen­
were gentrified, eight new luxury hotels were tral issue in housing struggles.
started or completed, and fashionable stores White work;ng-class people, especially the el­
and boutiques popped up with dazzling fre­ derly, had serious problems with the housing
quency. The contrast between the haves and situation whether they were over-taxed home­
have nols became glaring." owners, evicted lodging-house dwellers, ten­
The city did nothing to ease the housing ants, or owners who worried about blockbust­
shortage for the working class. In fact condi­ ing. Initially the disaffection with White's
tions worsened. A few militant groups won vic­ housing and development policies came from
IOries, like the Hispanic tenanl union, Inquili­ black or mixed areas like the South End." And
nos Boricuas en Accion, which developed its at first white working-class areas did not mobi­
own community-conirolled housing in the lize against urban renewal assuming they could
South End. But existing public housing suf­ not fight City Hall.
fered from criminal neglect as thousands of During the early seventies student radicals
units were removed from public use. The silUa­ moved into white working-class areas like East
tion was so bad thai the courts put the Boston Boston and Dorchester to start organizing proj­
Housing Authority into a receivership. Accord­ ects, community newspapers, and, in Dor­
ing to court-appoinled administrator Harry chester, a Tenant Action Committee. Some of
Spence, "There has been a sense at some level these people had been involved in Harvard­
in City Hall over the lasl fifteen years that there Radcliffe SDS and the Indochina Peace Cam­
are just too many poor people in this city and paign. Others were sponsored by liberal
too much subsidized housing, and that if they churches. Two of these radicals, Michael An­
just let public housing slide, (the poor] will go sara and Ira Arlook. decided to organize white
away. Besides being a peculiarly malicious pol­ working-class youth alienated by the war and
icy, il won't work - poor people can't go the economy. They started The People First
away." " (TPF) in Dorchester and focused on removing a
Mel King's activism on the housing issue was corrupt, tyrannical judge who employed bla­
well known, al least among black and Hispanic tanUy racist sentencing policies. TPF did attract
people and white people in the South End and some angry young white people, connected with
the other neighborhoods he represented in the the Vietnam Vets Against the War and got rid
State House. His leadership became obvious in of the obnoxious judge (on corruption
1968 when he was arrested at the Tent City site. charges). But it soon fell apart as ex-student
His activism brought him into direct connict radicals dropped in and out of the project and
with the White administration. As Mel wrote of connicts erupted between the indigenous youth
South End housing policies, "While racism and and the outside left leaders." Then Ansara
lack of government protection pushed people found liberal grant money to open the Boston
of color out of white working-class areas, gov­ Community School in 1973. It provided re­
trnrr..nt planning (continued to push] people of sources and courses for community activists
color OUt of the South End to make way for the and newspapers like the Dorchester Commll­
'aentry. " "J nily News. The School also housed the CAP
While King championed the cause of the Energy program, an effort concerned with utili-
-
25

4
ties, and Nine to Five, founded by Karen Nuss­ and working-class whites on issues that trans_
baum, a member of the Harvard group, and cended race.""
dedicated to organizing women office workers. Fair Share's appeal to people of color was
At the same time a few other student radi­ limited however by its organizers' approach to
cals, some of them from the Northern Student racism. Like the early Dorchester Community
Movement, had come to work with the Dor­ NelliS and DCAC, the organization refused to
chester Tenant Action Committee. In 1973 take a stand for desegregation through busing ,
DTAC changed from being a tenant organiza­ or to make racism itself an issue. As late as 1980
tion to a broader group that included home­ some of the staff expressed distress when the
owners. The new Dorchester Community Fair Share convention voted to endorse the
Action Council (DCAC) still fought for rent Catholic Church's anti-racist Covenant of
control but also took up issue like neighbor­ Justice, Equity and Harmony.1I Charlotte
hood deterioration that affected bOlh tenants Ryan, a community organizer who worked on
and homeowners. Though homeowners could the Dorchester Community NelliS. observed
not be expected to support rent control, they that while many individual organizers in Fair
were the "key actors" in deciding what should Share were personally concerned with fighting
be done about issues like blockbusting, redlin­ racism , they did so in a private way. Unlike
ing, and abandoned housing. DCAC worked in Louise Day Hicks and Ray Flynn, the anti_
integrated neighborhoods and constantly en­ busing populist politicians, these organizers
countered whites who believed that neighbor­ would "never use racism to build a popular
hoods deteriorated because blacks moved in. So base" and indeed sought to defuse il by em­
organizers tried to zero in on the institutional­ phasizing "winnable, non-divisive issues" thai
ized racism of bankers and real estate interests "transcended" race. But by taking a strictly
who busted up white neighborhoods and then economic approach 10 problems that would
victimized blacks who followed. Instead of tak­ yield "quick victories, " "they ignored and
ing what one DCAC organizer called the "lib­ sometimes denied the racial component of
eral approach" of saying to whites that blacks issues," according to Ryan, who shared this
were just the same as they were, they focused view of organizing when she began her work in
on the common enemy of both groups. Per­ Dorchester. As a person of Irish working-class
sonal racism was handled privately, and occa­ origins and a member of a trade union family,
sional racist attacks were publicly condemned she took the populist view that you could
but the focus remained on the destructive, di­ "unite people around common economic
visive policies of banks and real estale grievances without addressing racism directly."
companies. She opposed busing as a divisive plan.
In 1976 DCAC merged with CAP Energy and However, after working in the black and Latino
a new group called Fair Share working in Chel­ sections of Dorchester, Charlotte Ryan came to
sea, Waltham, and East Basion. The new or­ feel that she had a "white person's view of
ganization, Mass. Fair Share, headed by racism." "It wasn't something I lived with
Michael Ansara of the Community School, everyday as black people did. Like other white
built up a large statewide membership by hiring
students on a commission basis to canvass door
10 door. The organization received good pub­
licity for its local campaigns on street repairs.
playgrounds, schools, housing, taxes, and util­
ities. It also carried on the work. of DCAC in ra­
cially troubled Dorchester, where it was diffi­
cult to find a neutral site to have an inter-racial
meeting. jO In this tense setting Fair Share did
organize a number of block clubs in a black and
Hispanic area, and in the aftermath of busing
Etten SIrIlIJpM#
it did begin to "forge alliances between blacks
..

26
.,
people I didn't see how the world was divided ing schools and fire and police stations in white
on race and I didn't have the door slammed in areas in an effort to pressure the legislature to
my face all the time just because of my race. approve emergency fiscal aid for the city in the
People of color couldn't choose whether or not wake of the tax-cuning Proposition 2 \.1 .
to make racism an issue, like the white organ­ Ironically, the effects o f the measure angered
i ers did. If you were black in Boston you
z even the taxpayers who voted for it and then
couldn't escape the issue." saw their services cut back, and their jobs
threatened by public employee cutbacks. Under
Ray Flynn's Populist Coalition these circumstances, unionized public
employees who had lived with or by the
Given their populist view of racism it was patronage system became surprisingly agitated
logical for Fair Share organizers to support Ray with the city's unfair polici�s of hiring, firing,
Flynn's campaign for mayor in 1983. Though and promotion. This was especially true in the
Flynn had not come to his populism via the police, fire, and teachers unions, which had
anti-war movement and community organizing, become alienated from White and strongly sup­
he did adopt an economistic approach to the ported Flynn. Of course much of thaI aliena­
issues, especially housing, that basically resem­ tion was also directed against black public
bled Fair Share's approach . employees hired and retained as a result of af­
Flynn's campaign staff, which included seve­ firmative action court cases. Flynn made no ef­
ral progressives on the populist left, knew that fort to correct the impression that he opposed
he would maintain his conservative, anti-busing affirmative action. Finally, though neither can­
constituency no matter what, so they wanted to didate wished to arouse the bitter feelings con­
emphasize his changed position on issues like nected with busing, Flynn maintained his ada­
the Equal Rights Amendment and anti­ mant opposition to the COUT! order and natural­
discrimination housing laws which he at one ly captured the conservative white voters. The
time opposed. Flynn had worked closely with importance of this highly political group is
the Massachusetts Tenants Organization underlined by Flynn's refusal 10 oppose the
(MTO) formed in 1981, and used his position hatemonger Jimmy Kelly, head of the anti­
on the City Council to become a leading sup­ busing South Boston Information Center, in
porter of rent control and banning condo­ his race for the new South Boston-South End
minium conversion. The MTO leadership en­ City Council seat, even though Kelly opposed a
dorsed Flynn over King because, according to liberal associate of Flynn.
one leader, he was more "visible" on the hous­ Though Flynn and his progressive supporters
ing issue, though King's voting record was claimed 10 want minority support for a govern­
�'/ery bit as good. Though Fair Share did not ing coalition that would "bring the city
endorse anyone formally, its leaders and many together," a straight economic appeal lacked
members worked for Flynn, who benefited from credibility to people of color. Flynn's strained
the single-issue organizing efforts these groups argument that the issues were the same in South
made in white areas. Support from liberal lead­ Boston and Roxbury contrasted strongly with
ers in MTO, Nine to Five, and the Elder Amer­ Mel King's insistence on making an issue of the
icans also helped Flynn's effort to present him­ "incredibly high level of racism" in Boston.
self as a progressive _ in spite of his very con­ Flynn even objected to using the term racism
servative voting record on social issues includ­ and denied the city's bigoted past. "The real
ing prominent leadership of a sustain
. � fight problem is economic discrimination," he said
8&a1nSI publicly funded abortions.
in an important TV debate. "There are poor
Though Flynn did attract some while liberal whites and blacks who do not have access to the

sU POrt, his coalition
consisted principally of political power structure in this city" and
....hlle working-class people whose neighborhoods shared none of the
hurt by the policies


of the New
Boston which favored the down­ downtown's economic wealth. II Flynn's staff
Over their neighborhoods. This anger shared this populist-economist approach to the
e more palpable when White began clos- issues and believed that it would be divisive to
tt

27
confront racism and make it an issue. Flynn's Therefore racism could be used more easily to
campaign manager, a former Sludent radical, destroy the movement and it could reappear
Ray Dooley, told me t�at Mel King's insistence much more quickly within the ranks of defeated
on making racism an issue actually damaged white populists, as the tragic career of Tom
the city's prospects for racial peace and made Watson suggests. As leader of the Georgia Peo­
King appear as the "black candidate." Dooley ple's Party, Watson made an heroic auempt to
seemed to think that racism was a leftist issue, unite black and white farmers in the 1890s. bUI
not the central issue for people of color or the when the Party was defeated, he turned to
key problem in working-class life generally. racist demogoguery and became a leading
The social democrats in Flynn's campaign were s p o k e s m a n for a n t i - S e m i t i s m , anti.
very sensitive to criticisms from the left, but Catholicism, and anti-radicalism. The classic
they were far more worried about being brand­ problem for populism a century ago remains a
ed as leftists themselves and therefore embraced problem today. Populists promise equal Oppor­
pragmatic reform politics. tunity and "fair shares" through democratic
The Flynn campaign's appeal for economic reform and economic justice, but they usually
unity and fear of divisive issues like racism fail to attack the structure of social inequality
harkened back to earlier populist and reform or to combat the discriminatory allitudes that
movements which emphasized good govern­ can easily poison inter-racial coalitions. H
ment and economic justice as the best antidotes Ray Flynn adopted a populist "fair shares"
to discrimination. These movements advocated approach to equality, rather than the "equal
economic democracy (now the slogan of the shares" approach advocated by Mel King.I'
new populist and social democratic left), but Flynn apparently believes that if the voters elect
not social equality which implied race-mixing a "man of the people" who identifies with the
and integration. It was much easier to attack neighborhoods as against downtown interests
Wall Street and assume that all oppressed peo­ and that if he refrains from creating an "un­
ple would be united by common econonic fair" patronage system, then everyone has a
grievances than it was to take up the difficult good chance of gelling their "fair share" of
struggle for equal rights. Ray Flynn's socialist housing, services, and jobs in spite of the way
and progressive advisors repeated some past the private housing and job markets work and
mistakes by assuming that racism and other in spite of the blatant favoritism that has
forms of discrimination could be avoided as always controlled the distribution of employ­
political issues and that economic reforms ment and services in Boston. The implication:
alone could bring people together. Such false there is no need for binding affirmative action
idealism has never had much appeal to groups and militant struggle on the part of women,
like women and blacks whose oppression can­ people of color. gays, and lesbians. Indeed,
not be lifted just through economic reform.!' during the campaign Flynn gave no hint that he
The original Southern populists attacked the understood the structural bases of racism and
worst effects of racism, like lynching, but they sexism or the cultural and psychological bases
did not address racial bigotry in their own of prejudice that make discrimination a pro­
ranks. Instead, they counted on common eco­ blem even with full employment and adequate
nomic grievances to unite black and white housing. He seemed to feel that his personal
farmers; but because of racism and the legacy stand against discrimination, combined with
of slavery, the lot of white yeomen and tenants strong law enforcement, would satisfY op­
ut
differed significantly from that of black pressed groups. He did speak movingly abo

AO��
n
sharecroppers. Indeed, blacks had to respond the " hidden injuries of class" including his O\\'
cautiously to the populist appeal for economic family's experience of being on welfare. 11
se
unity because for them "there was no purely like many Boston Irish, he has a strong sen
era ·
'economic' way out." While populists did nOt anti-Catholic oppression. But Flynn gC.n
out
confront racial differences and conflicts within ized too easily from his own experience WIth
sl n ces
their coalition and tried to "dissociate trying to understand (he special circum �
. le bIan s.
themselves from the 'race problem . . • of women, people of color, gays, and s
--

28
For example, when the two candidates ap­ emerged diret:tly from the struggle for school
peared before women's groups, Flynn was desegregation and Flynn's came from the fight
asked how he would respond to violent attacks against it. This difference in origin accounts in
against women and gay men. His answer was to part for other significant political differences.
hire more police! Mel retorted that the police Take left support for example. Flynn won the
were part of the problem . When asked to define support of the populist left concerned mainly
sexism Flynn seemed at a loss for words. King with "non-divisive" economic issues, and King
responded to questions from a feminist won the support of the women's movement, the
perspective. and lesbian

Despite all the rhetoric about bringing the ci­ movements, and the anti-imperialist and peace
ty back together, Flynn ran a very conven­ movements, as well as independent socialists
tional, cautious campaign, designed to main­ who saw clear connections between issues of
tain the conservative white support he had mar­ poverty, racism, sexism, imperialism, and the
shalled as a South Boston politician. There was arms race. To take this a bit further one rarely
a strong restorationist tone to his populism, an saw Fair Share as an organization, or signifi­
appeal to return to the days when Curley was cant elements of the populist left. at the various
mayor and "the lillie people" were well­ Boston rallies and demonstrations concerning
represented. a desire to go back to the neigh­ issues like nuclear arms. divestment in South
borhoods when there was no crime and no Africa, US intervention in Central America, or
struggle over housing, to preserve the Church's on behalf of safe streets for women, reproduc­
traditional teaching on the family and abortion, tive rights, gay pride, or Puerto Rican na­
and even the neighborhood school as il existed tionalism. And Ray Flynn's presence would
before busing. He emphasized restoring ser­ have been unimaginable. Mel King was almost
vices and jobs to the working-class people lefl always there. linking the issues on what he
out of Kevin White development plans and called the "chain of change" and taking what
patronage networks. It is not clear though how he humorously called " a whole left approach. "
Flynn will do this without creating his own This gave the Rainbow Coalition much more
patronage regime, just as Curley and White than a feeling of outgroups getting together to
did, and using it to reward friends and punish put their chosen leader in City Hall. It felt like a
enemies. If he succumbs to politics as usual, movement, but this time it was a multi-issue,
which is what many of his hard-core supporters multi-group movement that really seemed in­
want, he will never be able 10 create the broad­ tegrated.
based governing coalition he promised to build
Ray Flynn appealed to a desire to restore the
after the election." past status of the neighborhoods in the roman­
Mel King's Rainbow Coalition ticized age of James Michael Curley. Mel King
The Rainbow Coalition that formed around made a broader appeal to community based on
Mel King's candidacy also included people hurl a solidarity of struggle in Boston that
by the New Boston and i t too responded to the transcended neighborhood lines. And King's
Struggle of the neighborhoods against down­ strong ties to the Latin and Asian communities
town interests. Its conSl'ituents felt even allowed him to reach out to unify different
more
excluded from Kevin White
's patronage communities of color and to include groups' like
oraanizalion than
did the members of Flynn's lesbians, gays, and feminists, groups whose
coalition. The
King movement, however, identities and agendas were not neighborhood.
-

29
based for the most part. For these groups there King himself gave mixed messages. Clearly
was little to restore or romanticize about the his whole political career personified black
political past in Boston. So Mel King helped cultural pride and political independence, but
give the Rainbow Coalition a vision of a fulure Mel King has never been a separatist. Through_
based on a unification of the new social out the campaign he reached out to white
movements. This sense of cultural unity and an citizens and appealed to their best instincts. He
almost utopian vision of the future contrasted orten reminded lertists and militants in his cam_
strongly with Flynn's conventional campaign paign to treat people in white areas as potential
and attracted thousands of people alienated allies, as " people the same as you and me." He
from electoral politics entirely. showed by his words and actions that he
respected white people more than their Own
political leaders did. For example, he expressed
outrage at the way demagogues constantly
reminded the Boston Irish of their oppression,
but instead of crealing something positive out
of their people's anger, they used it to create a
"hostile defensive mentality."" He actively
sought white supporters, not by assuring them
that people of color had exactly the same pro­
blems, or by ignoring the divisive issues of
racism and bigotry. He used his Boston Jobs
residency program to appeal for unity between
white and minority workers in the city bUI he
also attacked Ihe white unions for refusing to
support affirmative action. Unlike Ray Flynn,
who ignored a historic opportunity to address
his white supponers on the subject of racism,
King insisted that people who practiced or con­
doned discrimination were also hurt by it. He
appealed not only to people's economic self­
interest, but to their self-respect as human be­
ings.
During the preliminary campaign, King
Mel King's genuine sense of democracy, his visited the largely Irish section of Savin Hill in
universal ideas of community as well as his Dorchester where a black man had been killed
respect for the dignity and aut.onomy of various by a subway train while trying to escape a gang
social groups and movements, let a hundred of while youths. King asked to address a white
nowers bloom during the preliminary cam­ citizens' meeting on the causes and conse­
paign. But during the final King seemed to ab­ quences of this incident. " Look," he said, "the
dicate leadership in certain areas to campaign other candidates won't come here and talk to
strategists who wanted to centralize the effort you about the problem o f race. And that'S
and organize it along neighborhood lines. to
because they don't respect you enough think
Various radical activists in the campaign have you can deal with the issue. But here we ha.ve
explained how this hurt efforts to organize situation of a black man dead, and his famll)'
autonomous constituency groups like blacks, grieving. We have young white people in jail ac­
gays, and lesbians. This decision corresponded, cused of murder and their families are in agony.
as Candice Cason argues, to an effort to blur White and black people are at odds in this citY·
the lines of the Rainbow - to make it seem less bUl tell me, who won this one?"
like a black empowerment, anti-racist move­ How do you evaluate the effects of such a
. . St
ment and more like a broad humanistic appeal campaIgn? It was clearly the fIrst II'rne 1ll0
clear -
that included white neighborhoods. white people in the city were addressed SO
-

30
where they are prepared to enter coalitions."
His book. Chain of Change concludes:

If as a community we are prepared to lead


others through the experience of learning to
cooperate. dealing honestly with painful pre­
judices and tensions built into this society. and
learning to bend enough in times of need so
that the whole is more flexible and resilient, we
will be able to do more than control our own
ly and so eloquently on the issue of racism. community. We will be able to influence larger
Perhaps the ground was not prepared in the sections of the city, bringing together an array
white areas so that King could appeal to voters of potential allies.
there on a range of issues. Perhaps making Further movement within the system around
racism the issue in his campaign cost him votes. us, so laden with cOllflict.producing tensions,
I doubt it. In any case this was an important cannot happen without an alliance. People
step in the anti·racist struggle in BoslOn, and must come together, moving OUI of their isola·
dearly exposed the opportunism of Ray Flynn's tion, to challenge conditions which exploit us.
populist notion that racism need not be can· What we have described [in this recent history
fronted head on because it was largely a matter of Boston] is changing relationships, between
of economic competition. There will never be people of color and white folks; between have­
an easy, inviting opportunity to confront white nots and have-a-Iots; between men and
people about racism. Mel King made the most women. While all these changes have been go·
of his opportunity even in areas where the ing on within the community of color, similar
changes have been occurring to many other
ground work had not been laid.
groups. . . .
Few movements in US history have actually
involved white people learning from black peo­ The chain of change is slill being forged."
ple's struggles. The Rainbow Coalition in
Boston actually began this way. It was based on Acknowl«lgemenls: I would like 10 thank (he people who
(alked wilh me aboul this anicle: Henry Allen, Allen
a historic mobilization of black people that
Hunter. James Jennings. Lcw Finfer, Bill Fletcher, Martin
began in the early 1960's with the fight against Gopen, Charlotte Ryan, Art Standley, and Jim Tramel.
de facto segregation and Mel King's first city Thanks also to RA edilOrs Linda Gordon and Jim O'Brien
wide campaigns for School Committee. In 1 983 for their help.
the mobilization included the Asian and
Hispanic communities and various social
movements composed of white people, largely
but not entirely progressive in orientation.
Perhaps the lesson they learned was largely lost
on the vast white majority who elected Ray
Flynn mayor. In any case, that majority should
look al the city's black history again and think
twice about the future. In the past decade the
black population increased significantly, the
other Third World population leapt up by 100
percent, and the white population dedined. If
present trends continue, by 1990 people of col.
Or n
i Boston will be the majority. As Mel King
says, other movements have much to learn
from the black struggle, which has "gone
through all the stages of developing conscious.
bess and competence and has come 10 the point

31
FOOTNon:s

I . Time, October 10, 198J, p. 30.


2. Ibid.
3. For a further comparison of these two sections of
Boston and explanation for the South End's tolerance, see
James Green, "Learning from the South End's Ethnic
Tradition," Boston Phoenix. June 24. 1975.
4. David Nyhan, "Populism was the big victor in This
Election," Boslon Gfobt', Octobe:r 13, 1983, p. 19.
5. fbid. and p. 30.
6. "Flynn for Mayor," 80s/on Globe, November 8, ]983,
p. 17. For an endorsement of Flynn by a socialist supporter,
see Peter Dreier, " A Choice for a Change, " In Thest'
Tim('S. Seplember 1, 1983 and for responses by King sup·
porters, see leller from Bob Keough, ibid., September 2 1 ,
, ,
1983 and James Jennings, A New Kind o f Black Politics. .
.

.•
ibid OclObcr S. ]983, p. IS. Jennings confronted the
pragmalic argumenl lhal King could nOt win in Boston and
thai support for him would be wasted. He described il as a
"subtle racist position."
1. BOSlOn Globt', November 16. 1983, pp. L. 34.
8. King's 20 perct'n! can also be: compared to the 26 percent
of the white vOle gained in Philadelphia by Wilson Goode,
a black candidate considered for more "acceptable" to
white voters because of his moderate positions and bccause
he had be1:n preceded by six previous black mayoral can­
didates. Bostorr Globt', November 16, ]983, p. 3. and
Robert A. Jordan. "King's Defeat and the Racial Hurdle,"
.•
ibid November 17, 1983. p. 29. J.D. Nelson. King's cam­
paign manager, thought the candidate had been "hurt bad­
ly" among white vott'rs by his "apparently unintentional
Slatt'ment" that Iht' late Catholic Cardinal had made anti­
Semitic remarks. Ibid._ No.,t'mbe:r 16, ]98), p. 34. Charles
Stith. an activist black minister close to King, also thought
that this "faux pas," as well as controversial comments
favorable to Fidel Castro and Yassir Arafat. cost the can­
didate white Catholic votes.
9. 80slOn Gfobt'. November ]6. ]983. p. l . Ulr;lit' iVplsdr p/KIIQ
]0. The lerm "pro-growth coalition" is from John H.
Mollenkopf, "The Post·War Politics of Urban Develop­
ment," in William K. Tabb and Larry Sawers. t'ds., Morx­ 16. Mel King, Choin oj Chongp: Slruggll'sjor Block Com­
ism ond the Metropofis (New York,: Oxford University mllnily /)("'e/opment (Boston: South End Press, ]981), pp.
Press, 1978), pp. 1 17-53. This article also offers an excellen! 32-34.
analysis of post-war politics in Boston. 17. Peter Schrag, Villoge School Do",ntown; B�I(JII
I I . QUOted in Daniel Goldt'n and David Mehegan. Schools, 8OSl0n Polilks (Boston: Beaeon Press, ]961� p.
"Changing the Hearl of Ihe CiIY," 80slon Globe 13, [8-20.
Mogozint'. September 18, ]983. p. 22. 18. King, Choin oj Chongl', pp. 34-46. 8S·94
12. Mollenkopf, "The POSt·War Politics of Urban 19. fbid. pp. 95·127.
Development," p. 123, 137. 20. James Jennings, "Black Politics in lIostOn,
13. On the old West End, see Herbert Gans, Tile Urbon 1900-197S." unpUblished manuscript.
Viflagers, (New York: Tht' Free Press, 1962) and Marc 2 1 . King, Ch(1in oj Chongf', pp. 23·24.
Frit'd, Thp World oj Ihf' Urbon Working Closs, Cambridge: 22. Ibid., preface, pp. uv-viii.
Blae1
Harvard University Press. 1973. 23. James Jennings, "Boston Machinism and
14. Mollenkopf. "The Post-War Politics of Urban Politics," unpublished manuscript. "

Ilollon,
Developmelll." pp. 137·38. 24. Green and Hunter, "Racism and Busing in
15. Much of this history of Ihe busing connict is drawn pp. 1S-19 and King, Chain oj Chonge, pp. ]55·169,
from Jim GrC't'n and Allen Hunter. "Racism and Busing in 25. Ibid. pp. 163-164.
Boston," Radicol Amf'Tico Vol. 8, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec., 1974). 26. Ibid. '
'aa:
pP�
pp. 1-32, rcprintt'd in Tabb and Sawers, Morxism ond Ihl' 27. Jill Nelson-Ricks"Rainbow Politics: Mel KJ
Melropolis, pp. 27-96. , �
Boston Dream." ViIl gp Voice, October 25. I:;, .
32
22-24. from racism within their own movements or within society
28. "Racism and Busing in Boston: Comments and generally are discussed in Robert Allen, Reluctollt
Criticisms," Radical America Vol. 9, NO. 3 (May-June Reformers (Garden City, N. Y.: Anchor: 1975). The tragedy
1975), pp. 88-89. of Tom Watson's shift from populism to racism, anti·

Rebel.
29. Mollenkopf, "The Post·War Politics of Urban Semitism and anti·radicalism is epically described in C.
Development," p. 141. and Golden and Mehegan, '·Chang. Vann Woodward, Tom Walson, Agrarian New
ing the Heart of the City." p. 6&. York: Oxford University Press, 1983.
30. Ann Kirchheimer, "The Haves and Havc·Nots Fight 56. For a more general discussion of these approaches to
Over the South End," BOSIon Glo/)('. April 30, 1974. p. 14. equality see William Ryan, Equality, New York: Basic
3 1 . Mollenkopf, "The Post-War Politics of Urban Books, 1992.
Development, " pp. 141, 144. 57. For a discussion of the dual nature of this con­

32. King, Chain of ChungI', p. 216. sciousness about welfare, based on interviews with Boston

33. Jennings, "Boston Machinism and Black Politics," workers, see Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The
and "The Black Voter in Boston," unpublished Hiddell Injuries of Class (New York: Alfred A. Knopf,
manuscripts. Thanks to James Jennings for allowing the 1972), pp. 136·137.
author to read his unpublished work. 58. Flynn's social democratic supporters ar8ued that he
34. King, Chain of Chtmge. pp. 215-218. was a beller coalition builder than King and beller able to
35. Ibid. pp. 219·220. heal the city's " social, ecol1omic (lml racial wounds " (em·

BOSIOII
36. Ibid. pp. 219·220. phasis added). Petcr Dreier and Kevin Sidel, "Buildin8 a
37. JCIlIIings, "A New Kind of Black Politics," p. IS. Governing Coalition," Globe, November S, 1983,
38. King, Chain ofChlllrge, pp. 221·223. p. ]5. As mayor, Flynn has agreed to follow through theaf·
39. Ibid. pp. 223·224. firmative action hiring quotas al Copley Place initially pro­
40. BasIOn Globe, January 29, 1984, p. 59. posed and developed by Mel King and his supporters, he
4l. King, Chain of Challge, pp. 169·184. has visited a black family at1acked by while youths and has
42. Ibid. pp. 185·194. pleaded for racial calm in a newly desegregated
43. Golden and Mehegan. "Changing the Heart of the Ci· Charlestown housing project. But people of color have not
ty," p. 74. received their proportionate share of appointments. at any
44. lim Green, "The dcs!Tuction of the South End Lodg· level, in Flynn's City Hall. Flynn's identification with
ing House," South End Comml/llil)' Ne....s, Summer 1974. Curley's personal style of populism would be very threaten·
45. Golden and Mchegan. "Changing the Heart of the ing ifcarried tOO far. Curley showed gross favortism in hir·
City," 69·70, 72, 74. ing, and when eonfronted with massive joblessness during
46. Ibid. p.8S . the depression, he failed to meet the crisis and became a
47. King, Chain of ChongI', pp. 107-108. notorious red·baiter. He also discouraged independent
48. Sec Langle)' Keyes, The Rehabilitation Planning Game, movements like the CIO. to keep workers dependent on his
Cambridge: M.l.T. Press. 1969. personal political organization. Sec James R. Green and
49. Joe Klein, "The Rise and Fall of The People First," Hugh Carter Donahue, BaSion '5 Workers: A Labor
Reol Paper, October 10, 1973, pp. 4·5, 11.15. Hislor)' (Boston: Boston Public Library. 1979), pp.
SO. Howard Husock, "Getting Their Fair Share," BasIOn 106- 1 1 1 .
59. King, Chain of Change. p. 169.
Backyord
Globe Maga�ine, June 14, 1981, pp. 10, 28, 33.
60. Ibid., p. 260.
Revolution:
5 1 . Quote on Fair Share from Harry Boyte, The
Understanding the New Cili�elr MO"ement
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1980), p. 98. For a Jim Green teaches history al UIMass-Boston
criticism of Boytc's favorable view of Fair Share organiz. and is aI/ Associate Edilor oj RA. He worked
ing, sec Frank Ackerman. "The Melting Snowball: Limits
for rile King campaign in Hyde Park altd par­
of the 'New Populism' in Practice," Sociolist Review 35
(September·October, 1977), pp. 1[3·124 and for Boyte's
ficipaled il/ Ihe Labor Commitlee.
response, sec Ibid. . pp. 125.128.
52. HUsock, "Gelling Their Fair Share," p. 42.
S3. Brmoll Globe, October 16, 1983, Section A. p. 25.

��
54. These points are developed in James Green, "King,
nn and Populism," BOSIOII Globe, October 28, 1983, p.

�nl
55. Quotes from Lawrence Goodwyn, The POPUIiSI Mo.
(New York: Oxford University Press. 1978), p. 1 2 1 .
ough Goodwyn sees the ways i n which populist
economism caused problems for black farmers, he docs not
fault the movement for failing to
address racism within its
own ranks, perhaps be<:ause
he believes that Southern white
POPulists were not aware of "their own participation in a
CUte sYStem" that subjugated
blacks. The probll'ms
resullr.ng from the failure
of radicals and reformers 10 con.
Cil)' Lift/Vido Urbano, Boston

I A"8"" 'I, 1983, Rilily on 20th Anniversmy ofMilr/i" Luther King's "1 h� Il dffllm" s�h III J963 March on Washington. James
AMERICA'S NEW URBAN
POLITICS:
Black Electoral ism, Black Activism

James Jennings

In recent years the number of blacks participating in electoral politics has increased rapid­
ly, The Joint Center for Political Studies reported, for example, that 600,000 Blacks
fegistered between 1980 and 1982; and the number of black elected officials nationwide rose
byS.6 percent between July 1982 and July 1983.1 Some observers have reported that by the
time Jesse Jackson's bid for the presidency is over, anywhere between I and 2 million new
lIlinority voters will have been registered. In this context of increasing black political par­
ticipation, a new kind of electoral politics is unfolding in black communities.
There are many examples of black electoral activism substantially different than just a few
ago. The election of Eddie James Cart han in Tchula, Mississippi, Barbara Mouton in
t Palo Alto, California, Harold Washington in Chicago, and Gus Newport in Berkeley,
·fornia, illustrate a politics quite unlike what has been usual in post-World War II
erican cities. The black and Latino vOle for New York City mayoral candidate Frank
baro in 1981 should also be viewed as distinct from recent minority political behavior
the American city. The mayoral candidacy of Mel King in Boston in 1 979 and 1983, and
·am Murphy in Baltimore in 1983, as well as the budding organizations of progressive
k political independents like elected officials Al Vann and Roger Green in Brooklyn are

)5

=
additional examples. On a national level the Unlike traditional black politics, the new
voter registration efforts of Reverend Jesse progressive electoral activism in the black com­
Jackson also reneet the emergence of a new munity is not necessarily focusing on access, or
kind of black politics with a strong "leftist" patronage. Progressive electoral activism seeks
bent. to assault the city halls of America, not for the
It is largely due to this development that it is relatively few jobs that mighl be available by
necessary to describe two "faces" of urban attracting downtown deVelopers, but that 10
politics today, each representing different sets implement public policies whIch would have
of issues, actors, orientation, and style. One meaningful impacts on issues such as black
"face" of local government is quite traditional. unemployment, education and the Quality of
It basically seeks to maintain the particular ar· life.
rangements of wealth, power, and innuence The emerging progressive face of electoral
which have characterized major American cities politics in the black community, then, focuses
since World War I I . Initially, the important ac· on the well-being of people regardless of its ef­
tors in American local politics were private in­ fect on the executive coalition's political stabili­
terest groups, the federal government, and ty. Specific electoral activities under the two
mayors and their machines. In the late fifties faces of urban politics may be similar in some
major public service unions were added to this cases; both, for example, call for mass political
" urban executive coalition. "l Although that participation, voter registration and voting as a
"coalition" gave some concessions to blacks means of holding government accountable, and
and to OIher aroused citizen groups which black the mobilization of voter support for can­
political movements inspired, institutionalized didates of choice. But while the thrust of tradi­
membership in the ruling partnership was never tional electoral activism is to secure benefits
offered, even after the tumultuous sixties. from established interests, the alternative is to
Local government did nOt invite blacks, or the attempt to dislodge the holders and controllers
poor, to join the partnerships of the powerful; of wealth; it is to force a more equitable
instead, temporary political arrangements and distribution of the wealth crealed by the people
reforms were offered. As we know today, these of America. Progressive political activists raise
reforms have nOt resulted in the replacement or local issues within national and international
qualitative change of the ruling urban execuiive contexts. Progressive activists understand the
coalition. Thus, in almost every major fiscal and conceptual links between the
American city, the interests of blacks and the militarization of American society and the
poor are treated as minor concerns by private Quality of life in the city. Under the progressive
and public sector leaders. Quite logically, the banner, nuclear proliferation, business in­
nature and organization of local American vestments in South Africa, and military adven­
politics encourages elected officials to respond turism in Central America become local issues.
more readily and effectively to organized That traditional politics has failed to meet
groups wielding a large degree of wealth, the needs of ordinary citizens is most evident
money, and power, rather than to blacks and when we look at urban black communities. In·
the poor. deed, a depressed socio-economic status has
Black electoral efforts under the traditional consistently characterized black city life for
framework basically seeks access into the struc­ generations; and, conditions are worsening.
tures of wealth and power; these attempts, suc­ Due to the absence of a commitment to
cessful in some cases, historically allowed black eradicate poverty and racism, and to shifting
officials to call upon white power brokers for political winds within stale conservative-liberal
favors, or concessions to the black community. debates, blacks and the poor are losing even the
Thus, some blacks were elected because they small, token gains made in the sixties.
appealed to voters not as political leaders but The failures of traditional local politics in the
rather as managers of patronage or as black community explain partially the exciting
developers of cooperative partnerships with the character of the Jesse Jackson presidcntial carn·
l
corporate sector. paign. Jackson's run for the presidentia
..

16
nomination is important, and should be en­ the electoral arena. Progressive electoral ac­
couraged, because it allows a forum to the tivism seeks to transform "buffer" processes
millions of blacks and Latinos who have re­ into arenas of conflict between the poor and
jected political participation supportive of the working class and those controlling the
status-quo in this country. This is one reason distribution of wealth. Traditional electoral ac­
the campaign will pressure the Democratic Par­ tivism seeks to manage this natural connict in
ty - before and afler the national convention such a way as to render it innocuous to interests
- to remain accountable to anti-Reagan senti­ which control wealth and power; leadership
ment in the country. Very importantly, the operating under this framework perceives itself
Jackson campaign also provides a "conceptual as a controller, rather than representative, of
linkage" between the progressive electoral ef­ those on the bottom of America's socio­
forts of black communities in the North and economic ladder. This leadership uses minor
South. The new participants whom Jesse or non-systemic patronage inducements to
Jackson is helping to bring into the electoral satisfy the wants of the populace at various
arena have great potential - due to their struc­ levels of society. Traditional electoral leader­
tural position in American society - to ship behaves as broker betwen powerful part·
recognize as their fundamental interest the ners of the urban executive coalition and the
development of an independent, progressive citizenry.
politics which challenges the basis and system The questions on a city's public agenda
of wealth in this society. within the confines of traditional local politics
Traditional electoral politics is essentially a are well-known and repetitive throughout ur­
"buffer" process. It keeps the poor, the work­ ban America: How can we auract big business
ing class, and especially, blacks from effectively for " downtown" economic development? How
confronting "private" decision makers. Even can we build more office space and high-rise
when public leaders are well-intentioned and luxury hotels? In effect, how can we make life
seeks to represent the interests of the powerless easier for those who don't live in the city but
we find that their effectiveness is severely who control the city? Which services can be
limited. Traditionally organized political par· reduced in order to relieve the pressures of the
ticipation, as a matter of fact, serves as an im­ partners of the executive coalition? How can
pediment thwarting mass-based movements in the public schools become more responsive to
the needs of the business community? These are
important questions under the old face of local
politics.
When progressive activists enter electoral
politics, new questions are raised . There are no
"solutions" to social and economic problems
at the urban level if there is not a concern for
the "giant triplets of racism, materialism, and
militarism." Issues are not approached ex­
clusively within a technocratic or managerial
framework. They are molded and raised in
ways which seek to empower blacks, the poor,
and what Jesse Jackson refers to as the "locked
out!" Only through the empowering of those
on the bottom can racism, materialism, and
miitarism
l be overcome.
America has reached a stage in which the
electoral arena - especially at the local level -

::;'
t
wants to vote
�l!lSlree as air ain't you? Say you are,
Of 1'/1 blow yer
will be eyer more crucial in challenging groups
holding and managing wealth in this country.
,for the Repub/iron Party thai year.)
'IItIrd � olf. " (Despite the imimiclotion, mQSt blaC'ks Black-led progressive campaigns are introduc-

37
ing and leading this new force in American sistence on the undemocratic nature of the
politics. Black electoral activism will innuence Democratic Party selection rules, for example,
political coalitions at the local level, and par­ has become a quiet but powerful campaign
ticularly black-Latino political relationships. It issue. His approach to various foreign policy
will also encourage public debates and discus­ mailers has had a leftward impact on the
sions of issues usually not raised in local elec­ debates among those seeking the Democratic
toral campaigns. This is not to suggest that the Party nomination for President.
electoral arena is the only place where struggles Many of the theoretical questions posed to­
for justice and equality will crystalize; but in­ day result from the emergence of progressive
creasingly activists are recognizing the potential electoral activism in the black community and
of electoral forums 10 raise new issues and have been raised by black political activists in
questions and to heighten levels of political receO( periods of protest. Malcolm X, for ex­
consciousness among the urban citizenry. ample, discussed electoral activism as a tool for
In various ways, for instance. the Mel King black political advancement in his "Ballot or
candidacy in Boston had a leftward impact on Bullet" speech in 1964. H. Rap Brown dis·
that city's mayoral race, both in 1979 and in cussed the pOlemial and possibilities of black
1983. King's campaign in Boston forced all the electoral efforts in the late sixties. In fact,
mayoral candidates to take a position on within the last twenty years there have been
"linkage," i.e. holding downtown developers sporadic electoral efforts suggesting the move­
responsible for the maintenance of neighbor­ ment which is emerging today. Now for the first
hood housing. His candidacy also made the time what is being described as "progressive"
problem of racism a major issue in the mayoral politics can be clearly differentiated from the
campaign of 1983. Jesse Jackson is having a "traditional" politics which has dominated the
similar effect on a national level. As an ad­ black community, and the American city, since
vocate and spokesperson for the millions of World War II. This is why today black intellec­
"locked oul" citizens, Jesse Jackson is forcing tuals and activists on the left, as well as the
other Democratic Party presidential hopefuls to black underclass, are beginning to reconsider
take stands on social issues that they would and accept electoral participation as a useful
otherwise ignore. Reverend Jackson's in- tool for meaningful change .

- - � '-

Dudley Slalio". Roxbury. Da"a C. Chl/"dler, Jr, (Aki" D/lro photo).


Examples of progressive electoral accom­
plishments cited earlier generally illustrate the
crucial role of black political leadership in the
development of the new kind of politics at the
local level. As suggested earlier, this is a logical
extension of the socio-economic status of black
urban life. It is based on the fact that "Blacks
are at the center of basic conflicts in most nor­
thern cities . . . . They constitute the racial
group whose interests and activities have been
most antagonistic to established institutions
and belter off strata. "I It is the black com­
munity which has most to gain from raising
fundamental social and economic questions of
American society. Blacks will be in the fore­
front of questioning the values and assump­
tions which underly our society because the
contradictions between these values and socio­
economic realities are most evident in black
communities. As James Boggs explained,
"Even though Black Americans are a minority
in the United States, they represent a great
Ellen Shllb photo
threat to the American system as the African
majority represents to the system in South formed? How can black, white and Latino
Africa. Because once the bottom of a system youth be encouraged to participate politically in
begins to explode, the whole system is threat­ these important issues? How can community­
ened."· The development of the progressive based power, rather than personal influence, be
face of politics signals the emergence of black developed?
political leadership as a major force in our The new politics in urban America is nOt
society. The American Left especially, must focusing merely on winning elections. Electoral
note this fact. This is a leadership which has activism under a progressive framework is a
been thrust upon blacks by American history. means, a tool, by which to mobilize the black
But this means that the clash between the old community against the weahh and power status
and new face of politics will take place also quo. Is is not an attempt to share opportunities
within the black community. Calls for black for exploitation; it seeks to develop public
unity notwithstanding, black political activity policy alternatives which will enhance the quali­
in American cities wday must be discussed by ty of urban life for all people. Under a pro­
reference to this emerging conflict. Some black gressive framework electoral activism is ap­
leaders will continue to pursue influence within proached as an educational process, dialectical
traditional electoral activism; they will continue in nature. It is becoming an important tool by
to ask, for example, how can we become a part­ which to raise the political and social con­
ner in the urban executive coalition? sciousness of blacks, the poor and working­
Other black political activists are rejecting class in the cities of America. This kind of elec­
this framework. Black progressive activists are toral activism in black America reflects not just
not interested in partnership with groups who an extension of earlier struggles against racism
seek to strangle and suffocate the city. They and economic exploitation, but a new stage and
ask, instead, questions such as: How can people a new front as well.
at a grassroots level be organized in order to
protect themselves against the excesses of the
urban executive coalition? How can white power
structures be, not just reformed, but trans-

39

--
I ························· · :
FOO'rNOTES

I . Focus, January 1984, p. 8. • •


2. The term "urba:t executive coalition" is borrowed from •
Robert H. Salisbury, "The New Convergence of Power in
Urban Politics," Journal 0/ Politics, November 1964.
: BOSlon's Mayoral Elec:tion 1983: The Candidates

:
• •
1. Norman L. Farnstein and Susan S. Farnstein, Urban • Oa\'id I'innegan: Handsome, articulate radio .
Political Movtmtnts: The Seorch /or Power by Minority
: talk-show host, ex-president of Ihe School Commit_ •
Groups in Amtrican Chits (Prentice -Hall, 1971), p. xiii.
4. James Boggs, RQ{'ism ond (he Class Sirugglt (Monthly
• lee, Ihe heavily favored mayoral front-runner with an:
• extremely well financed pro-business campaign ern- •
Review Press, 1970), p. 12.
• phasizing slick TV spots. •
: Ra)'mond .'Jynn: Former state represemative .
James Jennings is Vice Chair oj the Black
• from all-white South Boston, prominent firSI as a :
Political Task Force ill Boslon and an advisor • leading spokesman for the anti-busing and anti- •
• abortion movements, more recently as a Cily Coun- •
to Mel King. He has written extensively Oil
: •
:
cilor as a champion of populist economic causes.
black and Puerto Rican politics and is Dean oj
• Melvin King: Former slate representalive from
fhe College oj Public Gnd Community Service • the multi-racial (but majority white) South End, a •
at fhe University oj Massachusetts/Boston. •
prominent long-time activisl in campaigns for racia: •
: and sexual equalil)" and against militarism. •

• Law rence OICara: Anti-union, "good govern· :


• ment" City Councilor, generally liberal on social
.
• issues, with funding second only to Finnegan's. •
: Dennis Kearney: Irish former state representative .
• from heavily Italian Easl BaSIOn, currenlly Suffolk :
• County sheriff, regarded as a moderate liberal; of- •
MOVING??? • fended nobody and excited nobody in his campaign. •
: Robert Kile)': Former CIA Official, depulY .
Don'I forget to take Radical Americo wilh you! Drop us
a card with your old and new address in plenty of time • mayor, and head of the Basion-area transil system, :
so thai we don't incur postage due bills and you don't • running for eleclive office for Ihe first time on his .
• ability to run the city efficiently; he withdrew in •
miss an issue.
: favor of DiCara before the preliminary, then en- :
• dorsed King in Ihe final. I
• Frederick Langone: Long-time City Councilor I
• from the mainly Iialian North End, the most conser- I

RA HAS NO CLOTHES! : vative of Ihe major candidates but often bewildered :


• in Ihe debates. •
• Eloise Langer: Factory worker and Socialist I
As you may have noticed with the arrival of • Workers Party protesl candidate. •
Vol . 17, No. S, Radical America is now mailing : David Gelber: Member of Lyndon LaRouche's :
to domestic subscribers without a cover • right-wing cult, running as an earnest and much- •
• ridiculed champion of classical education and laser- •
envelope for the first time in our history. Our
primary reason for instituting this policy was : beam weaponry. :
• Basion has nonpartisan elections. Ralher Ihan •
financial - the cost of the envelopes and the
mailhouse fees for stuffing them was amount­ : separale party primaries, there is one preliminary :
compete in
ing to over $2,000 a year. We realize that the • contest; the IwO highesl vOle-geners then I
• the final election. In J983 Ihe preliminary was held I
beautiful covers that we have become known • OClober 15. King and Flynn finished in a virtual tie I
for may suffer in the mail handling process but • with 29 percent each while Finnegan gal 25 percenl, :
we decided to Iry Ihis change for two issues and : DiCara 9 percent, Kearney 6 percent, Langone I per· I

evaluale it. We would like your feedback. Call • cent, and Linger and Gelber 200 votes apiece. The I
• final election was held November IS, with Flynn I
or drop us a line. If receiving a "bare" RA
: beating King by 65 percenl to 35 percent. :
presenls a problem for you, we would be willing • Jim O Britl •
'

to make arrangements to mail some copies • •


• •
from the office in envelopes. Please let us know
right away. Thanks and let us hear from you. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .,

The Editors

40
THE MEL KING
CAM PAIGN AND THE
BLACK COMMUN ITY

Candice Cason

Less (han one mooch after the inception of the Black Community Coordinating Commit­
tee, the BCCC opened a large office in a time-worn building cCOIral to the predominantly
black neighborhoods of Roxbury. Dorchester, and Mattapan . The initiation of the BCCC
was sparked by a desire to develop a campaign responsive to the needs and desires of the
black community and to further develop leadership and initiative within it. The black com­
munity had to be organized to support Mel King's candidacy, organized with a sensitivity
and a specificity of which the central staff, preoccupied with the larger city picture, would
nOI be capable.

Over the years, Mel King had practiced the politics of liberation and had voiced the con·
c:ems of the black community. The BCCC sought to highlight those politics and perpetuate
their expression over the course of the campaign. The momentum for the development of
the BCCC grew out of a house parly for Mel King sponsored by a black community and
labor activist . The thirly people in attendance were young community and labor activists and
Iftists whose left·to-progressive sentiments coincided with King's but, at the same time, also
rendered them skeptical of electoral politics. Yet Mel was willing to sit on the hotseat at this
house parly and struggle with people about the importance of electoral politics as a tool for
-

41
political education and organization. He talked ticularly religious leaders, to win black voters,
about the potential impact of the mayor on the was gauged to be strong, and one participant in
daY-Io-day standard of living of city residents the BCCC took on the task of working with
and explained his willingness to change his im­ black religious leaders.
age somewhat in order to be regarded as a A third explicit aim of the BCCC was to
serious candidate in conservative Boston. As a generate financial support for King's candidacy
result, King won many of those attending the from within the black community. Two BCCC
party to active support of his candidacy. members assumed primary responsibility for
The initiator of the BCCC, Ken Wade, a the organization of house parties and other
youthful but longtime black community activist fundraising events.
and lifelong resident of Boston, sought and ob­ An implicit aim of the BCCC was to increase
tained the participation of eight to ten energetic black involvemenl in electoral politics. Voter
and community-minded people. They would registration, volunteer involvement in the cam­
take responsibility to develop a strategy to win paign, attendance at electoral events, and voter
black community support for King and to build turnout were used as gauges of electoral activity
and lead committees in fundraising, field coor­ on the pan of the black community. The initial
dination, media, and religious community task of the BCCC in its endeavor to heighten
outreach, with support and guidance from the community involvement in electoral politics
central staff of the campaign. was to make the community receptive to the
The political leanings of Beec members in Mel King campaign. The black Left, compris­
its initial stage were varied, but tended toward ing a small percentage of the black community,
the left. As the BCCC expanded to include had thrown its support behind King, as the one
about fifteen people, it became truly represen­ candidate who had consistently voiced and
tative of the broad progressive element in the fought for the concerns of the disempowered
black community. The boundaries of the and disenfranchised consistently during his
Bcce were fuzzy; "members" were basically many years in the public eye. The progressive·
those people who had taken on large chunks of minded and active progressive sectors of the
campaign work at the grassroots level, in­ black community, which together represent the
cluding commiltee leaders, ward coordinators, bulk of the black community, were divided be­
and office staff. tween King, as the most progressive candidate;
One explicit aim of the BCee was to develop Flynn, as the mOSt progressive candidate
the black vote. The number of registered black thought likely to win; and "skepticism" -
voters early in 1983 represented only a fraction regarding both the possibility that a victory by
of the total number of eligible black voters. The such a candidate would really make a difference
BCCC intended to produce a dramatic upsurge in their lives. Boston's black community had
in voter registration through voter education not exercised its political power in years, and
and agitation around the potential ballot power therefore lacked a sense of its force in sheer
of the black community. numbers, although Afro-Americans alone IOtal
Another explicit aim was to win the black 81,244 out of a total population of 562,994,
vote and thus ensure King's victory in the and thereby constitute the second largest na·
primary. The BCCC proposed to present King's tional group in the city.
record to the community in a manner which Skepticism regarding King's candidacy ran
underscored his consistent role as an advocate high in the community from spring through
for people of color. The BeCe projected that midsummer. At the Franklin Park Kite Festival
the distribution of campaign literature, some in May o f 1983. attended by thousands of Afro­
general and some aimed specifically at the black Americans and West Indians, one red_shirted
community, by large numbers of volunteers campaign volunteer was ridiculed by a bla k �
from within the community might motivate youth who said, "Aw, can't no black man WIn
as
black voters to support King. The potential of in this city!" This youth's statement w
openly supportive community leaders, par- echoed in an article by Bay State Banne r pub-

42
lisher Melvin Miller, who declared in his black
community newspaper that a King victory was
impossible.
The BCCC scrambled to lend credibility to
the campaign in the black community, and to
make a victory seem possible. Because of its in­
sistence on working independently within the
campaign structure and speaking directly to the
concerns of the black community, however, the
BCCC came to be viewed from within the cam­
paign as a hostile and potentially dangerous
body. The BCCC protested when the word
"black" was struck from campaign literature
aimed at the black community. It encouraged
King to intensify his relations with black
ministers. It pressed King to spend more time in midsummer visit may have been the 'mco;",
the black community. The BCCC took the point for receptivity to the King campaign on
stand that King could not afford to take black the part of the black community. There was a
community support for granted. significant increase in the number of volunteers
from the black community following
Washington's visit. There also was a jump in
the number of registered black voters. There
was an upsurge in electoral activity in the black

M EL community, setting the base for a possible Mel


King victory.

KING
By the end of August, the King campaign
faced the option of giving credence to the
perception that it was pro-black, and defending
its need and right to be, or walking around the
Says •••
issue. It opted to walk around the issue, and
We can save our King opted to continue his walks around South
Neighborhoods Bosl0n, East Boslon, Hyde Park, and West
Roxbury.
This strategy allowed King a victory in the
primary, although it certainly was not the cause
The campaign organization renected the of his victory (in South Boston, East Boston,
values of the larger society in that it mistook the Hyde Park, and West Roxbury, the percentage
"pro-black" stance of the BCCC as an "anti­ of the vote that went for King was predictably
white" stance. The campaign lived in fear of small.) In the assessment and strategy sessions
alienating "the white vote." The fear following the primary victory, a decision was
� anifested itself unevenly. On one hand, made by the candidate and his campaign staff
III�ature produced in the black community to focus efforts on the predominately white
pnor to the primary election was routinely cen­ neighborhoods where King's support was weak,
SOred or "forgotten , " and the media was en­ and to limit attention and references to the
COuraged to cover King's walks through black community. The Rainbow ·Coalition, the


predominately white communities, such as multiplicity of nationalities, age groups, and in­
Uth and East Boston, Hyde Park, and West terest groups working with the campaign, was
xbury. At the same time, a visit by Chicago's to be emphasized.
�YOr Harold The concept of the Rainbow Coalition was a
Washington was arranged and
the mObilization which
d
took place aroun that good one, but its implementation was weak .

..

43
/I.1('f Kin� Nov('m/)er fj, J9113 ;,';;;;;;-;;;'h;-C;;:;;C-;;;mh. Ellen Shllb photo

There was an attempt to fuse the activities and into the "Liberal" district, and the Latino com-
interests of the various neighborhood and con- munity was divided between the "Central" and
stituency groups, rather than to allow them to "Liberal" districts.
continue to grow together through common The explicit coalition which existed prior to
work towards a shared goal, the election of Mel the primary allowed for a strong and positive
King. The King Campaign prior 10 the primary sense of identity to develop in the constituency
was an explicif coalition, a coalition which groups. In the black community there was a
elearly involved different interest groups, in- strong sense of pride in the independ�nt work
eluding the Black Community Coordinating of those areas to support King. The black com-
Committee, Latinos for Mel, a Chinatown munity, powerless for so long in the face on the
coordinating group, the Gay and Lesbian Com- dominant culture, was beginning to feel a
mittce, a women's coordinating group, and power truly equal 10 its size. The entire com-
various neighborhood committees. These in- munity had come alive. One could routinely
terest groups worked somewhat independently hear groups of school children chant "Mel
within the campaign, determining strategic ap- King! Mel King! Mel King!" while riding home
proaches to their constituency groups. The on the schoolbuses.
post-primary Rainbow Coalition was an im- The reorganization of the campaign into four
plicil coalition, with the objective involvement large non-constituency-based districts follow-
of various interest groups, but without their ing the primary allowed for the values and ideas
subjective representation in independent deci- of the dominant cuhure to take over. Moves
sion-making bodies. The BCCC and its were made toward standardizing outreach work
strategic focus on the black community was and media, and creating literalUre which was
Yet
written out as that constituency was absorbed supposed to be everything to everybody.
ar, ex-
under "Central City" in the reorganization this literature spoke to no one in particul
with a
plan, which divided Boston into four large cepl to those who felt most comfortable
districts. Similarly, Chinatown was absorbed general approach - most o f whom tended to

..

44
be white progressives. Voter registration in the bow Coalition continues to exist and struggle
black community continued to increase after around the issues of real representation for its
the primary, but not at a rate equal to the ex­ membership, that the numbers of registered
uberance fell in the community right after the voters in the black community rose from an
victory. average of around 46 percent to just under 75
The most positive aspect of the reorganiza­ percent, that new leadership was given an op­
tion, and the general tightening of the cam­ portunity to innuence the black community,
paign structure after the preliminary was that and that a new organization was conceived in
the clarity of structure allowed exhausted the black community out of the campaign,
volunteers and staff to avoid the power strug­ made King's efforts a people's victory and a
gles that inevitably ensue when a multiplicity of victory for BoslOn's black community. The sen­
individuals and interest groups with various timent voiced by approximately seventy black
agendas compete in the context of a coalition. campaign workers to form a black community
Campaign volunteers nonetheless became mere organization can be seen in part as a reaction to
"cogs" in the wheel. There was no black and the stifling of semi-independent activity in the
no white; it was all gray. black community over the course of the cam­
paign, and particularly in the post-primary
Rainbow Coalition. h can also be seen as a
manifestation of the general need for indepen­
dent organization among minority nationali­
ties. whose cultures are always subject to subor­
dination, intentional or unintentional, by the
dominant culture.

Candice Cason WQS a member oj the Black


Community Coordinating Committee during
the Mayoral campaign oj 1983.

The candidate was colorful in these final


weeks, however, so colorful that the grayness
of the Rainbow Coalition could not neutralize
the public's perception of King as a radical who
stood consistently in favor of justice for the op­
pressed. Public comments made by King re­
IUding various liberation struggles in Third
World countries, while not politically astute,
demonstrated an international consciousness
which landed him on the side of social justice
and consummate social change.
There were failures in the King campaign.
Mel neither won the mayoralty nor was he able
to bUild a campaign organization which clearly
and consistently put forth the concerns of its
.. .
ralRbow" constituents. Yet these failures did
Dot render his campaign a vain attempt to

lChieve the impossible. The fact that the Rain-


4'
Mel King Runs for Mayor of Boston
or
Talk about a Dark horse
or
You think Paul Revere had it Rough?

Listen my children
To the historical episode
Of when in the city
of Boston strode
A Dark Rider without a horse

The city was gripped in whiteness


The good people of the city
were frozen into stiff effigies
Men wore white sheets there!
But then in the distance
could be heard
The cracking of the ice
caused by the footsteps
Of the Dark Rider
without a horse.

The muted militants slept


Under a blanket of snow
dreaming of past struggles
And Black children had
to fight off a hai l storm
of stones
when they tried to go to school
But louder and louder over
the howling wind of oppression
Could be heard the voice
of the Dark Rider
Saying this is your city too!

A child was overheard to say


Mom. there's something happening
out there
The women who had been
locked away in Day Care Centers
Marched to take back the
night
And the Dark Rider without
a horse
kept on coming

-
The media had to raise colored
pens
to their white paper to declare
He is moving on to
challenge
Our Mr. White

The Dark Rider without


a horse
strode down the center of the
city
Saying Wake up everybody.
And in his hand (this is
tfuly amazing)
Was not a sword
but the tail end of a rainbow
Made up of Blacks, women
Whites, who undergone blood
transfusions of humanity, Hispanics
And reawakened militants

There was a surge of the


color of people power in
the white city
And we all knew that this northern Place
That had been frozen in fear
battered by waiting storms
of repression
And gripped by whiteness
Would be changed forever
by the burning presence of
That rainbow
And would for a long time
to come hear the echo
of the footsteps
of the Dark Rider
without a horse

Brenda Walcott, 1980

This poem was written shortly after Mel King's 1979 race for mayor
of Boston.
I
,

I
phalli
AborliQn Rights rolfy. Boston Common, july 1977. Ellen Shub
WOMEN HOLD U P MORE
THAN HALF THE
RAINBOW:
Notes on Fem i nism and the Mel King
Cam paign

Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien

Even as his record of militant opposition to busing was being pushed into the background ,
Ray Flynn remained well known to feminist activists in Boston throughout the seventies and
eighties. A leader of the anti-abortion movement, in 1979 Flynn cosponsored an important
bill in the Massachusetts legislature designed to cut off public funding for abortion. In fact,
the struggle against "Doyle-Flynn" has been a major focus of reproductive rights activity in
Boston and in Massachusetts since that time. While the anti-Medicaid provision of the bill
was struck down by the Massachusetts Supreme Court, as a result of Doyle-Flynn women
state workers are still today denied health insurance coverage for abortion.
F1ynn's opposition to reproductive rights has been consistent and thorough, embracing
both material and symbolic dimensions: in addition to sponsoring the Doyle-Flynn amend­
ment, he has voted in the legislature against allowing birth control and birth control infor­
mation for minors; and during his tenure on the City Council he introduced annual legisla­
tion to establish "Right to Life Day" and "Right to Life Week" in Boston. Behind his op­
POSition to reproductive rights, Flynn built up a solid record of opposition to women's in­
dependence and to gay and lesbian rights - voting against the ERA and gay rights legisla­
"
tion, against a range of affirmative action measures, even against the right to women to con-
-
l\ebo"ledgfmfnl: The authors would like to thank Jan Meriweather, Elena Rivas, Ethel Gordon, Mary Jo Hetzel, Ellen
::�,Ionan� Polly Kornblith for discussing their experiences of the King campaign
wllh the
with us. Our ideas were sharpened by
RA editors. Special thanks to Deb Whippen for skillful editorial assistance.
.
tinue to use their own last names after mar­ women as women. Second, and related to this,
riage! In short, il was nOI that Ray Flynn was despite the centrality of women's activism to
weak on women's issues going into this cam­ the King campaign organization, and despite
paign; he was and has been a symbol of anti­ the substantial presence of feminists at every
feminist backlash in this city and Ihis state. level of the campaign (except the very top),
Mel King, on the other hand, had compiled a feminism as such was not a public presence
100 percent rating from NOW for his voting within it. This is perhaps especially striking in
record in the Massachusetts House (in contrast contrast to the high visibility of lesbian and gay
to Flynn's 10 percent - based on a single vote issues and a lesbian and gay presence within the
in favor of girls' sports). He was known for his campaign.
sponsorship of the ERA, his unswerving sup­ An evaluation is needed from two perspec­
port of abortion rights, and his efforts to in­ tives. First. we will explore the reasons for the
crease funding for daycare, AFDC recipients, weakness of feminism in the King campaign
and children's services. Bul Mel's alliance with and whether the campaign incurred losses by
feminism went deeper than his voting record. failing to make women's issues central to the
Mel King has a history of an active and sup­ public debate. Second, the campaign must be
portive relationship to the women's movement evaluated as a movement-building effort as well
in Boston. He has been a long-time advocate as an electoral phenomenon. It provides an op­
for the battered women's shelters. He sup­ portunity to explore the prospects for feminism
ported black feminist efforts to generate in coalition politics, particularly in coalitions
awareness of the sexisl as well as racist dimen­ where race is the focus. Seen from this angle,
sion of the murder of the thirteen black women the campaign raises the more general question
in Boston over a six-month period during 1979. of how the participation of feminists in coali­
When organizing to defend Willie Sanders, a tion efforts can strengthen the women's move­
black man falsely accused of rape, coincided ment as well as strengthen - and influence -
with mobilization for Take Back the Night one the coalitions we enter. Before we turn to these
year, Mel worked to link the two struggles - questions, however, we must take up a related
helping to keep concern about violence against issue: the troubling question of "What's left?"
women alive in the Willie Sanders organizing in 1984.
and working to build support for Take Back the
What's LeW
Night, at which he was always a familiar
presence. He has, indeed, consistently been pre­ Sometime after the preliminary it was said -
sent at feminist marches, forums, and events, even on the Left and within the King campaign
and has stood for the vision that the struggles - that it was unfortunate or confusing or even
against sexism and racism are allied. In short, exciting that there were "two progressives"
unlike most politicians. Mel King is nOt only running for mayor. Certainly this was the view
strong on "women's issues"; as a result of his preferred by tenan! activists who supported
history he shares the language, the analysis, and Flynn, and a view that even the left media out·
the vision of change of the women's liberation side Boslon commonly repeated. I It is a view
movement. that reveals not only a white racist perspective,
Given the dramatically opposed histories of but a male-dominated and heterosexist one as
the candidates on women's issues two of the well. J It reminds us of the legacy of a Left
most puzzling issues of the Boston mayoral race which has traditionally sought its legitimacy
emerge. In fact some of the most troubling from white working-class men. The question of
issues of the campaign appear when it is con­ language is here - as always - political. HoW
sidered from a feminist vantage point. First, we understand what's "progressive" or what 'S
regarding the King campaign, Mel's strength in "left" is contested terrain, and the campaign
feminist contexts was not matched by either helped to clarify the stakes. .
highlighting his positions on women's issues in Given Flynn's history and his rootedness In
the bulk of the campaign literature as a key dif­ the concerns and culture of his traditional
ference with Flynn or by a decision to appeal to South Boston Irish working-class constituencY,
-

so
repackaging himself as a progressive was not a understanding to the issues. They had this op­
simple task. As someone who had stood against porlunily al the Women's Nights sponsored by
the aspirations of blacks, women, youth, les­ the Women's Alliance for the Boston Elections
bians, and gays, the basis of Flynn's "pro­ (WABE), feminist forums which, significantly,
gressive" image lay with his "populist" an­ commanded the presence of all the mayoral
tagonism to the rule of wealth and special candidates during both the preliminary and the
privilege. final. The issue of sexist violence was both
Two factors contributed to his success in pro­ typical and revealing.
jecting his new image. First was the complicity
of the mainstream media, which took as its ex­
plicit theme after the preliminary the
similarities between the two mayoral can­
didates, a position which required the active
suppression or reinterpretation of Flynn's past.
With regard to reproductive rights, Flynn's
campaign position became that, despite his per­
sonal opposition to "choice," l1e would not use
the office of mayor to deny women access to
abortion in the city.) His history as a leader of
the still-powerful anti-abortion forces in the
state" was so effectively erased that in the final
weeks before the election it was common to
meet women who had never associated Flynn,
Woml'n's " Takl' Hack Th(' Nighl Demonstration " AuguSI.
the "progressive" candidate, with the author of
1978. Ellen Shub phofo
the Doyle-Flynn bill.
Secondly, as one of the best local commen­ Where Flynn saw hiring more women police
tators pointed out, while the bulk of Flynn's officers as a way to answer violence against
firm support (according to pre-election polls) women, Mel spoke of training and intervention
was coming from social conservatives, it was to change sexist and homophobic behavior.
"left-oriented activists" with social democratic Where Flynn spoke of equality for women, Mel
leanings who both ran the campaign's day-to­ King talked of empowermem. When asked to
day operations and supplied many of its explain how they undersfOod sexism at one
ideological foundations.' It was they who forum, Flynn spoke of the need to treat women
helped FI�'nn to outline a series of anti­ with respect, while Mel King named men as the
discriminar :on positions which cast issues of problem: "sexism," he explained, "is when one
race, gender, and sexuality as issues of group of people - namely, men - oppress
economic discrimination. Based on his record another group of people - women." These are
as a tenant advocate in the City Council, they not "simply" differences of style and rhetoric,
portrayed Flynn as the advocate for the victims as some Flynn supporters would have it,l but
of economic discrimination. Because the political differences of substance. It was Mel's
mayoral race pitted Flynn's populism directly continued willingness to name and confront
against Mel King's vision of social change, it male power publicly, his direct affirmation of
underlined what distinguishes progressive the analysis of the women's liberation move­
politics in 1984 from such a "populist" stance. ment in public forums like these, that drew so
On the surface their platforms on women's many feminists like ourselves. long alienated
issues - with the critical exception of from the electoral arena, into his campaign. At
reproductive rights - appeared similar. They stake here is the language and therefore the
both supported women's equal access to jobs, visibililY of the social movements which put
hOusing, and services. But the distance between many of the issues of this campaign on the
the candidates was most telling when each had political agenda, and the role of those
the Opportunity to bring their analyses and movements in shaping the future of the city.
-

51
The translation of the problem of sexist borhoods, against the "interests" of downtown
violence into the need for more women police development given free rein by incumbent
officers, to continue with our earlier example, mayor White, reveals a superficial analysis of
loses the feminist analysis of the connections the powers at work in the neighborhoods.
between violence against women and tolerance Within such formulations, the threat to the
for normal everyday sexist behavior. As a quality of life represented by the closed, racist,
result, the kind of education and political and patriarchal character of Boston's white
leadership necessary to address the sources of neighborhoods remains unchallenged, unexpos­
the problem get lost. The point is a general one. ed.
While Flynn was willing to provide services that And, yet, the Left is vulnerable to such
would implicitly ease the effects of sexism and perspectives. We inherit a legacy of community
racism, Mel King cast his programs in terms organizing which has had difficulty in identify_
which identified the causes. If F1YIln provided a ing the significance of gender, of male power,
platform which favored rehabilitation of public within the communities it organizes. If anti­
housing, to take his strong card, Mel King iden­ racist organizing has pushed the need to
tified the deterioration of public housing as sex­ recognize the power of racism within the
ist and racist: as female·headed and minority neighborhoods, the experience and perspectives
families become the vast majority of those liv­ of the autonomous women's movement have
ing in public housing, standards of upkeep on had less of an impact on left community
the projects decline.' organizing.
Thus, the populist Strategy of reducing all Feminist organizing has often found itself
issues to economic ones, thereby marginalizing standing against the neighborhoods, as, for ex·
racism and sexism, enabled Flynn to claim to ample, in the need to establish battered
speak for aI/ the people, while Mel was cast as women's shelters and to help women move out
the advOCate of particular intereslS (those of of neighborhoods whose traditional norms are
blacks). Similarly, by denying racism and sex­ complicit with battering and other forms of
ism as sources of division among people, women's subordination. For lesbians and gay
populist strategies label those who raise them as men who have grown up in neighborhoods or
divisive. communities where family norms predominate,
"coming out" often required leaving them.
One of us, poll-watching on election day in the
Italian North End, noted an unavoidable theme
of conversation. The North End (becoming in­
creasingly gentrified) wasn't "a community any
more like it used to be when it was all Italians."
This author felt little nostalgia as I recatled my
childhood experience of such a community at a
time when, as one man described it,
"everybody knew everybody's business," and
Women and the Defense of Neighborhood "no kid could make a move without a dozen
adults watching, ready to descend to the streets
While the critical, left·leaning media did as if they were the parents." The options for
challenge the racism of Flynn's claim to em· girls and women especially in such communities
body the "people's" perspective, his history as were so tightly controlled that I had a moment
a leading opponent of women's rights did not of elation to think thai the power of the parents
emerge as a counter to his populist claims.' might be weakening - even as I realized that
Even Flynn's racism was invoked by the Left the alternative to traditional community con­
largely in terms of his history. Yet it can also be trols has been more often anti-social violence
seen in his present defense of the neighbor­ and insecurity than new forms of solidarity.
hoods. Accepting Flynn's identification as a Let us state directly (he political problems �·e
ty
defender of the "quality of life" of the neigh- inherit from left traditions of commum
--

l2
Elfen Shub phOIO

organizing. To what extent has such organizing the failure of an autonomous feminist presence
idenlified the power againsl the neighborhoods, to emerge in the campaign. When - or how -
but not the power within them, specifically the this decision was made remains unclear. Its
power of heterosexual, racist, and sexist political implications were present most often
norms? How can we both base ourselves within in the experience of women, lesbians and gays,
and defend traditional communities and and as Candice Cason emphasizes, the black
neighborhoods while carrying a challenge to the community as a whole. Yet, under the pressure
existing power structures within them? Without of getting out the vote, they remained largely
stronS, aUlonomous, constituency-based struc­ unarticulated, and have only begun to emerge
tures, neighborhood organizing threatens to in the post-campaign reflection.
submerge important power issues. The neighborhood-based organization of the
campaign not only offered a structural barrier
to the emergence of a feminist voice within it,
Ntlahborhood vs. Constituency but, related to this, seems to have contributed
to reinforcing the traditional sexual division of
The decision of the King campaign - after labor in the community. When, for example,

t e �reliminary _ was to reconceptualize the women dominated the fundraising commitlee
Qly In strictly neighborhood terms and to drop in one neighborhood, they realized they were
?" de-emphasize constituency-based organiz­ quickly cast in traditional roles - as hostesses
lIlg. This directly affected the black and labor at house parties or baking cookies and cleaning
committees and, we suggest, also contributed to up al larger public events. And, while estimates
-
appeal to humanity (Mel) and in traditional ur­
ban political terms - viz., ethnic and neighbor­
hood. What never emerged was a focus on
widening the gender gap, a focus on attracting
women's votes as such. On the contrary, some
campaign workers in the women's evaluation
sessions thought that, if anything, the cam­
paign implicitly directed its appeal to middle­
aged, white, working-class men.
That those men were least likely to vote fOr
Mel is confirmed by the telephone bank and
canvassing experience of numerous campaign
workers across the white neighborhoods of the
city. What people found, with a remarkable
consistency, was that women, particularly
women bctween twenty-five and forty-five,
ran as high as 75 percent women involved in lhe were most receptive to the appeal of thc King
day-lo-day work of the campaign in the black campaign. Whatever the neighborhood norm
community,'O men were disproportionately (set by the men), from completely closed in
represented in the leadership and decision­ South Boston and Charlestown 10 undecided
making roles, though this was not a consistent in the Italian neighborhoods or afnuent Beacon
pattern. Hill and Back Bay, women were to the left of it.
There were countervailing forces within the In neighborhoods where men would spit or
King campaign. Feminists working from the sneer al the sight of Mel King literature, women
central office contacted all local coordinators would grab it with one hand while being pulled
with an offer of materials and a strategy for ad­ along by their man with the other. While this
dressing women separately and directly. A might simply be taken to reflect female norms
checklist was prepared to help organizers iden­ of politeness, there is enough confirmation
'
tify places within the community where women from the phone conversations with women that
gather, in order to make literature drops and such common experiences renected a deeper
figure out other ways to raise and confront ambivalence among white women about their
women's issues and concerns. This offer met loyalties in this campaign. One lesson of the
with absolutely no response - no doubt in part campaign points toward the need to analyze
due to the press of daily activity, overwork and further how racism affects relations between
understaffing, etc., as well as to the structural white men and white women. If the experiences
factors we are suggesting here. Nonetheless, it we have described confirm that women were
does indicate the low priority and visibility of more consistently open to the appeal of the Mel
women's potentially distinct political voice King campaign, then it appears that racism
within the King campaign. served to re-bind men and women - blocking
Racism and the Gender Gap
women's rebellion and ultimately producing the
results of the final election in which no gender
Strategically, the goal of making women's gap surfaced.
voice more central to the campaign could be
argued. Exit polls from the preliminary in­ The Women's Committee of the
dicated a substantial gender gap existed. In ad­ Rainbow Coalition
dition to holding and expanding ils black and
Third World base, what hope the King cam­ What is important here is less the empirical
paign had of winning at that point rested on fact of a documented gender gap than the
drawing some portion of the white vote away political fact that the King campaign failed to
from Flynn. Yet the campaign thought about even make an effort to appeal to women directlY·
its prospects alternately in terms of a universal Interestingly, it was a group of feminislS, most
-

'4
of whom lived outside Boston proper, suppor· office may be related to the earlier discussion of
tive of the campaign yet external to the neigh. how a populist strategy casts those who raise
borhood structure, who took the initiative. As a power issues between people, like sexism, as
result, a group of women came together, both divisive. As a black man, King was already put
from inside the campaign (central office and on the defensive to prove he could represent all
neighborhood) and from the periphery (phone people.) The women's committee was forced to
bank volunteers) to develop literature and a go independent of the campaign if the opposed
distribution process to address women directly. histories of King and Flynn were t.o reach a
The women's commiuee was set in motion. wide audience.
The problems facing the committee were The failure of the neighborhood structure to
already apparent. A tabloid on women, distribute women's literature, coupled with re­
developed by a few feminists working in the quests from friends who worked in a hospital
central office, had nOI been widely distributed. (where lively discussions were taking place) for
The mechanism in place for literature drops, just such literature, led the women's committee
the neighborhood campaign structure, did not to realize that if our goal was to encourage
mobilize for the women's literature. In one women to think of themselves as having an in­
community, the tabloid simply got losl. It was dependent and distinct political voice, we
clear that a focus on women was not a priority. should try to reach women where they were
When the committee suggested a mailing ex· most free of community or family pressure.
plicitly to women voters in Boston, contrasting Here workplaces were key - panicularly given
the candidates' records, the central office the structure of women's employment in
blocked the proposal, saying that no literature Boston in large and concentrated women's
with such contrasts could be published by the workplaces - the hospitals, insurance com·
King campaign. (This decision from the central panies, banks, and universities.

"
Given the previously discussed structure of neighborhoods? A discussion is needed about
Boston's white neighborhoods, women needed what inhibits our ability to keep feminism cen­
an alternative base and source of identification tral to our political activity.
from which to gain support if they were to back Second, what legitimacy do we give feminist
Mel King and still live in their neighborhood. concerns in a coalition whose moving force is
Yet the strategy of the campaign meant there anti-racism? Historically, it has been black
was no organizational or labor back-up to feminists who have challenged the idea that
target workplaces. feminism is relevant only to white women, and
In the remaining few weeks before the final who have addressed the obstacles that have
election, the women's committee formed an in­ kept black politics and feminist politics at odds.
dependent group, the Women's Political Ac­ The absence of an autonomous black feminist
tion Committee, to advocate for feminist issues voice within this campaign was one of its most
in electoral politics by endorsing candidates. striking - and surprising - features. Like
The Women's PAC sent a letter which con­ feminists, black feminists were active as in­
trasted the records of King and Flynn to most dividuals but not as a distinct entity or voice.
women in the city. Not only was this the first Given that Boston has been the site of signifi­
widely distributed women's literature of the cant autonomous black feminist organizing _

campaign, but it arrived in women's mailboxes most notably the Combahee River Collective ­
only a few days before the election, when most the failure of such a politics to emerge must
people were saturated with political literature alert us to the fragmentation and dispersal of
and had probably made up their minds in any our movement. It perhaps also indicates how
case. difficult it was to raise feminism in a way that
We have been assuming in this discussion wouldn't seem to distract from or compete with
Ihallhe failure to highlight women's issues was the anti-racist focus of t�h"' �""",,,!,"-_
implicit in 9ther decisions by the King cam­
paign and that it hurt Mel electorally. We must
now confront the possibility thai a more con­
scious decision was made within the King cam­
paign based on a different judgment about
whether Mel's differences with Flynn, par­
ticularly around the issue of abortion, would
help or hurt him with the electorate.
If this was so, it most likely resulted from the
combined pressure of the more conservative,
religious elements of the black community in
Mel's coalition as well as the sexist blindness
with says "neighborhoods" but sees "men."
But it is hardly a sufficient explanation.
Feminists must still ask some hard questions
about our failure to push against the structural IO,()(){) womell ill 80s/Oil. 1914.
barriers we have identified. At least two factors Despite all the problems we have identified,
suggest themselves. First, identifying with and the Mel King campaign was not without
working within the neighborhoods in which positive significance for feminism in Boston
people live clearly had some positive attrac­ and for the place of feminism in the RainbOW
tions. Many feminists active in the King Coalition as it develops nationally. First, Mel's
organization speak excitedly of beginning - presence in the mayoral race gave greater
legitimacy to feminist issues in campaign
s
often for the first time - to speak to their
camp 'gn
al
neighbors. Yet, speaking to neighbors often throughout the city. Because Mel's
rena,
meant dropping any challenge to the culture of drew so many feminists into the electoral a
can did ates
these closed geographic spaces. Was the it forced mayoral and other citywide
on
assumption that feminism cannpt live in the to address the feminist community of Bost
-

56
directly. The Women's Alliance for Boston
Elections forums had a very lively grassroots
and confrontational flavor to them, as tradi­
tional urban politicans of all mipes were
challenged and asked questions by women
which many of them clearly had never given a
minute's political thought to: how they would
address the problem of sex-role stereotyping in
the schools, why they were willing to march in
51. Patrick's Day parades but not Gay Pride,
what services they would provide to meet the
needs of lesbian and gay students in the Boston
public schools, how they would address the
problem of sexist violence. A School Commit­ support for (and Flynn's opposition to)
tee candidate who auended the second forum women's right to keep their own lasl names
admiued to being embarassed and nervous after marriage, unexplained to Hispanic
when "asked publicly for the first lime" about women, simply made no sense. And, yet, Elena
his position on abortion (opposed), which he Rivas evaluates the campaign overall en­
had a great deal "Of difficulty explaining. thusiastically. "Mel's commitment to ensure all
Women supporting Flynn came out as people's participation led many women to
"Women for Flynn," probably a response to begin to see our ethnic and racial diversity as in­
Mel's clear strength among feminists. And deed a strength rather than a weakness, and
there were other circumstances, inside the King helped Latinas to see themselves, often for the
campaign, which helped women to see them­ first time, as a group with a distinct and impor­
selves as a group with a distinct experience and tant contribution to make,""
a distinct contribution. This was certainty true Finally, what are the prospects for feminism
within the development of "Latinas for Mel in coalition politics? For many of us who par­
King." Even the formation of a group and the ticipated, the Mel King campaign was a
development of a focus on Latinas within the significantly different experience of coalition
organizing in the Hispanic community was than others we've been part of. There was a
significant. Each time banners were made genuine commitment in the Rainbow Coalition
which read " Latinas and Latinos for Mel to acknowledge and confront difference and
king," discussions ensued (with women) about diversity. Even i f it wasn't fully successful in
why it was necessary to add "Latinas" _ practice. the commitmem itself marks a depar­
weren't they included in "Latinos?" Elena ture from more prevalem understandings of

Ri�as, the amaica Plain Latina coordinator, coalition, in which differences are submerged in
pamts to mIstakes made by the King campaign the name of unity on a single issue or limited
from which feminists must learn, as we seek to goal. Within Ihe Rainbow, we were never asked
broaden our base in communities throughout to leave behind any part of our identities; we
the city . The feminist leuer mentioned earlier came as who we were, even if who we were
contrasting Mel's record with Ray Flynn's was made others uncomfortable. For many, it was
translated directly into Spanish and distributed an experiment which recognized that diversity
among Latinas in the city - causing alarm and can indeed be a strength and not a weakness.
COncern among those inclined to support Mel And, yet, as we have been indicating, the
rather than the reverse. Mel's position on campaign also pointed to the distance that still
reproductive rights, translated directly from needs to be traveled if feminism is to live within
the
English leuer as "pro abortion" was inter­ coalition work. As women, we are always
preted to women by Flynn supporte vulnerable to accepting self-sacrificing
rs on the
Itreets to mean that Mel priorities. The urgency of ami-racist work na­
was in favor of requir­
ing women to have abortion
s. Also from the tionally and in a city like Boston accentuates
English letter, the direct transla
tion of Mel's this vulnerability. (We forget, however, that

57
anti-racist work has a gender dimension.} The ter irrelevant to the conduct of the ofFice of mayor.
4. An effort is underway in Massachusells to amend the
pressures and constraints of the electoral arena
state constitution 10 restrict access 10 aborlion. The amend_
add another argument in favor of addressing
mem has already passed one session of Ihe stale legislalure
only what will clearly aid in bringing out the by a Iwo-to-one margin. If. as is likely. it passes again this
vote. The very radicalism of a feminist perspec­ year, il will appear as a referendum on the November

tive that goes beyond "equal rights" 10 include ballot. In Ihe midst of this effOrl, which is clearly a test case
wilh nalional significance. a new archbishop has been ap­
a challenge to the most basic ways we live our
poimed to Boston, chosen in part, il appears, to have an
lives, itself sometimes paralyzes us. I f feminist
impael on the aborlion issue. Installed on March 23, Arch_
concerns are not to be marginalized or reduced bishop Law took as his keynote theme Ihe "sin" of abor_
to "manageable" equal rights demands, tion. the "primordial darkness of our time," emphasizing
feminisls must join coalitions as an organized ils conneclion to olher issues of concern 10 Ihe church:
poverty. injuslice, and especially nuclear war.
force and not as individuals. This is the lesson
S . Michael Rezendes. "Left, Right. and Flynn." Bas/on
we muSI take with us from the Mel King cam­
Phoenix. October 4, \983.
paign into the Rainbow Coalition as it grows 6. WABE is a mulli-racial group whose goal is 10

nationally. We must insist that women's voices strengthen women's voice in the eleclOral arena in Boston.

be heard and Ihat a feminist commitment 7. See. e.g .. Peter Dreier in In These Times. October S,
1983.
become central to defining the goals of pro­
8. It was interesting to watch how the press reported Mel's
gressive politics in the desperale future that we Statement on public housing. Only one of the major net­
face. works included the sexist as well as racist character of the
decline of such housing. It was as if Mcl could only speak of

•·OOTNOTES racism .
9. From Rezendez in the Phoenix (sec fn. 5). to Jill Nelson­
Ricks, "Mel King's Boston Dream," The Village Vo;cr.
I . See Peter Dreier in /" These Timf's. September 7, 1983
and again. October S, 1983. Oc/ober 15. 1983, /0 Jamt!'S Green. "Ki"g, Fly"". and
2. Paul and Wini Sreines make this point in their leiter to Populism. " The Bosto" Globe, October 28. 1983.
/11 Thes/' Times. Oc;tober S. 1983. 10. According to Ethel Gordon. "Women and Organizing
3. Despite these assurances, newly el�ted Mayor Flynn in the Black Community." Radical America forum on the

was ijTominent at the Right to Life rally in Boston on Mel King campaign. February 3, 1984.

January 22. the anniversary of the 1973 Supreme Court 1 1 . Elena Rivas. "The Experience of Latinas for Mel
decision which legalized abonion. He presented a Boston King." speech prepared for Radical America forum on the

College philosophy professor with a cil3tion honoring his Mel King campaign. February 3 , 1984.

anti-aboT1ion work. Flynn'S continued public identification


v.·ith (he Right (0 Ufe movement clearly went beyond his in­ Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien are RA
siSlence that his anti·abortion views .....ere a " private" mat-
editors and worked on 'he

58
AIN'T NO STO PPING US
NOW:
N otes from the Com m u nity

Ellen Herman

My own experience in the Mel King campaign was mainly as a member of the Jamaica
Plain committee, a neighborhood which is among the most racially integrated and least
racially hostile in the city. The JP committee was one of the best organized and most effec­
tive in the city. There were literally hundreds of very committed organizers and volumeers,
including many radicals. We were everywhere in the neighborhood, organizing our cam­
paign detail by detail. We registered thousands of new voters, talked with neighbors we had
never before met, and distributed literature. bumper stickers, and buttons to anyone who
would take them.
The handmade rainbow buttons that quickly became the most identifiable emblem of
Mel's supporters helped to create a proud feeling of community. Recently, I stopped my car
to help someone whose vehicle was stuck in a snowdrift. I had seen a red and white "Mel
King for Mayor" bumper sticker. When he saw mine, by now tattered and worn, he smiled
and said, " I knew there was a reason we were all keeping those on our cars."
How people felt about Mel King winning or losing, or for that matter knowing exactly
what was won or lost by the campaign are important questions to ask. What did winning or
losing mean to people in Boston and around the country who cared about the array of

,.
movements and communities that were telling people what to wear while doing voter
represented by the Rainbow Coalition? What registration, canvassing, or whatever. I certain­
lessons were learned about the relationship be­ ly did. But for the most part, there were very
tween political movements and electoral ac­ few objections and a lot of sentiment that look­
tivism? ing nice was imponant. If dressing up would
On the surface, there is a refreshing clarity to help us to win, then we would do it.
these terms when the arena being scrutinized is How Mel or the campaign workers dressed
electoral politics. Elections provide a context was not all there was to il. Language too
where winning and losing become very specific. became an arena of potential controversy. It
The results are measurable - data can be quan­ was common practice, throughout the cam­
tified and analyzed for clues as 10 what exactly paign, for journalists to throw arounds words
was won or lost, and perhaps why. But this im­ like "confrontation" and "adaptability."
pression is only a first one, and it can be Needless to say, the ability to conciliate was
misleading. Without minimizing the desire that presumed more worthy of a mayoral candidate
people felt 10 win the election itself it is impor­ than a tendency toward "protest." Ray Flynn
tant to say that for people who participated in was widely characterized as a populist grOwn
or observed the campaign, winning and losing wise with experience, with the background and
meant far more than the number of votes tallied desire to "heal Boston's wounds." Mel's im­
on October 1 1 th or November J 5th age, in contrast, was that of a strident
demonstrator, a person with lies mainly or only
" Getling Respectable" to Boston's black community who would be
sure to alienate Boston's more "moderate"
Mel King ran for mayor of Boston for the voters. The reality that Mel had a multi-racial
first time in 1979. When he came i n third place, campaign in a city like Boslon, and that there
with I S percent of the vote (ahead of David Fin­ were rew people of color, feminists, or gay ac­
negan, who was considered the "frontrunner" tivists in the Ray Flynn camp, did not often in­
in the 1983 race), it sent shock waves through terfere with the power of these stereotypes. The
the city that had labeled him a "fringe" can­ characterizations are extreme, obviously. and
didate. Aside from the fact that Mel's blackness they were sometimes expressed in more subtle
put him on the fringe of Boston politics and ways, but the language used to describe the two
convinced many that winning was impossible, men and the twO campaigns betrayed a hierar·
his dress was unconventional for a politician. chy of values.
He wore dashikis and beads. Many people An interesting example of an instance in
believe Mel's change of clothing between the which these perceptions backfired was Mel's
1979 and 1983 campaigns was (he crucial shift boycott of the first televised debate before the
thai allowed more people to take him seriously preliminary. The two candidates considered
as a candidate for mayor. Suits and bowties most "on the fringe" this time around - Eloise
made Mel look like a respectable politician. Linger of the SWP and Michael Gelber, a
That his change of dress may in fact have follower of Lyndon La Rouche - were inten­
helped large number of people listen to what he tionally excluded from the forum by the spon­
was saying is not the point that I want to make soring League of Women Voters and the
here. I simply want to point out some of the Chamber of Commerce. Protesting their exclu­
pressures that socialized people in the cam­ sion, Mel refused to participate. Since this
paign, consciously or unconsciously, toward debate (and the two that followed) were Mel's
values like "respectability." I also want to only chance to reach a TV aUdience, mostS peo'
point out that the issue of dress had an impact pie, inside and outside of the campaign, felt the
on the campaign in general, and nOt just on boycott was a big mistake. It was a "confronta·
Mel. Because of a sincere desire to get people tional" acl. Wouldn't it have demonstrated
listening, all campaign workers were urged at a Mel's "flexibility" to attend that debate and
certain point to "dress well." The people I from there make a statement opposing Linger's
worked with expressed some discomfort about and Gelber 's exclusion? Instead, what hap-
,

60
pcncd was that the media for the most part to fill some time. O'Neil happily complied by
treated Mel's boycott of the debate as the most telling people an "amusing" story about why
interesting and newsworthy thing about it. Mel he had worked so hard against a recent city or·
King was everywhere in the press the next day. dinance called "the fair housing bill." The
His act of "protest" was transformed into an amusing part was that he felt people should not
admirable act of "principle." be "forced" to have gay men or lesbians living
Not only were particular styles judged more in their houses. He reminded everyone that he
or less respectable. Certain issues tended to had never been one of "those" politicians who
raise eyebrows. Mel's personal commitment to buckles under organized gay pressure. (The
feminism and gay liberation, for example, assumption of his story, of course, was that
rooted in years of active work for abortion every person at that rally agreed with his
rights, child care, gay rights legislation, etc., homophobic sentiments.) While doing sissy fag
was n01 necessarily shared by everyone in the imitations, complete with limp wrist and high
campaign. Despite a great deal of consciousness voice, O'Neil cited a questionnaire circulated
raising among campaign workers, there were a by the Boston Lesbian and Gay Political
number of examples of discomfort and/or un· Alliance as an example of the "gay
willingness to be publicly aligned with these conspiracy. " He mentioned two items in par­
issues or the people who raised them. ticular - one a question about suppOrt for
Here is one example. The night before the openly gay police officers, the other about
final election, J went to a "get OU1 the vote" marching in the annual lesbian and gay pride
rally on the main street of West Roxbury, an march. At this poim, the woman I was with
upper-middle-class Irish neighborhood. There (who was the lesbian and gay coordinator for
were a large number of Mel King supporters the King campaign) shouted something to the
there. Each of the candidates for office trooped effect that gay people didn't want O'Neil
by to speak. Toward the end of the rally, there anywhere near the march. Right away, two
was a lull and the moderator asked City Coun­ King supporters standing nearby insisted that
cilor Dapper O'Neil, who had already spoken, she be quiet, saying repeatedly that O'Neil had

School children .serenade


Mel King wilh " Rainbow Song. .. t:llen Shub pholO
the right to speak. When O'Neil finished with committee$, in contrast, were organized along
his stories, we hissed, and were told again, quite the lines of larger political movements: black,
impatiently, to shut up. Then the four of us Latin, Asian, labor, women, youth. gay and
walked away from the rally and talked about lesbian, elders, peace, etc. These committees
what had just happened. They insisted that did organizing in their particular communities,
everything we said or did while holding a "Mel and also served as resources to and developers
King for Mayor" sign reflected on Mel and on of the campaign position papers on a wide
the campaign. These two people felt that a large range of topics from crime to child care to
part of our contribution to winning was a health.
refraining from being provocative or controver­ The range of ways of organizing people em­
sial in any way. bodied a diversity of approaches 10 the defini­
The desire to minimize controversy came up tions of "personal identity" and
around other issues. There was, for example, a "community." The overlap of neighborhood
pervasive sense that talking directly about race and constituency organizing was intended to
relations to Boston's white working-class address people holistically, to recognize that
residents was difficult and provocative, that it identity is complex and that people perceive
was not a "winning strategy. " It was an easy themselves and others in many ways simultane­
step for those people opposed to confronting ously - as women, as young people, as lifelong
whites to gravitate toward what I call a lowest­ residents of a particular neighborhood, as
common-denominator approach: stressing Asian-Americans, for example. The constituen­
economic equality and the responsible delivery cy model was the direct result of movemem
of city services as the campaign's major con­ organizing. It was the organizational
cerns. Ironically, this approach was a strong manifestation of a radical understanding of op­
feature of Ray Flynn's strategy. pression and power. In fact, in many ways, the
Finally, several comments made during the King campaign was the quintessential expres­
course of the campaign by Mel - one that Fidel sion of progressive movements in the Boston
Castro had done more for the poor than area over a period of years.
Reagan, the other his offer to welcome Yassir Nevertheless, the practical constraints of try·
Arafat to Boston - immediately generated the ing to get someone elected mayor created
kind of controversy some people were doing pressure to work geographically. Getting peo­
their best to avoid. A campaign memo was cir­ ple registered and out to vote was in the
culated with suggestions aboUl how to deal with forefront of our effofts; it was urgent and
people's emOlional and often hostile reactions tangible. It was possible to identify people who
to Mels' comments. Although the memo dis­ supported Mel according to where they lived,
cussed in some detail how to explain why Mel and maintain contact with them by phone or by
made these remarks, it concluded with the knocking on their doors. Our meetings were
statement, "Remember, the campaign is not overwhelmed by the details of this daily work:
the forum to debate the issue of Cuba." voter registration (who had the table and
chairs), raising money (selling balloons and giv­
"Getting Serious" ing parties), and canvassing (this was endless).
Additionally, many of the resources for identi­
Organization was another area where the fying people citywide and systematically were
pressure to move toward conventional electoral organized geographically: police lists, voter
politics was felt. Internally, the campaign had registration lists, data from the election com­
been set up according to a system of dual struc­ mission.
tures: neighborhood committees · and consti­ While there were a huge number of ex­
tuency committees. The neighborhood commit­ perienced organizers in the campaign whOse
tees, as in any conventional campaign, used the background had been in social justice
geographic divisions of city wards and precincts movements ranging from school desegregation
to organize the daily work of registration, to reproductive rights to disarmament (to name
distributing literature, ele. The constituency just a few), the reasons to organize people
-

62
along conslitutency lines - along the lines of women's committee, which left the campaign
political consciousness and identity - felt in* organization altogether to form a Women's
tangible to many people who wanted to win the PAC, which they hoped would be a less
mayor's office in November. The dichotomy is frustrating way of continuing their work. When
a false one in some ways, as there was a great the election was over, there was widespread
deal of convergence between the two organiza* criticism that prioritizing neighborhood over
tional structures in some cases. For example, constituency work had been a big mistake.
black constituency organizers worked largely in If it is possible to understand this organiza­
the black neighborhoods of the city, and the tional dilemma as a pragmatic response to an
latin and Asian organizers worked in their eleclOral challenge, it is perhaps easier to see
neighborhoods. This did not mean, however, how campaign decision making was affected by
thai the spiril of constituency organizing - its oppressive notions of what a "serious" cam­
potential for raising consciousness - was car* paign should be like. Just as concepts like
ried through; in fact quite the opposite. After "confrontation" and "compromise" expressed
the preliminary, when the constituency workers certain values, so too did "centralization" and
,
Were directed to subsume their organizing "decentralization. '
under the rubric of geography, things started The central staff was to coordinate the work
falling apart. In the case of the communities of of all the neighborhood, constituency, and
color, the integration of constituency and other committees. To a certain extent, each
neighborhood organizing looked effective committee functioned autonomously in defin­
because of the geographical definition of these ing and carrying out its work, but requests for
COmmunities. In fact, it was in reality no more written material and funding were channeled
Successful than the attempts by the labor com* through the central office. (However. quite a
mittee, which disimegrated completely, and the number of committees did fundraising on their
=

6J
own. In (his fashion, they used the money in have pushed us further along toward making
whatever way (hey thought best and cir­ Mel the mayor and making all of us leaders.
cumvented the hassle of competing for funds Considering the pressures, people did a
with a central office chronically short on finan­ remarkable job of resisting the negative aspects
cial resources.) There was, of course, a delicate of "respectability" and "seriousness." People
balance to be struck between allowing people to wanted (0 win the election very badly, but peo­
work independently in the communities they ple wanted to win because they cared about
were a part of and knew well, and the need for ending oppression and participating in tlie pro­
overall coordination and direction of the cam­ cess of empowerment that Mel represented.
paign. PUlling a person into the mayor's office
As the campaign progressed, especially after without making a statement about the "politics
the preliminary election, winning felt so possi­ of inclusion" would have meant a hollow vic­
ble that it was easy to accept centralizing tory for most campaign workers.
authority and decision-making power as more The collective socialization process detailed
effective, and more "serious," than decentraliz­ above was a new experience for many radical
ed procedures (read chaos). This was a mistake. activists. Deciding how to respond was and re­
For example, after the preliminary, mains a thoroughly political question.
neighborhood organizers were directed to Where to draw the line? At what point did
discontinue contact with their neighborhood looking good, behaving properly, and talking
media. We were told that all work with the about non-COntroversial lapics deny people's
media would be done through the central of­ motivations for getting involved in the cam­
fice. While it became increasingly important for paign in the first place? What did winning and
the campaign to feed extremely consistent in­ losing really mean? The answer to this question
formation to the press, the result of this par­ has to do with the radical education that was,
ticular decision was an awkward disruption of consciously or unconsciously, a part of the
relationships that had been nurtured for campaign experience for ev.ery participant and
months. In any event, the central media staff observer.
was too overworked to communicate with all
the people who had previously connected to
neighborhood activists.
In general, people experienced the move
toward centralization as disempowering,
though many also welcomed the sense that
someone or something was in control. Impor­
tantly, most people did not feel that "getting
serious" ended up providing the campaign with
a stronger, more unified strategy. Lack of con­
sensus among the central stafr. confusion about
how decisions were to be made, and lack of an
effective means to incorporate grassroots input
stifled any attempt to generate a wholehearted
citywide strategy.
I raise these issues nOt to belittle discipline or
leadership, but to stress the importance of
developing them democratically and across the
board. Every individual who cared about the
campaign had ideas about what our strategies
should be; the informal discussions were
endless. Ideally, there should have been a way
to tap the immense crealivity that existed in the
campaign more effectively. Doing so would

64
Believing

Unquestionably, people who worked on


Mel's 1979 bid for mayor did so because of a
belief in the important educational and sym­
bolic value of the campaign. These motives are

� familiar - often articulated by radicals who


choose to work on electoral races or on other
projects considered "mainstream." There is a
hope that the discussions surrounding the cam­
paign can be redefined in radical terms or at the
very least pushed to the left. Mel certainly suc­
ceeded on this score; especially in 1983. The
King campaign managed to set the agenda and Mel King supporters on SlOP Ihe Euromi$Siles March,
tone of the entire race, pressuring Ray Flynn to 80$IOn, OClober, 1983. Ellen Shub photo

respond by articulating progressive positions.


Additionally, progressive candidates with a were vaguely defined ideas. There is also a long
significant power base can operate as brokers list of defenses made by radicals against elec­
- within political parties, government ad­ toral failure, or even participation. Many of
ministrations - to win some concessions for these defenses are based on legitimate concerns,
"the coalition of the rejected," to use a term including the conflict between working to elect
coined by Jesse Jackson. a person and building a social movement, par­
By 1983 in Boston, people were clearly ticipating in the Democratic Party, compromis­
motivated to join the campaign for reasons ing important principles for illusory or in­
beyond its educational and agitational value. significant gains. This list expresses real am­
Undoubtedly, there were still many people who bivalence, grounded in an awareness of the gap
were deeply committed to the campaign but between revolutionary ideals and the small
who did not believe that Mel could win. For steps we must take in the here-and-now.
some, this attitude resulted from the conviction However, these defenses can be expressed as
that Boston was simply not ready for a black absolute prescriptions, and as such constitute a
mayor. Of course, this sort of "pragmatic destructive and paralyzing purism. While some
racism," as Mel called it, created a self­ radicals were saying that nothing justified par­
fuirilling cynical disbelief in the ability of ticipation in the Mel King campaign, others
whites to be meaningfully anti-racist. For were insisting that any effort, successful or un­
others, radicals especially, winning and losing successful, was "educational." All opinions
along this spectrum from ultimate purism to
vision-destroying pragmatism were seized upon
by observers wishing to cast doubts on the
viability of the campaign. Being
"idealistically" committed t o a set o f political
ideas or to a democratic organizing process -
rather than the single-minded determination to
put an individual into elected office - was
\
more fuel for those who chose to depict the
King campaign as somehow not serious, not the
real thing. Of course, this disparaging percep­
tion of "idealism" was used not only to attack
Mel as a candidate, but to attack the campaign
(and the movements it represented) for the pro­
motion of a radical vision,

65
as loss. All of these positive feelings were ex·
pressed at the party thai followed. The rainbow
coalition celebrated in a spirit more victorious
than anything Flynn's supporters could musler,
with their conventional dance band and
ballons. Mel's supporters stretched a five­
minute concession to a half·hour with their
constant interruptions and chants. We were
celebrating a campaign, and a candidate, whose
success could not be measured by the final vote
total.

Mel King election nigh/ PDr/y. Ellen Shub pholO.

Ain'l No Sioppin' Us Now!

Nevertheless. one of the hallmarks of Ihis


campaign was the palpable feeling that winning
the election was possible, and crucially impor.
tant, and up to us to make it happen. Public
opinion polls (which were assumed to under·
represent our strength because of their exc1u·
sion of newly registered voters) and the
Ellen Herman is a member of the South End
response we got to day·to·day organizing con·
Press colleclive and \\las a member of fhe
vinced everyone that Mel had a real chance to
Jamaica Plain commiffee fO elecf Mel King.
, win. Our determination was fueled equally by
the knowledge that it was possible and the fact
that many still believed it was impossible.
But the feeling went beyond even this. The
campaign cultivated its own culture of diversi·
HAS YOUR SUB EXPIRED?
ty, pride, and human contact; one fell part of
an almost spiritual sense of collective possibili· If you hav.e received a renewal notice recently,
ty. Wanting to win so badly meant taking risks please don't hesitate and send it in with your

- risking greater disappointment if winning payment right away. You won't miss an issue of

were replaced by losing, risk.ing the belief that RADICAL AMERICA and we'll get some

this concrete, electoral gain was truly mean· financial resuscitation! Here's what your mail·

ingfuJ. The rainbow coalition's historic victory ing label looks Ii �-'IOL . '6 NO, -\
in the preliminary meant a great many things:
amazement for some, relief and intense excite­
5/ll/ e� (.QIS.!.l O U I 1 00000
ment for others who had worked so hard, and MICHAEL :TACKSOt-l
especially enthusiasm for those who had felt lit­ -rWRILLIR ST.
tle hope. It was a moment in Boston's political BE'lER LV KILLS CA Q0021
life that deserves inclusion in the hislory books. The circled number is the last date of your cur·
When we were finally defeated on November rent subscription. We have kept longtime
1 5 there was bitter, bitter disappointment. For subscribers on beyond the end of their subs. So,
those people motivated solely by the desire to when you renew, please include enough pay­
get Mel elected the final tally marked only re· ment to cover the issues you have been receiving
sounding defeat. For others with a more en· since your last payment. If you have any ques­
compassing vision the feelings on that day were tions, call or wrile the office.
mixed - a true sense of accomplishment as well

66
LATINOS FOR MEL KING:
Som e Reflections

Melania Bruno and Mauricio Gaston

For Boston's Latino community, as for the rest of Boston, the 1983 mayoral election was
an important event. Much was at stake, much was gained, and much was learned in the
process. The future looks a little brighter because of the work of the Rainbow Coalition and
the campaign led by Mel King.
In order to present OUf observations we will first describe Boston's Latino community.
We will then briefly sketch the group Latinos for Mel King, its organization, aims, and
ilWvities; we will discuss some events and processes which took place during the campaign
which are particularly illustrative of political developments in our community. Finally we
will share with you our thinking about the emerging political projects directed at Hispanics
in the US, the forces behind them, and the stakes involved.

n.e Community
Boston'S Latino community is more recent and somewhat smaller than those of other
major US cities. Although a history sorely needs to be researched-there are a few projects
underway-we know there was at least a Cuban and Puerto Rican presence in this city as far
back as the nineteenth century: Jose Marti, for example, wrote about coming to Boston in
the early 1890's to unite the "Cuba-Borinquen Club" imo the Cuban Revolutionary Party_
We have isolated narratives of our presence here throughout this century_ But it was only in
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67
the early 1890s to unite the "Cuba-Borinquen dition of both left and sellout leadership (and
Club" into the Cuban Revolutionary Party. We everything in between), Boston's community is
have isolated narratives of our presence here almost in political diapers.
throughout this century. But it was only in the As is the case with historical research, much
'50s that Puerto Rican ex-farmworkers began empirical and analytic study needs to be done
to settle along Washington Street and Shawmut about our community, although there is much
Avenue in the South End. There were a few we already know. About 80 percent of us are
hundred families then, and we have rediscov­ Puerto Ricans, with the rest divided among
ered that quite a few knew Mel King from those other Caribbean and Central American
days. (He helped prevent forced relocation of countries. By far the largest percentage of
Puerto Ricans out of the neighborhood, and he Puerto Ricans are working-class, but there is a
helped start the first Puerto Rican baseball small but influential professional-managerial
team.) class, that includes some recent arrivals into the
In the '60s the community began to establish city. The Puerto Rican institutional base in the
more permanence, a process that included the city has been the service agency. along with a
initiation of struggles for civil rights and for few social clubs and churches. Politically, the
better housing, education, and health. It was Puerto Rican community is liberal to left.
only late in that decade that popular and although the left wing proper has been in some
reformist organizations began to be built. incip� disarray in the last few years. Because of their
ient institutions began to be developed, tenta­ numerical preponderance and a recent history
tive alliances established. In the context of the of struggle, most of the official leadership of
War on Poverty, social service agencies clearly the Latino community is Puerto Rican. The
run by Latinos and aimed at our community second oldest group among Latinos is substan­
began to appear and to assume the role of tially different: the Cubans. Although there
intermediaries between the community and the were Boston residents before 1959, the majority
city's power structure. arrived in various waves between 1959 and
Displaced by urban renewal, and augmented 1972. Cubans have the widest range of class
by new migration from Puerto Rico. New York division among Latinos. Although very small
City, and Cuba, people then began to settle in by Miami standards, there is a significant bour·
other neighborhoods in the city, a process geoisie which tends to own the businesses, from
which continued throughout the 1 970s. Thus, large corporations (like the Women's World
neighborhoods appeared in Dorchester. chain and some food import firms) to the
Jamaica Plain, Mission Hill. Boston's Latino smaller neighborhood stores and bodegas. They
population more than doubled between 1970 control the two Spanish weeklies, and thus
and 1980,' and the community is still growing. exert influence in the community beyond their
We are close to 10 perc�nt of the city's numbers. There are also professional-manager·
population at this point; there are nearly 50,000 ial and working-class sectors. It has a few
of us. hundred "Marielitos." Politically, the com­
Although voter registration rates before the munity tends to be from conservative to the
campaign were low (47. 1 0)'0 in 1982, according extreme right, although in recent years this last
to James Jennings), they were significant sector has begun to lose hegemony (in the past
enough to tip elections; the Hispanic vote has enforced with terror) over the community.
begun to be courted by major politicians and There is a small but significant progressive
mainstream political parties which thoroughly movement in this community. Dominicans are
ignored it until recently. Hispanic political the next largest group. They tend to be more
candidates began to emerge on the scene only in radical and politically conscious, but because of
the last ten years, and only in 1983 did the first problems with documentation and a political
one actually get elected. If we compare this situ­ focus on the home counlry, they are less
ation with that of New York City, for example, inclined to be involved in local politics. The
where the community'S history is older, richer, more conservative elements among them, how­
and more complex, where there is a longer tra- ever, are beginning to be active in the local

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68
eleclOral scene. The newest arrivals are Central mostly of directors of social service agencies, a
Americans, a group which is already large and few small businessmen (bodega owners), and
growing very fast. The majority are refugees some with prior experience in electoral politics.
from the current conflagration; they tend to be The group was largely Puerto Rican, as is our
working-class or middle-class, very politicized, community, but included Dominicans, Central
concerned about war and peace in their region Americans, Cubans, and a couple of South
of the hemisphere, and haunted by immigration Americans. Mel has friends and supporters in
problems. The "reaction in exile" is certain to all sectors of our community, and from Ihe
become a presence, but is by far outnumbered beginning the aim was to involve as broad a
by other forces. cross-section as possible in the campaign.
The community has also gone through quali­ Achieving harmony was not easy by any means.
tative changes in the last few years, developing There were even some activists in our group
skills, acquiring greater self-consciousness and who had been fired by other activists. and both
an economic base, and maturing its contra­ supported Mel. There were other tensions. as
dictions. In the mayoral campaign it would between men and women. This was nOI merely
become clear that the tactical and strategic a practical exercise in group dynamics: theoreti­
value of the Latino community to various poli­ cal issues about the nature of a cross-class
tical actors was much higher than the mere movement within out community, the situation
numerical strength in votes would indicate. of various Latino nationalities (some privi­
leged, others with a high percentage of undocu­
latinos for Mel King mented people), and the promotion of various
As the 1983 election approached, it was eVI­ kinds of leadership had to be considered.
dent that an important effort aimed at involv­ It was our aim 10 build a coalition within a
ing the Latino community in the campaign had coalition, one that could address the agenda of
to be organized. A meeting was called in the campaign but also address our needs and
Jamaica Plain to which were invited a variety of insure that the voice of the Latino community
activists in our community: fighters in the was heard throughout the campaign. Although
schools and trade-unions, activists in move­ we had relative success on both counts, we also
ments for Puerto Rican independence, racial had difficulties on both counts, as we shall see.
equality, community control, non-intervention, Initially, those who attended were few, but as
and other causes. It included also the "recog­ the months passed the group grew in size.
nized leadership," which in Boston consisted During the early meetings, we decided to

City Li/elVidQ UrbanQ, 80s/on


69
develop a semi-autonomous organization in the Early on we relearned some of the problems
campaign and to name it Latinos for Mel King. with participating in the structures of power.
We wanted a structure paraliel to the rest of the Among the people we had looked to for help
Rainbow Coalition in those four early in the campaign were a number of liberal
neighborhoods of Boston where Latinos activists with a long history of progressive
concentrate (South End, Mission Hill, Jamaica involvement in various areas-such as health,
Plain, Dorchester) with our own ward and housing, and human services-who had gotten
precince coordinators but with everyone state administrative jobs after the election of
participating in the larger coalition meetings as Michael Dukakis as governor. Informally, we
well. In this way, we could address issues of called them the Dukakis people. This was a
particular importance for our community as group with historical ties to Mel, broadly in
well as citywide issues. We could feel comfor­ agreement with his program, and who had
table in a structure which was "ours," analyze demonstrated their willingness to take a risk.
and act regarding the dynamics of Latino poli­ Not only that, but their new role in state
tics, while simultaneously building bridges to government gave them additional power and
the larger movement. Priority precincts were prestige-the Dukakis administration was the
targeted based on the concentration of Latino first in this state to offer Latinos more than
residents and on the voting records of the pre­ token jobs. When we approached them we
cincts for minority candidates and progressive found out that they were in fact unable to move
referenda issues. While not every precinct in politically because the politicians at the state
these four neighborhoods was covered, we level were requiring neutrality in the mayoral
eventually developed a fairly extensive and election from their "troops." Since these
structured effort. liberal activists were important to politics in the
Besides building our structure, there was also Latino community, their distance from us made
work which was necessary for us to do as it hard to gain momentum. We were thus given
Latinos. We held meetings in our four neigh­ concrete evidence that democratic reforms won
borhoods to develop a program directed at our from the state through struggle or electioneer­
needs, which was incorporated in the cam­ ing can actually weaken popular efforts at the
paign's literature (we underused this excellent same time as they will strengthen them.
program when the election drew near). We We were particularly careful to build
translated campaign literature. We organized a alliances with the two campaigns of Latino
neighborhood concert which was very well candidates: Felix Arroyo and Grace Romero.
attended. We held numerous house parties in Two years before, Felix had become the fir:;t
our community, including a pig roast held Latino to reach the finals in a citywide election
jointly with the Felix Arroyo campaign. We in the city of Boston. In the meantime, th�
marched with Mel in the Puerto Rican Festival. black-initiated Campaign for District Represen­
We organized two "Walks for Mel King" tation had succeeded in transforming the City
through several neighborhoods, with banners Council and the School Committee to bodies
and bands on a truck, which became important where some members were elected by district
affirmations of our identity and later became and some in citywide contests. Felix decided 10
one of the marks of the campaign as a whole. run again for School Committee as a citywide
These walks were also a visual reminder that the candidate, believing that the climate had
campaign was a movement as much as a cam­ changed enough to make a Latino candidate
paign. In our efforts we were nourished by the viable for the entire electorate of the city. He
diversity and unity which the coalition was was running on a moderate-progressive pla�­
beginning to show. We organized "a significant .form and had developed a well-rooted orgam-
press conference to announce hundreds of zation in the Latino community while attracting
Latino endorsements for Mel. We raised funds, support from various other forces. Felix, and
raised consciousness, registered voters, and key members of his campaign organization
worked to build alliances. We were being our­ were long-time supporters of Mel; there wer�,
selves, with strength ... however, some who participated in hIS

70
campaign who were supporting other mayoral
candidates, so there was pressure on Felix to
stay neutral or side with others from the begin­
ning. In many respects, his campaign was the
major e�ent in the electoral efforts of Boston's
Latinos; in the eyes of many it was more
important than the mayoral election. We knew
that good relations between Mel's and Felix's
campaigns were crucial to maintaining a black­
LatinO alliance through the struggle, and we
worked to foster them. We believe we
succeeded reasonably well during the early
months of the campaign, less well later, as we
shall discuss. We held joint fundraising parties
and joint voter registration drives, and we tried
to keep open communications.
Grace Romero was less well known through­
out the city, but had managed to build an
impressive coalition in her largely black district
and to mount an impressive race for the School
Committee. She had decided to run for one of
the districts rather than citywide. As a
Honduran she was part of a less prominent
sector of our community. We also worked on
better relations with her group, cooperated
during the Puerto Rican festival, and did some
"Toke Bock Ih(> Nighl" march. Dorchester. 1981.
joint voter registration. Grace had connections
with Dukakis's wing of the Democratic Party
those forces which had traditionally "gone with
machinery in her district and she had contacts the winner" and traded political support for
in black political circuits. Because she was not
patronage (jobs in Boston City Hospital. for
running citywide, her campaign was not as
example). Flynn's initial Latino support was
central to Latino politics in the city as was
organized by Puerto Rican community activist
Felix's.
Carmen Pola, A capable political operative
with a history of militant reformism in housing
Tbc Campaign
and education. she had numerous contacts. As
Latino community participation and support a fighter with a legitimate, although complex,
in the primary was concentrated on Mel King, claim to having defended people's rights at
Ray Flynn, and the well-financed favorite, times, she had some prestige going into the elec­
David Finnegan. The composition of Mel tion, but was slow to build momentum.
King's suPpOrt among Latinos we have already The Latino vote in the primary was instruc­
discussed briefly. Finnegan's support in the tive. According to MIT's Yohel Camayd­
� tino community came primarily from people Freixas, "King won 40 of the 48 precincts with
m the remnants of Mayor
White's political significant Latino concent.ration. That's 83'10
machine at the street level and from Cuban of the precincts. He did not win easily, t.hough:
merchants organized in various organizations. he had to battle in 2 1 of these 48 precincts. "I In
Both CUban-owned Spanish
weeklies, El voting percentages this translated to two-thirds
Mundo and La Semana. endorsed Finnegan in to 70 percent of the primary Latino vote for
the primary.
His support at this stage was com­
�. to no one's surprise,
Mel, with Finnegan taking the majority of the
of the most reac­ other votes, Flynn following, and Larry DiCara
tionary forces
in our community (£1 Mundo is (a mildly liberal city councilor) with a residue.
ardcnUy
pro-Reagan, but more to his right) and Perhaps mqre significant than the numerical
-

71
outcome is the fact that by the primaries the vative elements of our community. This is true
community was intensely involved in the elec· despite the progressive credentials of some of
tion; it was evident to those who had not seen it the leadership and the populist image Flynn
before that the elections were not the usual projected.
event this time around. Even more telling than the composition of
During the two�week voter registration the rival campaign coalitions are the issues
period that followed the primary, Latinos for which were used to pursue the Latino vote. For
Mel King put special emphasis on signing up if the campaign had the outward appearance of
new voters, while sharpening the organiztion a "clean fight," a debate on the nuances differ­
we had built before the primary. In the huge entiating two similar platforms, the reality of
increase of new voters before the primary (total the street was different and dirtier. The main
registration rose by 30 percent), Latinos were a issue debated in the Latino community during
relatively small percentage compared to new the final weeks of the campaign was Mel King's
black registrants. In the post·primary registra· statement in a radio interview early in the cam­
tion, however, the percentage of Latinos paign that Fidel Castro had done more for poor
among new registrants rose significantly, people in his country than Ronald Reagan in
although we were not able to get accurate his, and that he preferred Castro to Reagan.
estimates. Our base of supwrt continued to be This was given publicity on the froot page of EI
community activists, social service agency Mundo and was much promoted in the street.
personnel, and progressives from the various "The red-baiting cost us votes," according to
national groups, although the efforts of the one observer in Latinos for Mel King, though
"established" leaders were now important. "it also got votes from people in our commun­
Most impressive for us was the kind of political ity who don't like Reagan at all." Although we
energy mobilized for this period. Old activists, did not want this to be a major issue in the cam­
who may have been involved in a housing strug­ paign, the media and the Flynn campaigners
gle here, or a desegregation fight in the school made it one. One Flynn supporter, for example,
there, came out of the woodwork to get their moved his operations from Mission Hill to the
neighbors out to vote. Best of ail, young people South End, where he knocked on doors telling
knocked on doors, talked to strangers, passed people King was "a black communist friendly
out flyers, and defended their positions in the with Fidel Castro." Again, although we tried to
streets for the first time. Dozens of young activ­ steer the debate to other important issues, we
ists emerged in one of the most encouraging knew that the opposition was going to try to
developments in the campaign. A few Finnegan turn it into a referendum between Fidel Castro
supporters shifted their allegiance to King. and Ronald Reagan. To some extent, they
Most Finnegan and DiCara supporters, how­ succeeded in their objective: there was an enor·
ever, began as we had expected to work for mous amount of discussion about the subject jn
Flynn. Both Cuban-owned Spanish weeklies bars, schools, shops, streets. Again, thanks to
also shifted their support to Flynn. These forces the opposition, a lot of consciousness was
supported Flynn not because they agreed with raised in Boston's Latino community on
him but because there was not a more conserva­ Reagan and today's Cuba.
tive candidate to support in the finals. The issue of the right to abortion was also
The core of the Flynn campaign among much debated, and Mel's pro-choice position in
Latinos was based on liberal activists organized this maller was distorted and used to secure
before the primary, but the rest of the effort support from the more conservative fundamen·
consisted of conservative Cubans, evangelical talist groups, who flexed their political muscle
Christians and Catholic activists who supported for the first time.
Flynn's anti-abortion position, and Hispanic There was also considerable use of issues
policemen. The Flynn machine among Latinos which can only be classified as garbage: Mel
for the final election was based on the liberal was once a prisoner (he was once arrested in a
core put together by Carmen Pola before the housing demonstration along with many puerlo
primaries, but its muscle was the most conser- Ricans); his slogan "Boston Jobs for BostOn

72
people" meant that Latin people's welfare darity to be complex and tangled. They often
checks would get taken away, and they would depend on ideological and political links which
be forced to work under minimum wage; Mel can be either resilient and powerful or merely
was paying people to vote twice (this was coor· tenuous depending on the circumstances,
dinated with TV images of Boston police Besides the tactics already mentioned a number
knocking on doors in public housing projects of very revealing and illustrative efforts were
looking for fraudulently registered voters); if he designed to attract Latino votes to Flynn. Poli·
won, the "piece of the pie" going to minorities tically, a large part of the effort consisted in
would be all taken by blacks, and Latinos pressuring the Felix Arroyo campaign to stay
would have nothing. There was outright racism neutral or to lean toward Flynn; given the
directed against blacks in parts of the Latino centrality of the Arroyo campaign to Latino
community. There were of course also state· electoral politics in BaSIon, it was an important
ments about his personal life, his aJleged lack of effort. Felix was lobbied and pressured from
a smile, and his bald head; these were issues in inside and from outside the campaign, which
the campaign at large, manipulated by the included the pressure of prominent politicians.
media, but in the Latino community they When the primaries selected King and Flynn as
carried particular virulence. And it is necessary finalists, Felix congratulated both candidates,
to add that the Flynn campaign cannot escape but only his picture with Flynn appeared in EI
Mundo. This was of course followed by gossip
that Felix was about to endorse Flynn, which in
turn yielded the desired results of increasing
tension and suspicion between the two cam·
paigns and the two communities and the two
communities. Another piece of "information"
was launched in the street: people could not
vote for both Mel and Felix, and were going to
have to choose, Even after Arroyo courageous·
Iy endorsed King, rumors had to be countered
daily about Felix changing his mind, Because he
lost, while two black candidates won, the latino
community felt let down by its black allies, a
situation which also benefits only those who would
would weaken the needed solidarity.

orgoniUllion ot women's roll)', Boston, 198], The Latino Vote


part of the responsibility. In a radio spot run Ideologically, several arguments were
the day before the election, Latinos for Mel advanced against Mel King. Those pertaining to
King urged people not to pay attention to his radicalism we have already touched upon.
"what you hear in the street," but vote for Other arguments were aimed directly at the
"what you want," for their interests. The heart of the black·Latino alliance. The Latin
Flynn campaign countered with a spot on the community, it was said, would never be able to
same station saying that "what you hear in the build a truly independent political force as long
street-it's true," as we made an alliance with blacks a matter of
Tactically, one of the major tasks of the principle, since blacks would then take us for
Flynn effort in the Latino community was to granted and' whites would have no reason to
try to weaken solidarity between the black and yield anything to us. The answer, instead, was
Latino communities as manifested in this elec· said to lie in building "our own house" equi·
lion campaign. It was only natural to expect distant from blacks and whites. which would
that all "minorities" would coalesce behind a allow us to play the time·enthroned game of
"l!Iinority" candidate, but those of us who "getting your piece of the pie." This was sup­
know Our communities posed to prepare the community, as a bourgeois
know the bonds of soli·
-

73

.
academic would say, to become politically statement directed at Latinos would it be said
socialized to the cuhure of ee American pluralist that "Flynn has always been with the poor." In
democracy. " personal contact our constituency was wooed
There is much in the electioneering discourse with negativity.
to reinforce this position, and its implications Second, this type of argument has the effect
are potentially very reactionary. Latino people, of presenting a class position as contradicting
it follows from this line, will benefit more if we the democratic struggle of blacks and Latinos,
define ourselves not as a people of color, or as instead of seeing them as part of a single quest
oppressed nationalities, or as minorities, or as for justice and freedom. It's enough to give
members of a class, but as another ethnic group class analysis a bad name in Third World
learning the rules of the competitive socio· communities within the US. Mel always pre­
political game of power in the United States. sented "economic justice" as complementing,
We can then market our voting power to those rather than opposing, the fight for racial jus­
blocs which make interesting bids, whether tice, although we believe we did not project this
these be conservative Reaganites or more liberal position strongly enough. We agree that
whites seeking some minority support to add a Flynn's populist discourse for dignity and
little color to the effort. In the decentralized justice and his criticism of "the rich" raised
structure of US politics and economics, this is some working-class consciousness in some
supposed to produce a path to power. Besides white sectors of the Boston population, but
negating the reality of class structure in this among Latinos the vote for Flynn was the
society, this argument preys on some of the opposite of class-conscious. It was a vote based
baser qualities of people, and is prone to be on opposition to the right to abortion, on fear
used in a racist fashion. (Mel's counterpoint to of the media image of Fidel Castro, on denying
this argument was, by the way, that we were not the connection between local, national and
only seeking to change the players in the game, international realities, on confusion and
but to change the rules of the game, to make the disinformation. At best it was a vote for a stra­
city equitable, accessible, and just.) While in tegy to empower Latinos which is founded on
this campaign this general argument was not the premise that we must distance ourselves
articulated with much ideological coherence or from blacks in order to advance.
presented with sophistication, it was neverthe­ As a matter of fact, one of the most grati­
less an undercurrent of many arguments which fying aspects of the campaign in the Latino
went beyond dirt and fear, few as they were. community was the wonderfully high degree of
This argument was actually presented in these consciousness shown by Latino voters in the
terms-the "house" analogy-by a high school 1983 mayoral election, whether we evaluate
student who was supporting Flynn, but others that consciousness using class, race, sex. peace,
used the same concepts and logic. Variations on or other criteria. In the end, the Latino vote
this theme are being elaborated by a wide range went about 66 percent for Mel King and 33
of forces, from Reaganites to liberals. percent for Ray Flynn. In other words. two·
The really innovative and insidiously danger­ thirds of our community voted against both
ous ideological argument put forth by some daily Boston newspapers and both
weekly
pro-Flynn forces is this: that the one-third of Spanish-language papers. voted with
They
the Latino community which ended up voting relative clarity despite a well organized cam­
against Mel was somehow more "class con­ paign of confusion. Why did they vote? Some
scious" than the majority. But the Flynn cam­ voted because Mel is black. Others voted
paign did not use this argument to fight for because he has been around when we were
votes in the Latino community; this argument involved in struggle. Others because he has
was manipulated only among progressive activ­ been around our community, period. Others
ists. In canvassing thousands of Latino voters, did not like some positions, but recognized
not one person told us he or she would vote for Mel's leadership qualities. Some voted for
Flynn because a vote for him would be a peace, others for the many other issues raised in
"class" vote. Only in an occasional public the platform. They voted for a black candidate

74
they were repeatedly told was "buddies" with ideological mettle. On that count alone, we
Fidel. They voted for the Rainbow despite the have much reason to be optimistic. To the
fact that they knew, toward the end. that we extent that we contributed to it, this amply jus·
were not going to "win" this one. We witnessed tifies participation in the elections.
the beautiful sight of dozens of new activists We learned again of the need to develop
emerging to defend their community. to work political education that is effective. that allows
and to light. All of them defied a well people to resist trash, that allows people to
organized effort to confuse them, In Boston in make connections between things which are in
1984. that is a conscious vote. Latinos for Mel fact connected, that lets people know they can
King would be proud to take credit for that fight to be free. The combined power of the
vote, but we know the limits of our efforts and mass media and dirty street politics proved to
the power of interests opposed. not just in the be formidable as an opponent. A conscious and
Aynn campaign. Instead, we have a better educated citizenry can confront lies and dis­
reward: our community demonstrated some information with dignity; the difficulty is help-

Ellen Shub photo

75
ing to develop this consciousness. We can say tration camps for the Japanese during World
that the campaign was part of this process, and War I I a vivid possibility. The stakes are high,
that it did educate and inform our community. in concrete terms.
I f focused from an internal perspective, the
What's at Stake situation of US Latinos is likewise at a cross­
The events of the campaign added fire to roads. The Reagan administration is trying to
what many of us already knew: there is a redefine the way the US perceives the problems
serious, complex, and bitter struggle for the of racism and inequality, and to restructure the
definition of Latino communities in the United way the US addresses the demands of blacks,
States. From this struggle, still fluid and rela­ Latinos, Asians. and Native Americans, in
tively undefined, a number of tentative political order to roll back the democratic reforms of the
projects are beginning to emerge. At stake is the last twenty years. There is among these groups
destiny and historic mission of more than 20 an upsurge of consciousness, a blooming of
million Latin Americans living in the United clarity on the need to unite and struggle. There
States. The outcome will also influence the is a growth of class consciousness among
question of war and peace in the Central workers. Unity then becomes crucial to this
American/Caribbean region in the near future, democratic movement, as it is crucial for the
and the relations between North Bnd South for Right to prevent it. While we can expect the
a more distant future. efforts to foment division to proliferate. we
Internationally, one of the developments should remember that this too will be easier
which characterizes the world situation today is said than done. Our peoples share too much
the crisis in Central America and the Carib­ reality.
bean. and the course which the United States At this juncture we must remember that
government seems hell-bent on taking in variations of the question "Are we Latin
response to that crisis. Should the US decide to American, North Americans. or neither, or
invade in Central America, Latinos in the US both, and if so what does this mean?" havt
will be treated like pawns of crucial import­ been discussed in all sectors of our communities
ance. Nicaraguan mercenaries in the Ever­ for as long as there have been some of us here,
glades, Cuban terrorists from FJorida running which is a long time. A corollary: What is and
guns, Puerto Rican National Guard officers should be our relation to blacks, and others1
training Salvadoran Army recruits, Chicano/ The national question is always alive, always
Mexican soldiers in the US Army operating in being asked and always being answered. But at
Honduras-these are some examples of the this panicular period in history this definition is
military roles currently being defined. There are not only difficult but particularly elusive. If we
also plans to use some Latinos as some have remember that there are objectively enormous
already been used in the past: in propaganda, class contradictions among Latinos but thaI
intelligence, and other capacities, particularly these only partially manifest themselves subjec·
in the denigrating task of lending legitimacy to tively, we must conclude that the politics of the
the attack on our brothers and sisters in Latin Latino community for the coming period is by
America. no means cast in stone. We are new, relatively
The other side of the coin, of course, is that inexperienced and cautious with the North
Latin Americans in the US are not the docile American variant of electoral politics. Leader­
and servile crowd imagined by some politicians, ship, political consciousness, organizational
nor are their self appointed "Hispanic spokes­ forms. alliances within and outside the com­
men" capable of leading the community, munity are all in a moment of change.
against their interest, in trying circumstances. The conjuncture demands definition, both
Should the US risk a war in the region it will internally and externally, but US Latinos are at
create a situation parallel to attempting the war the same time in a period of flux. This gap is the
on Vietnam with 20 million Vietnamese in this reason for the proliferation of leadership bids
soil. It could be difficult. That in turn makes as well as projects designed brazenly to manipU­
the memories of Manzanar and other concen- late our community. It is as if a new market for

76
Latin corllingenl in November 1974 national march against racism. Over 10,000 ralfied in BOSIon 10 appose the racs
i t violence
thQt hQd ern
pled wjlh the onset of busing. CPF photo.

political opportunism has been announced and Republicans, though the coincidence of
we are being flooded with con artists. We interests with this latter group is on somewhat
cannot be blamed for feeling like a desert· different grounds. Among Puerto Ricans, this
crosser keenly aware of the coyotes on the hills strategy finds almost no support. In the Boston
and vultures circling overhead. election, this current is represented by the right·
Some of the coyotes have been around for a wing Cubans clustered around EI Mundo news·
long time, but they are wearing a flashy new paper, which supported Finnegan in the
dress and engaging in a new style of work. The primary and Flynn in the final election.
rise of the Right in the US has given new credi· Another emerging strategy is the one that
bility to the extreme·right sectors of our com· posits support for an imperialist foreign policy
munities and, though there has been no change in exchange for a series of reforms at home.
in their political program, their tactics have Domestically, they call for democratic
changed. Those supporting the paramilitary treatment of minorities and seek to make
training in the Florida Everglades and the mer· friends with the more traditional black leader·
cenaries in Honduras are today engaged in ship. Nationally, figures representative of this
lobbying in Washington, in presidential trend include mayors Maurice Ferre of Miami
electioneering, and in becoming "Reagan's and Henry Cisneros of San Antonio. This trend
Latinos." Their interests and strategy coincide is represented in Boston by part of the Cuban
with those of the Reagan administration which community and by some Puerto Ricans in the
in tum needs support internally not only for his old Kevin White machine. In the media. La
policies toward Latin America but also among Semana newspaper is an example. bke the
minOrities in order to counter black voting right wingers. they sided with Finnegan in the
streQgth. This strategy finds echo primarily primaries and with Flynn in the final. but
among CUbans, like Miami mayoral candidate locally as well as nationally there are contra­
Xavier Suarez, and with a few wealthy Chicano dictions between these two groups.
=

77
Another trend includes the majority of the festations. The recent Boston experience is an
Puerto Rican community, the bulk of the indication that the decline of the Puerto Rican
Dominican community, and a few Cubans in Left has begun to be reversed.
the city of Boston. In domestic policy this trend The Flynn Latino campaign is perhaps indi­
tends to defend civil rights and other demo­ cative of another trend. It appears to have a
cratic reforms and to seek solidarity with the genuine populist component in that some of its
black community. The majority of the estab- . adherents have a history of militant struggle for
lished Latino leadership of the city and the reform, although it includes some who do not
administrators of social service agencies comes share this history. But it combines this popu­
from this group, but most working-class lism with red-baiting and an effort to under­
Latinos can also be said to follow this political mine, or at least redefine. the basis of black­
direction. Not anti-imperialist, it is however a Latino political relations. It seeks to impose a
group conscious and proud of its Latin Ameri­ peculiarly North American deviation of " c1ass­
can heritage, and it seeks peace and negotia­ consciousness" which attempts to contrapose
tions over confrontation, although it tends to economic struggle to the struggle for the rights
be primarily concerned with the local and of oppressed people. At the time of the elec­
"domestic" issues. The election demonstrated tions, the Flynn Latino coalition was a group
that people grouped in this trend are remark­ glued together by opposition to Mel and the
ably open to considering radical political alter­ Rainbow more than by any common program.
natives, perhaps because of the failures of the Now that it is in power, this trend may begin to
traditional reformist schemes and because of take shape and consolidate. An effort will
the current administration openly seeks to probably be made to give coherence to this
worsen their position in society. Nationally, direction, and we may then recognize another
figures representative of this trend range from emerging trend in the community, with local
the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to Denver's and national implications. The participation of
Mayor Pena, from liberal and left Democrats certain Cuban groups in this tendency can be
to independent activists. In Boston they include considered an effort to inject anti-socialist
figures like Jorge Hernandez, Dukakis Latinos, sentiment into a Left which is overcoming it. If
and Felix Arroyo on the more progressive edge. the experience of the campaign is any indica­
They tended to side with the Rainbow. tion, we can expect this trend to be fraught with
.
The left in the community can itself be said to contradictions, and confusing to people.
include various tendencies. The core of Latinos The clarity of Mel's campaign helped to
for Mel King included a number of left and pro­ make these various trends visible in Boston.
gressive activists in the community from the Mel, for example, recognized that an important
beginning, but part of the Puerto Rican Left cause of urban decay is the arms race, that
actively boycotted the elections at the begin­ peace is an issue in Boston. On the day of the
ning. The Boston Puerto Rican Collective, for invasion of Grenada. late in the campaign, Mel
example, consisting of left and progressive attended a rally to denounce it. The campaign
Puerto Ricans, could not decide on an electoral set precedems in unity which are now part of
strategy. They organized a forum to which they our collective experience. And the unity of the
invited people active in the various campaigns oppressed was the campaign's banner, (he
to discuss the elections. Only after the primar­ Rainbow its symbol.
ies, when they discovered that the majority of Arter this effort we can see clearly that there
the Latino community was in fact engaged in are two crucial stances by which the political
the process, was debating important topics, and projects directed at Latinos will have to be
was leaving the left behind, did they endorse the measured for the current period: 1) That Latin
Rainbow and work on the campaign. They Americans in the US are by and large an
played an important positive role in the final oppressed minority made up mostly of working
election. Nationally, we are pleased and people, and that our unity with the black com­
encouraged to notice a rejuvenation and growth munity is of strategic importance, and 2) that
of progressive Latino politics in various mani- there is an inescapable connection between US·

78
Latin American relations on the one hand and
our condition here on the other, with a posture
calling for peace and negotiation being the one
which defends our interest. If we judge our
efforts by these criteria, we believe we advanced
the struggle of working people and of Latinos
in Boston. The Flynn campaign, for all its
genuine populist appeal. was on the wrong side
-a nationwide joumal on masculinity and
ofbolh o f these fences. f�minism for m� who creat� livM beyond
It may be argued that one election in one rM$C\Jlin� st@feotypes, who know the joy of
corner of the country does not permit sweeping intimate equal r�lationships with women
generalizations. This has some validity. But this and men, who ar� active in ending sexism.

election, rather than being a chance event. was JUST OUT!


Th� Winter 1983-84 Issue of M.
part of a process of movement building across
the country (see for example the article by &h National Conf�renc� on M� &- Mascu­
James Jennings in this issue). The peculiarities linity • Other Men by John Stolt�berg •

of this election, such as the populist perspec­ Work Clothes (, Leisure Suits: The Class
tives of both candidates, the remarkable leader­ Basis (, Bias of th� Men's Movement by Hany
Brod • and much. much more.
ship qualities of Mel King, the debate of inter­
national issues in the local elections. can be Regular subscription $10 (4 issues)
treated as prisms through which we can analyze SIImple copy of curr�nt issue: $)
forces now emerging on the larger political M. 306 N. Brooks Madison. WI 53715
arena. Furthermore, if we proceed with caution
we can offer our reflections as just that:
reflections. It remains our collective homework
to enrich or refute them.

FOOTNOTES

I. Camayd·Freixas, Yohel, and Lopez, Russell Paul, Gaps


in Rtp�ntotjyt Democracy: Redistricting, Poliliml Parti­
pation and Ihe Latino VOlt in 80s/on, Boston: Hispanic
ci Published continually since 1967,
Office of Planning and Evaluation, September 1983 .
Cineaste is today internationally rec­
2. Ibid.
ognized as America's leading maga­
Melania Bruno and Mauricio Gaston were co­ zine on the art and politics of the
cOore/inalors oj LalinosJor Mel King. Melania cinema. "A trenchant, eternally
Bruno is Vice Choir oj the Rainbow CoaliliQn, zestful magazine," says the Interna­
a community activist and a psychologisl who tional Film Guide, "in the forefront
works with a project for Puerto Rican youth. o f American f i l m p e r i o d i c a l s .
Mauricio OlSton is active in the Cuban solidari­ Cineaste always has something
worth reading, and it permits its
Iy movement and in the focaf Latin community.
writers more space to develop ideas
than most magazines. "
Published quarterly, Cineaste

llDE TO covers the entire world of cinema­


including Hollywood, the indepen­

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GRASS ROOTS POLITICS
AND BOSTON'S ASIAN
COMMUNITY

Mike Liu

A raw mid-November wind whipped (he sidewalks lining Don Bosco High SchooL
polling place for ward 3, precinct 8 , the center of Boston's Chinatown area. It whipped
through the color guard of political signs and through the phalanxes of pollworkers. A
dozen or so people were outside each of the two stairways leading to the high school doors,
giving cards and repeating the names of their candidates to voters as they walked up.
Many of the workers at the city's three Chinese precincts were part of the Asians for Md
King Committee. Kam Lee, an immigrant and part-time staff worker for the Chinatown
Land and Housing Development Task Force, stood outside in the cold from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
passing out poll cards and talking to fellow tenants. Suzanne Lee, co-chair of the Chinatown
People's Progressive Association (CPPA), and Regina Lee, legal services lawyer, spent the
day knocking on doors. Thomas Chan, school teacher, and Julian Lo, musician, got up at 6
a.m. to put up signs outside the polls, and spent the rest of the day pollwatching and check­
ing off names of voters, while Che Ying Choi, a daycare worker, helped to drive people 10
the polls and deliver food to the poll workers. Six months of struggle came to nearly fortY
people of the Asian community, many taking the day off, coordinating diverse roles in
piercing, discouraging weather.
..

80

Political Power

What possessed us to do this? Members of


the Asians for Mel King Commiuee had joined
for various reasons, but two motivations were
critical. Asians had never had any political
power in this city. And now a black was running
for mayor. As against the racism or the traditional
Chinese leadership. we argued for unity with
blacks and other minorities as our path together
toward political power. The campaign would be
a means to raise the issue of political power in
our communities. The campaign was also an
important struggle over whether a system of in­
equality in political representation would con­
tinue to exist in the city. This system has denied
minorities any real political power. No Asian
had ever held an elected office. Even the
smallest political reforms that allowed
minorities a possibility for power were
perverted. For instance, the effect of the
massive district representation campaign for
Asians was that Chinatown was engulfed by
South Boston in the same district (the district
which would later elect Jim Kelly, famous race
baiter, as its City Council representative). This
lack of political power supported the overall in­
equality we faced in the city. It was this unjust
and unequal system that we wanted to over­
turn. It was these rights to political representa­
tion and power that we wanted to insist upon.
Mel had promised representation at City Hall
for all parts of the population and local
neighborhood councils. Mel's program meant
for the first time political representation and a
political voice.
Secondly, the platform of the campaign was
consistently progressive. Mel presented a pro­
gram of real change, a program that would ad­
dress the major issues in the city and in our
community. We supported the overall cam­
paign platform, and there were particular issues
for our community. Housing has been the mOSt
Ulrike Welsch photo.
visible issue in the community for the last
decade. The community has been put under
siege by the rapid expansion of Tufts-New
England Medical Center (T-NEMC), While the
Asian population had grown 50 percent in the
1970-1980 decade, the housing stock had actually
decreased. In 1983, when fifteen units of new
housing were offered, 1,500 people waited out-
-

81
side for applications. Mel had marched in our a confidence that we were working together fOr
housing demonstrations in the past and Mel's a better community and city. We were based
program meant an elected neighborhood coun­ mainly in the Chinatown community, but also
cil which would have cOn!rol over city services involved other Asians and tried to reach other
and could Stop T-NEMC. Jobs were another Asian populations. such as Japanese Americans
growing problem. Garment factories were shut­ and Chinese in Brighton. We looked for Our
ting down from the pressure of rents driven up support among the workers and lower petty
by T-NEMC and runaway shops. The Chinese bourgeoisie in Chinatown, as we were. We
restaurant industry was saturated. Waiters line wanted to involve people in the political process
up in Chinatown every day for cars to take and build a greasroots movement for represen·
them to work, sometimes as far as the outer tation and political power.
reaches of Maine. Boston Jobs for Boston Peo­ However, we knew that we faced some enor·
ple would allow the community the opponunity mous obstacles in the community. For years ac·
to break into new industries, an opponunity cess to City Hall had been monopolized by a
forcefully denied to us in the past. Other issues small clique. This group was headed by the
of concern are education, social services, Chin brothers, Frank and Billy. Billy owned the
equality of language and culLUre, China, ana largest restaurant in Chinatown and used it to
anti-Asian violence. It meant support for our hold fundraisers for many politicians. Frank
culture and our language, our ESL programs, was a purchasing agent for the White Ad·
the health center, the community school pro­ ministration. While their high positions were
gram. It mean! an end to the divisive two-China never used to effectively stop T-NEMC, fOI
policy, equal recognition of the People's years the Chin brothers had delivered over·
Republic and Taiwan, which the Chinatown whelming margins for White or against White's
political hacks had developed under incumbent enemies. They have fiercely resisted any
Mayor White. It meant someone who would democratic process or mass input into any rna·
speak against the new tide of physical attacks jor decisions in the community, anything thai
against Asians. During the last few years, would threaten their control over it. When a
Asians had been attacked and even murdered in significant part of the community decides to
areas of the city as diverse as Dorchester, support an independent candidate, as Asians
Brighton, and Kenmore Square. The most re­ for Mel King did, we were shaking one of their
cent was the murder of Anh Mai in July in Dor­ pillars of power, and they would fight us tooth
chester. Though we knew that much of these and nail. These people represented the right
reforms could only be partially achieved even if wing of the upper petty bourgeoisie in
Mel were elected, the welfare of people would Chinatown. They are the so-called traditional
be better than if the atmosphere of takebacks leaders: The Chinese Benevolent Association,
and givebacks continued. the Guomintang (the political party of Taiwan),
and some of the major restaurant and business
Class Struggle in the Chinese Community owners. Although at times they will join the
struggle against national oppression, because of
The struggle was exciting with many lessons their relatively privileged class position their
and opponunities to build the movement. We formula for obtaining political power is to go
felt all along that win or lose, the mass move­ with the white traditional forces and hope that
ment had a lot to gain from the King campaign. Chinese will obtain some benefits. There were
After Mel announced that he was running in two telling indications of that class nature. The
April. we decided to form a committee to sup­ slate of candidates they endorsed along with
port Mel King. The committee became quite Flynn (who does not acknowledge the existence
broad and included activists, social service of any discrimination against minorities) . in·
workers and directors, government func­ cluded Jim Kelly and Albert "Dapper" O Neill'

tionaries, restaurant and garment workers, for City Council, openly white rights can'
suburban and Chinatown residents, students, didates, who have taken numerous standS
an electrician, and a newspaperman. We shared against minority people and who have done

82
their utmost to foster racism and division in the and building support al the grass roots com­
city. Second, they conducted the Chinatown munity level. Thus the campaign for Mel
electoral work without putting out a single became part of the class struggle in Chinatown.
piece of Chinese-language literature with the When the Chin brothers lined up with Flynn the
content of Flynn's platform . They had other lines were drawn between the progressive and
ways of getting votes. backward forces in the community.
For the majority of people in the Chinese This was the first lime that Boston China­
community who are working people, we know town had seen a real grass-roots electoral cam­
that gaining power means fighting for it and paign. Our first step was to familiarize the peo­
not wailing for the favors of the traditional ple of the community with Mel. To this end, we
white racist political system. Political power registered hundreds of people to vote. We
means power for the majority, the disenfran­ translated and distributed Mel's literature and
chised. blacks, Asians, and working people, his stands on the issues. He made three tours of
those of us who have traditionally been locked Chinatown before the primary. We timed his
out of the democratic process . This was pari of visits so that he would meet the workers, the
the impetus for supporting the King campaign garment workers getting out of work and the

��: �
/e 1950$, ' rban
.A
r� � � � uxu
newol bulldozers demolished lI e WeSl End. In its ploce stalld Char l!s River Park, a ' � �
ry igh isf'
budding amst of the people took spray pamt to the developer's promotIonal sign and added a 1/fIle hlS/oncal
"''''illder.
Ben AchtenberglPlainsong Productions.
restaurant workers who lined up to catch rides i n p o s i t i o n s as " t r a n s l at o r s . " Thl
to their workplaces all over New England. We "translators" would go into the polling booth
also visited each store in the community. Mel with Chinese. espedally elderly. and pull lever
came to the August Moon Festival. He spoke at for them. When we caught them and had thl
the community's candidates forum and various "translator" thrown out, an inspector from t�
dinners. Our message was that voting for Mel elections department showed up. Who was ht'
King was part of fighting for Asian people's A part of the Chins' machine. We had to speO(
rights, part of our struggle for political rights, our time inspecting the inspector. And IX
for community control. We also met with Mel course the union reps were out there watchi"l
and helped him to develop his understanding of the workers,
the Asian community. For the first community Mel did very well in the primary. In the lhra
people, from workers to storekeepers to profes­ Chinatown precincts - 317, 3/8, and 5/1 _

sionals, discussed issues - crime, housing, Mel defeated Flynn by 100 votes, though WI
jobs, political representation, community con­ lost 3/8, where the Chins had the most in.
Irol and electoral politics itself in relation to a fluence. This gave us a great impetus to wor!
local election. even harder for the final. The highlight of till
We were able to build a lot of support. Most campaign in the community was the Asiill
of our support came from workers or younger Walk for Mel King, We walked through tb:
Asians. While some supported Mel because of community chanting in both English am
his program and some because of their identifi­ Chinese, handing out literature. We held ur
cation of their fate with other minorities, a lot signs and sold Mel King balloons and buttons I
of people supported the campaign because of the major intersection in Chinatown all day
our years of work in the community. They We registered voters. We drove sound tructl
knew that if we supported Mel, it must be in the around the community and leafletted. Wt
best interests of the community. And others bought ads in the Chinatown newspapers. Am
supported Mel simply because they opposed the near election day we had a citywide fundraisirt
Chins. We had a cocktail fundraiser and raised dinner in Chinatown. Of course we continual
$1 ,500. We spoke to community activists and the literature drops, the phoning, and the doo
built up a network of supporters around the knocking. People were encouraging and sup­
Asians for Mel King Committee. To con­ portive.
solidate our work we canvassed door-lo-door in At the same time, it had become clear to thl
the housing developments and did phone poll­ Chins and the ILGWU that for the first timt
ing to identify the King supporters. they had a real fight on their hands. This time,
Then just before the primary the Chins came the Chins couldn't effortlessly "deliver" t�
out for Flynn. We heard that the Chins promis­ Chinese vote. They had to work overtime. Us­
ed Flynn 90 percent of the vote in Chinatown. ing their positions in the community and as rna·
In addition to the garment workers' union, jar employers, they forced shops to put signs ia
ILGWU, came out for Flynn. They put a lot of their windows; a waiter told us that Billy Cbill
pressure on the workers. The union business told all his workers that they had to vote fOi
agents were the workers' lines to their benefits, Ray Flynn. People who voted for Mel in China·
pensions, and steady work. With their limited town gOt calls. Bosses talked to husbands of
English, the garment workers risked much if garment workers who had voted for Mel. Sinct
they opposed the union. these people controlled workers' jobs and
When primary day came we mobilized our owned the buildings workers lived in, they trif!,l
people to do the checking, poll watching, run­ to intimidate the workers. Within the factories,
ning, and phoning that was necessary. Then we the ILGWU also tried to use racism 10 win
saw how the Chins planned to deliver their votes. A union rep with Flynn admonished pe0-
votes. Our work became one long day of ple not to vote for the "black devil." Other
fighting underhanded political activity and vote Flynn workers warned that black street crime
manipulation. The Chin broth.:rs used their would be out of control with a black mayor.
relationship with City Hall to put their people The mayoral elections had the potential [0
-

84
Ltl()k",� SOlllh 011 Slimmer Slrfi'/. 80s/on. }ollliary, /9/0. G. Frank Rudwoy photo.

rally and organize the Chinese people to fight schedule made it difficult to work with people
for our rights, to build our understanding of in a patient and in-depth manner. While many
our relationship to the struggle of other op­ remained firm, others were warned away by the
pressed peoples. But the Right was trying to fan a([acks of the Right.
racist sentiments and divide Chinese people During the campaign we also contributed to a
from potential allies. We knew we had to take lot of citywide work and developed (ies with
them on, and we went on a campaign to stop other communities across the city. The "rain­
them. We did this one-on-one in our daily con­ bow coalition" which we established allowed
tact with community people. We called the our community to work with more groups and
ILGWU president. We also raised it sharply sectors of people and on the broadest basis
and publicly to Ray Flynn at a citywide ever. We worked with people around day care,
women's forum so that his campaign would women's issues, decentralization proposals,
realize that this kind of activity would not go and bilingualism, as well as electioneering. We
unexposed. And we responded in the Chinese also spoke at rallies and events across the city to
press. We believe that we made it much harder various audiences, educating people about
for them to openly use racism in the Chinatown Chinatown and Asians.
-an.

��Howev er, much harm was done. Some peo­


Were intimidated. Others were susceptible to
Election Day

fears and stereotypes in US society that the As the final election approached we felt that
)'Dn people played on. we had done the best we could have. We had
The furious campaign

"
done a lot of mass outreach and felt that we had tions through the work. For example, in CPPA
built a solid base of support for Mel. We tried we saw the election as a means to have people
to prepare for the Chins. We doubled the better understand what the organization stood
number of volunteers in our area. We had extra for. We put out our own position on why we
lawyers brought in and placed at the polls. supported Mel King.
However the Chins had responded in kind. The campaign also had changed the political
They had increased their workers. The ILGWU situation for the Asian communities. Previous_
was outside in force. Moreover the Chins had ly considered "invisible," Asians definitely
increased the number of "translators" and became a recognized political force in the city.
placed people in the elderly housing to pull peo­ Asians had established themselves as a compo.
ple to the polls. The best we could do was to try nent part of any future coalition politics in the
to stem the tide. Even when we had lawyers city, a slep toward political power. In China.
placed at the polls, they didn't speak Chinese town, we also developed a valuable "coalition"
and a lot of votes were lost. Our bilingual peo­ of various people interested in greater democra.
ple were busy phone-calling and getting people cy. This united front of people from differenl
to the polis. When we could put some people in­ backgrounds was able to strike a blow at the
side we were able to get one "translator" control of the righi-wing forces. We were able
removed from 5/1. But it wasn't enough. to give expression to the desire of Chinese pe0-
ple for democracy and equality. as an alter·
The Conclusion native to the right wing's dirty politics and
manipulation and patronage. And in the pro­
We didn't win the mayoralty. We lost by a 2 cess, we and others in the community deepened
to 1 margin. In the Chinatown precincts Mel our understanding of the role that differenl
and Flynn ran head to head. We lost 3/8 again classes play in the community. and about tht
and won 317 and 5/1 by smaller margins. But limits of the democracy we have now. We've in­
the sense of the whole campaign has been that, troduced wider discussion and struggle over im·
win or lose, we were fighting for more than one portant issues, such as multi-national unity,
political office. The measure of our victory will community control, and electoral politics.
be seen in the coming months and years, but we We've built greater unity and understandilll
unquestionably gained ground in the struggle across the city through our participation, caus­
for equality and progress. This was shown in ing people to sit up and take notice.
the election-night Mel King campaign party,
where 4,000 people of all nationalities packed Mike Liu si a long-time community (Jctivist alii
into the Sheraton Hotel ballroom to celebrate a member oj the steerillg commillee oj tit
what we had won. In fact, from watching the China/own People's Progressive AssociafitJt
election coverage of the two candidates' "vic­ He is a contributor 10 East Wind magazine.
tory" parties, several Chinese immigrants told
us that they thought Mel had won. We did win
in some very important ways. We changed
Boston.
For many of us it has been a struggle to keep
the elections work in perspective. Fundamental­
ly we felt that the mass movement had to come
out of it stronger and better equipped to carry
on its struggles. There was a strong tendency to
put everything into the campaign and let the
ongoing work where we came from - tenants
work, mass organizations such as CPPA,
women's groups such as ASIA, student groups
- nounder. However we had struggled to keep
that work going and to build those organiza-

86
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LAVENDER IS A COLOR
I N THE RAINBOW:
Lesbians and Gays and Boston Politics

Margaret Cerullo, Marla Erlien


Kate Raisz and Jessica Shubow

On the night Mel King was scheduled to appear at the Marquee, one of the Boston area's
two lesbian bars, a marked excitement rippled throughout the dimly-lit room. In a new twist
on the classic electoral campaign style, five or six campaign aides were working the bar
crowd, handing out literature, selling buttons, telling everyone Mel was on the way. OUf
buttons read "Gay and Straight Together (with a rainbow emblazoned across), Mel King for
Mayor" and the campaigners were all open members of the Boston area lesbian community.
Outside on Massachusetts Avenue, the election commission had allowed for a table to
register voters. No one remembered having been given recognition such as this during any
previous election campaign.
Mel's towering figure moved with ease and familiarity through the crowd of lesbians. He
took the microph
one and proceeded to speak not about what he had done of value but what

��
the bian community had done. "Some people have said I am the greatest friend the

n�
bUUl community
has ever had. But, that's not right--the lesbian community is the greatest
the lesbian community has ever had." He compared us with the woman he called his
ro lIIodel
, Rosa Parks, and said that when people in a community stand up and say " I am
SOlllebod
y" then room is made for them and for others to be fully who they are. The crowd
-

89
cheered. Mel stood and danced with us extent this was an old battle-between grat
frequently in the lesbian and gay bars that were, roots movement building and "power bro�
until the gay liberation movement, the only ing" as the routes to gay power. It is a ba�
sanctioned gathering places for the lesbian and thai in Boston had been consistently won bY I
gay community in a homophobic society more radical and feminist elements within I
seeking to degrade and ghettoize us. "There's a gay community. But, as we were Iearni:
little gay in all of us," Mel said in his speech at quickly, the ability of radicals to command
a gay and lesbian cultural event for his lessened as competing gay politics enter lar!
campaign. Politics in the Boston area was public debate (as was true in the mayoral rat
definitely changing. and the media and other establishment fore
The recent success of the struggle for district (by designating which voice is heard) becOl
representation in Boston (a Slruggle led by Mel definers of gay politics.
King) meant the creation of a largely gay dis­ This election campaign marked a critic
trict which opened the way for an openly gay point in the history of gay politics in this ci
candidate. radical tenant activist David The struggle over the endorsements reveal
Scondras, to run for city council. And, Mel and heightened other divisions within the ell
King's presence in the mayoral campaign, given munity, divisions within gay male politics at
his past support for the politics, culture and between gay and lesbian politics. Before I
social life of the community, meant several proceed to describe the actual work and expel
aspects of gay involvement in this campaign ence of the lesbian and gay committee II
would be distinctive. Not only would the "gay elaborate our assessment of the meaning oh
vote" be targeted by the King campaign, but a campaign for the future, we must first turn
visible gay and lesbian presence would be the history of lesbian and gay politics
welcomed as part of that effon. Not only Boston, For, it is from that history that wea
would gay rights be recognized, Mel would understand how gays and lesbians mobilizerl
develop a program to address the homophobia the 1983 election.
and heterosexism that circumscribe gay
people's lives in Boston, as elsewhere. And, Three features characterized lesbian and �
finally, and perhaps most unusual in the emer­ politics in Boston. First, a radical voice has �
gence of gays in electoral politics, the distinct stronger and more defining of gay politics thilll
voice of lesbians within the gay community most other cities with a substantial gay prCSCDI
would be recognized. second, lesbians and feminist politics III
While the King and Scondras campaigns were played a significant role in setting the polilio
contexts in which gay and lesbian issues gained agenda of the community; and, third, a fOCI
visibility and legitimacy,' the question of who on race and anti-racism have been key to d
defined and represented the gay community development of the lesbian/feminist commlf
was answered by a bitter contest. Divisions ity since the mid-seventies. The test for gayP
emerged strongly when the Boston Lesbian and lesbian politics came with the rise of the Rigi'
Oay Political Alliance (BLOPA), set up in 1982 After setting some of the context of the 5(\11
to lobby and endorse public officials, ties, we will discuss the confrontation withti:
announced their choice of Larry DiCara, J a New Right, for we believe that it was in �
pro-business, anti-union "liberal," for mayor, confrontation that the current shape of P
and no endorsement in Scondras' district. politics in the city took place.
BLGPA was known to many of us as having a That gay men and lesbians became comr!Ii .
narrow gay rights view whose goal was to �
ted to an electoral campaign in which li ber.a JO
broker for "influence" in city politics. When politics was on the agenda is not surpTl5!�
they quickly became identified by the media Although work on gay rights legislation bet'
and various campaigns as the voice of Boston's in 1972, it was a radical critique of helerosed
culture that dominated Boston's gay .aD
gay population, and as such sought to publicize
their endorsements, many gays and lesbians lesbian politics. Characteristic of this radl:
mobilized to challenge their authority. To some ism has been the development of COU
..

90
For the most part, lesbians and gay men have
created separate contexts both in terms of com­
munity and politics since the early gay libera­
tion days. For the men, the politics of "public
sex"l emerged in response to police harassment
and arrests in known cruising areas. The sensa­
tionalized exposure in 1978 of a so-caJled boy­
love "sex ring" just outside Boston rallied
many gay men to the defense of those arrested.
Fag Rag. a local left-oriented gay male maga­
zine, raised all the thorny issues, challenging
respectability as a goal for gay politics. While
the arrests opened up a heated debate on the
issue of boy-love, that issue became second to
the need to coun�er state repression, especially
since the arrests were understood as linked to
anti-gay initiatives across the country,"
However intense the divisions, there was agree­
ment that the debate would not be resolved by
the state or by the right wing.
Politically active lesbians located themselves
primarily in the women's movement and its
Dovid Scomlros, 80s/all's firs/ openly goy city coullcil/or.
many organizing and service projects . While
explicit lesbian issues were rarely on the agenda
cullures that challenged both the straight of these feminist activities, a lesbian identity
world, including the straight left, and the tradi­ was being shaped by cultural events, by making
tional gay sub-cultures. The managers/owners claims on public space, projecting clearly
of gay establishments and their Democratic lesbian-identified images and by being affec­
Pany allies have represented the conservative tionate on the street. The commitment to
voice of Boston's gay community. Yet their create a culture in which diversity was recog­
social and economic power was not enough to nized and celebrated and racism opposed in all
control the newly developing gay politics. its manifestations became central to the defini­
When gay men and women initiated a change in tion of lesbian politics and community. The
the title of Gay Pride to Lesbian and Gay Pride, Combahee River Collective, a black feminist
the bar managers opposed this and lost. When and lesbian group formed in the mid-seventies, I
� me of the men's bars refused entry to queens, as well as active Latin and Asian lesbians took
Invoking dress codes, protests were organized the initiative in this redefinition of lesbian and
�Y gay men who sought to expose the continui­ feminist politics. The general mobilization by
ties between traditional gay male culture and Third World gays and lesbians has sharpened
heterosexual assumptions of masculinity. for all of us an understanding of the connec­
While queens were central to the Stonewall tions between race, class, gender and sexuality.
rebellion of 1969,
they remained a spectacle and Third World lesbians have recently published
.
....rtainment for both hetero
��'. sexuals and many
and an embarassment to some gay rights
an increasing quantity of essays and poetry
addressing such questions. For it is as Black les­
tliVlSts who
saw respectability and power as
r°ftYmous. But, in the 1970s a new genera­
bians or Chicana lesbians that many now
articulate (heir struggle to understand a politi­
on of queens emerged
to politicize that iden- cized identity-one so infused with the realities

�u
tity. lnnu

enced by feminism, these gay men in of race, class, gender and sexuality in US
� f Ck' drag self-cons
ciously opposed society that to discreetly pursue each would
POwer and moved
of to disrupt rigid notions distort the meaning of their place in the culture.
&ender.
-

91
Rise or the Right lighted the power divisions and their political
1978: Enter Anita Bryant. While Bryant was meaning in the community. While we actively
best known politically as the figurehead or Save sought endorsements from every progressive
Our Children, an anti-gay New Right organiza­ gay and straight group in the area and Gay
tion, her scheduled appearance in Boston on Community News printed a four page supple­
September I was to support the "pro-ramily ment exclusively on Bryant and her organiza­
tradition'" of Howard Phillips' candidacy for tion, the community's power brokers tried to
the US Senate. (Phillips, the initialOr of the halt our effort. Elaine Noble, the first and only
Conservative Caucus, is considered one of four openly gay representative in the Massachusetts
key leaders of the New Right.)1 Bryant's visit to legislature sought to have our permits with·
Boston came at a moment of heightened con­ drawn by the police and held a press conference
fronlation between the New Right and gays and in an attempt to defeat the organizers. The Gay
lesbians. Dade County, Florida, her home base, Business Association distributed a Oyer encour·
had just overturned its gay rights ordinance; the aging people not to march and rally. Their
Briggs Initiative had been introduced in Cali­ assessment was that such public resistance
fornia; and the orange juice boycott was in would only fuel anti gay sentiment and lead to
motion. Meanwhile, the forces which ulti­ violence failed to undermine the protest.
mately defeated Briggs were taking shape;' and The victory here was manifold: Anita
in Boston and elsewhere, Bryant's public pres­ Bryant's performance was cancelled; feminism
ence was greeted by active opposition. We became a recognized force in gay politics; and
believe that it was in this confrontation between those representing social and economic power
lesbians/gays and the New Right that the out­ within the gay community were discredited
lines of current gay politics took shape. while those who advocated a grassroots
Tfie retreat from cultural politics in much of approach were strengthened. This new momen·
the feminist and left response to the New Right, tum provided the ground for a radical gay and
ceding ground to the New Right's pro family lesbian organization, Boston Lesbians and Ga)'
politics, made lesbians and gays invisible in Men Against the Right (BLAGMAR), formed
those areas. In consequence, leftist gay men in early 1979, an organization which gained i
and feminist lesbians were increasingly drawn prominent voice during its three year existence.
into a gay context, involving themselves in BLAGMAR with its counter-cultural flail
defining the gay and lesbian opposition to the stood almost alone within gay left politics n i
New Right. What became clear in the mobiliza­ this period. Rather than incorporate gays as
tion against Bryant by the September 1 Coali­ another oppressed group into a traditional ldl
tion was that lesbians felt stronger as feminists analysis, BLAGMAR sought to deepen and
in the gay movement than as lesbians in the project a gay critique of everyday life-a chal·
women's movement. For example, the public lenge to the assumptions of heterosexual
defense of abortion, articulated by reproduc­ culture. In raising the history of gay liberation
tive rights activists against the New Right's and women's liberation, it experimented with
attack, sidestepped a discussion of sexuality cultural forms to project the images and rebel·
even though it was clear that female sexuality, lious spirit that have been carried by thest'
women's autonomy from men and women's movements. Its first public appearance was a
rebellion to proscribed roles were all at stake. musical-"The Tenth Reunion of Stonewall
Those who sought to raise sexuality as part of High." And in a forum and play on housing
reproductive rights work were silenced, while issues, BLAOMAR opened questions about \/1('
feminist lesbians working in a gay context were politics of neighborhoods and the gaps be[\\'�
successful in adding a pro-abortion statement community and neighborhood for gays. '{1tiS
to the politics put out by the September I Coali­ latter theme was to resurface in the 1983
tion, despite the resistance on the part of some mayoral race for gay and lesbian organizcCS'
gay men who expressed anti-abortion views. When some leftists sympathized with queer­
The plans for a counter-rally and march bashing in Chicano neighborhoods in SaIl
against Anita Bryant's presence in Boston high- Francisco, interpreting it as a legitimate defense
-

92
=

of neighborhoods against gentrification,


BLAGMAR took on directly the "left" attack
on gays as gemrifiers. Analyzing the repressive
culture of traditional neighborhoods, the
formation of urban gay ghettoes in the gaps left
by white flight, as well as the scapegoating of
gays instead of the real estate interests at the
root of gentrification, BLAGMAR challenged
the anti-gay underpinnings of some left politics
on housing issues, while at the same time
exploring the meaning of class and race
divisions among gays and lesbians.
We discuss this history in order to emphasize
that, overwhelmingly, gay and lesbian politics
did not bend to the growing conservative need to create alliances among those who suffer
momentum in the culture. Gay Community the bigotry, violence and injustice of American
News has become a kind of emblem of the alli­ culture. And as a representative in the legisla­
ances worked out in this period. A national gay ture, Mel cosponsored legislation to ensure fair
and lesbian newspaper based in Boston, GCN housing and employment for gays and lesbians.
has been the site of struggle, particularly Yet, Mel never advocated that change could be
between gay men and lesbians. The resolution simply legislated. He challenged people's way
of those tensions led to opening the paper (0 of seeing each other and called for strength­
women's issues in general, committing itself to ening social movements not back room negotia­
representing the diversity of its constituency tions as definers of those changes.
and maintaining a memory, if not a goal, of While the main features of lesbian and gay
liberation politics over a simple gay rights politics in Boston were gaining ground in the
plank. As a gay/lesbian paper, it is unique 80s (lesbians and gays as such became active in
among the array of gay/lesbian papers across anti-militarist work; reproductive rights organ­
the US. izing became more open to a discussion of
While the New Right saw anti-sexual and sexuality; and Third World lesbians and gays
anti-gay views as their strong card in winning won their fight for a speaker, Audre Lorde, at
people to their cause, the gay and lesbian con­ the 20th anniversary of Martin Luther King's
stituency, by their strength in grass roots mobil­ March on Washington), no gay and/or lesbian
ization, reversed the New Right's momentum. political organization existed that represented
Gays and lesbians became more aggressive the complexity of gay and lesbian activism. On
while, for example, timidity plagued the repro­ the contrary, juxtaposed to these grass-roots
ductive rights struggle. The outcome for gays developments came a new gay newspaper and
and lesbians was the recognition of their politi­ an organization in 1982 which would represent
cal POwer . Subsequently, mainstream politics an opposition to the radicalism that had charac­
wOUld have to reckon with this constituency. terized the gay/lesbian movements, a radical­
no MaJora! Race, ism that ironically expanded space for gay busi­
Aa r.. balded Gay/Lesbian Constituency nesses and neighborhoods. Those flourishing in
M� King was distinctive among the field of this expanded space designed a strategy for
ClDdidates running for mayor in 1983. Mel integration into the city's existing power struc­

::x'
already had a history of active support for gays

::a, �bians. As opposed to our gay representa­


ture in opposition to those who saw their politi­
cal power originating in a social movement.
In the legislatur
e, Rep. Mel King immedi­ Posed as an alternative to the "stridency" of
filly IIfCCd to
� speak at the anti-Anita Bryant
Whe a gay man was murdered in a
�.
GCN, the new gay publication (named after the
gentrified facades of Boston's South End), Bay
IicIu truis mg area, Mel joined our candle­ Windows, depicts the carefree social life of
_ IOarch
through the park and spoke of the Boston's gay citizens. Appealing to the expand-

93
ing gay population and corresponding growth Third World lesbians and gays. What BLGPA
of gay businesses in the South End, Bay underlined is that unless representation is
Windows is a prime example of how the gay understood in terms of the diversity of a com­
movement can be coopted into the commercial munity, then the community will be represented
world: gay politics is sold back to people as a by the most powerful within it, i.e. economic­
life style, cutting off the essential critique raised ally comfortable white men.
by gayness of our whole society. Many in BLGPA didn't understand the
The new gay organization, BLGPA, is an meaning of Mel King in the electoral arena.
organization of approximately 200, whose They didn't understand the significance of Mel
membership is predominantly white gay men speaking the language and history of the gayl
(being gay is not even required for member­ lesbian movement. They didn't understand that
ship). Launching a campaign in 1982 to influ­ the strength of our movement depended UpOn
ence the political agenda of city politicians creating alliances with other communities in th�
around gay civil rights, its founders saw in the name of a shared vision. If anything, BLGPA
recent implementation of district representation mobilized an increasing number of people to
a chance to gain clout, at least in the one district become active in the King campaign.
with a heavily, if economically comfortable,
gay male population. They immediately drew
the attention of the city's big media. BLGPA
implicitly indicated its break with the more
radical, feminist and anti-racist politics that
had given definition to the gay and lesbian Lesbian and Gay Committee for Mel King
voice in Boston. However, they erred in think­ The lesbian and gay committee was startled
ing that a new era was upon us that would sacri­ into motion when BLGPA announced iu
fice a social movement for personal power endorsements. In particular, the predominantly
within city politics. Its endorsement of DiCara lesbian committee recognized the need to build
and failure to endorse Scondras in the prelimi­ closer connections to the gay male community
nary, communicated as the voice of the gay/ where BLGPA had its base. For many lesbians
lesbian community and widely publicized by all working for the first time in a mixed gay con·
the media, left many gays and especially les­ text, this was a discouraging time. The gap iu
bians incredulous. BLGPA's defense of its politics, particularly race politics, not to m�D·
endorsements was telling. They appealed to tion social and economic power, between lM
their democratic procedures-one man, one lesbian and gay male communities fell
vote-and to the openness of the organization immense. For some, doubts they had about
to anyone who wanted to join (and pay dues of identifying with the gay committee instead oras
$10 a year). BLGPA's notion of representing a lesbians in the women's committee resurfaced.
community by majority vote in a tiny organiza­ Yet, there was a perception that lesbian con­
tion simply declaring itself "open" to everyone cerns would find a sharper voice in a mixed gay
did not go unchallenged. context than in a feminist one. A commitment
Failing to make racism or sexism or c1assism to guarding against invisibility of lesbians and
integral to their understanding of gay/lesbian gay men and our issues kept lesbians active in
issues ensured that those with social and eco­ the committee. While the committee was and
nomic power would feel most at home in the remained predominantly white, it had ties and
organization and define its politics. I f the inter­ commitments to Third World lesbians and gay
ests of all gays and lesbians coincide, then men (most of whom decided to work in their
democratically representing such interests poses neighborhoods during the campaign). These
little problem. But that is not the case. The commitments meant Mel King was the onlY
claim of a single issue gay focus easily obscures choice for the lesbian and gay community, tilt
power relations. The meaning of being gay only candidate who spoke for all of us. Tilt
differs depending on your place in the culture Lesbian and Gay Committee for Mel King camt
as a whole, a point made most strongly by together around the premise that the interests
-

94

of lesbians and gays and of all marginalized men and lesbians are wary of how a stranger
constituencies are linked. Bring the boltom up, knows they are gay. It breaks the ice to mention
Mel said, and we all rise. Our task then was 10: their friend's name and also to come out first.
I. locale, identify and work to organize the "I'm a lesbian working on the Mel King cam­
lesbian and gay community in the city; paign" was a frequent telephone introduction.
2. raise consciousness within the Rainbow Through such networking effom lesbians and
about the experience of lesbians and gay gay men (and a few friends) paid for a full page
men, and attempt to see that experience of community endorsements for Mel in the gay
integrated fully into the platform; press, dramatically Outstripping the entire
3. challenge racism within the lesbian and gay membership of BLOPA. A lesbian/gay mailing
community; and, went out to 800 individuals.
4. pull out the gay vOle for Mel.
Neighborhoods and the Gay Constituency
Getdq Oal the VOle After the preliminary, the lesbian and gay
For many who work in electoral politics, an committee rC(:eived instructions regarding a
elaborate infrastructure is available of wards campaign strategy change from a constituency
and precincts, voter registration lists, statistical orientation to a neighborhood focus. Such a
poI]a, and constant media analysis of campaign shift was a major shakeup to our vOler identifi­
efforts. Bur for organizers of the lesbian and cation approach. Our "neighborhood" is
ilY constituency, no such infrastructure exists where we are out, in organizations, in the bars,
(at least. not yet). There may be a few neighbor­ at events, and among friends. It is often in our
hOOds with higher gay concentrations than geographical neighborhoods that we are most
�lbers; yet, most lesbians and gay men live out­ closeted. Though it was resolved in our com­
side those neighborhoods. We are everywhere, mittee not to dissolve our approach and frag­
and Yet we are often invisi
ble. ment ourselves into neighborhoods, to operate
The lesbian and gay organizing committee solely on a constituency-focused model should
� every known gay or lesbian group for not be seen exclusively as the ideal. That
I� membership or mailing list. (Many organiza­ lesbians and gays are not fully ourselves in our
�M)Ua _e it a policy not to give out their lists
� ""*' of their members' wish for privacy.)
neighborhoods is clearly an indication of the
viciousness of homophobia. Education and
e built up
on the lists we received by asking consciousness-raISIng must combine with
every Ieabian or gay man we contacted for the
::- of five of her or his friends. Many gay
determined efforts by lesbians and gay men to
claim equal status in their neighborhoods. This

9'
work must become an integral part of our a certain trust, it was possible to explore issues
growing city-wide movement (0 make all of racism with several people: were our interests
neighborhoods fully accessible to all people. and those of the black community in synch?
Would a straight black man really be there for
Inside the Rainbow
us? Were lesbians and gays really in the
For lesbians and gay men to be out and
Rainbow Coalition? The campaign button
determined about lesbian and gay issues at all
became a phenomenon itself. More people than
levels of the campaign was essential in making
we could produce them for wanted to wear the
the coalition truyly representative of the ten or
word GAY printed alongside "Mel King for
more percent of Boston residents (the lesbian
Mayor." Others felt we had left lesbians invis·
and gay community in a very conservative
ible, so an edition of "Lesbian, Gay, and
estimate) we sought to involve in the Rainbow.
Straight Together" buttons appeared. Jessica
Human contact on a daily basis through
Shubow recounts her experience: "For me, these
campaign work made it possible for straight
buttons resulted in numerous opportunities for
people to break out of their homophobia. One
consciousness-raising. Once in a pizza parlor in
lesbian reeQums the story of a Rainbow
Dorchester with predominantly Spanish speak·
Celebration where the emcee leading various
ing patrons, another time on the Red Line
chants got the crowd shouting support for "gay
train, the response was first "All right! Mel
and lesbian rights."
King' ' ' , then a closer perplexed look, "Are you
But homophobia did not disappear inside the
gay?" or an embarassed turning away. While I
Rainbow. One aspect was veiled in the
engaged in dialogue many times, I was person­
obsession with winning every possible vote at a
ally never the victim of open hostility while
cost that might include pandering to
wearing the button. The respect and legitimaC)'
homophobia or omining lesbian/gays from
gained by the Rainbow Coalition seemed 10
those to be targeted in a given neighborhood.
shield me."
While there were gay and lesbian contingents
The fact thai the gay button produced
and usually a lesbian or gay speaker at city-wide
uneasiness inside the Rainbow is important.
events, the committee did not succeed in
Many wondered and a few asked "why do you
ensuring gay speakers at most events in the
have to proclaim who you sleep with?" For
neighborhoods. Offers to send out explicitly
many lesbians and gay men, it often takes years
gay materials to different neighborhoods were
before developing the pride to affirm their
commonly met with the response that "there
gayness. Interestingly, many did so for the firS!
aren't any gay people in this neighborbood."
The bars are among the few places where an time while identifying as pari of the RainboW
identifiable lesbian and gay community is Coalition. In choosing the slogan "Gay and
visible. And, as we hinted earlier, Boston's Straight Together" instead of, perhaps,
women's and a few men's bars were pivotal in "Lesbians and Gay Men Are Part of the
our organizing erforts. In the bars, we distri­ Rainbow, " or ..... for Mel," we were seeking 10
buted leaflets, set up literature tables, sold reinforce the power and importance of solidar­
bunons, and held fundraisers that brought in ity. Months later, the buttons can stiU be seeD
thousands of dollars to support Mel's candi­ around town.
dacy. And perhaps most important of all, in Kate Raisz, a lesbian/gay commillet
those bars, lesbians and gay men met Mel face coordinator, lives in Jamaica Plain, the Boston
to face, talked and danced with him. If the bars neighborhood with the largest lesbian
were not the most obvious site for political dis­ population. In the closing weeks of the
cussion, the visibility of campaign materials campaign, the lesbian/gay committee targeted
addressed exclusively to lesbians and gay men priority districts. Kate recalls: "A number of
in the language of our own communities and ward and pret:inct coordinators in the areas we
movements instilled a sense of excitement and targeted were glad for our presence and Ouf
pride. A very small number were unresponsive·, additional workers. But one neighborhood

many were eager to hear about what set Mel coordinator responded negatively, saying thal
apart from other politicians. Because we shared some of his precincts were very conservativt

96
and since there was no previously organized and gays within their own communities.
lesbian and gay presence, election day was not On the eve of the massive Rainbow
the time to come out. I challenged him saying Celebration a week before the election,
that the are<;l has the largest lesbian community members of our committee joined a crowd of
in Boston. When he replied thal it was not a people sprawled out on the floor of the black
visible community, I felt angry about the community headquarters in Dorchester as we all
standards of visibility. I had always felt a worked feverishly on fifteen foot banners for
suong lesbian presence as I walked down the neighborhoods, committees, and special
main street in my neighborhood. Signs in my constituencies. Expressions of shock or
laundromat openly advertised numerous discomfort drifted regularly past our lavendar
lesbian households and apartmems. What's "Lesbians and gay men for Mel King". Called
necessary, I wondered for lesbians to be over to the side by a local campaign worker,
visible?" Jessica was asked courteously if she would
On election day close to a hundred poll explain first why she wanted to look and act
workers were wearing labyrises or pink like a man and secondly, "was not homo­
triangles as they handed out cards or held signs sexuality akin to genocide?" The first
for Mel King for mayor. These openly lesbian question was not unusual, posed often by
and gay poll workers made it clear that lavender individuals unaccustomed to considering the
was a vibrant and vital color in Mel King's oppressive elements �f imposed notions of what
campaign rainbow. Every lesbian or gay worker is masculine and what is feminine are allowed
whether visible or closeted passed these to be. The second question was also not new.
brothers and sisters on entering the polling She adds, "Our talk of half an hur exemplified
place, one last reminder that Mel King the creative power of the Rainbow. Our joim
represented the interests or our community. But presence in the room that night provided a
one area coordinator urged that the visibility be tentative trust that enabled us to talk honestly" I
avoided. His concern, again from Kate Raisz, was able to preface some remarks with: 'You
"was with 'respectability,' and with as he put it know how Mel talks abouL . ' We talked about
not 'alienating' voters who were pro-Mel King her stereotypes, about reproductive freedom,
but anti-gay. He feared openJy lesbian and gay about the struggle to overcome racism in the
poll workers would backfire on the campaign, lesbian and gay community. Our talk that
by turning away potential voters.
We had to do night, and the warmth of other connections we
what we could to keep every vote. It didn't made that evening was an important example of
matter if some people who voted for Mel were what the Mel King campaign achieved. "
anti-gay, he rationalized,
as long as Mel
himself, who advocated I'esbian and gay rights, Conclusion
was elected. Although I too cared deeply about The Mel King campaign was rooted in all the
winning the election and about getting each and progressive social movements that have had an
every Vote we could, I could never accept a impact on the city over the last twenty·five
rationale which would silence lesbians and gay years. While gays and lesbians were seen by
men in order to placate heterosexists." most of the candidates as a votingbloc, the King
Invoking Mel's personal example was campaign publicly identified itself with a gay
eerective against homophobia
, as when a and lesbian movement. And because of the
snicker followed mention of gay people in a welcomed visibility of gays and lesbians in the
staff meeting early in the campaign, or when campaign, and the public identification of Mel
returning a phone call
to our committee from with that constituency, many campaign
beadquaners had been treated
as too low a workers learned to challenge homophobia.
priority. We
"had to continually remind When two teenage girls encountered a King
campaign workers
that to pit lesbian and gay campaign worker in one of Boston's ethnic
:aocerns against those of people of color was to neighborhoods. the girls remarked, "You're
Y the existence of lesbians and gay men of for King? He has all the weirdos behind him."
:'Ior, and to support the invisibility of lesbians The campaign worker asked, "Like who?"

97
"The liberals and queers," they answered. The distance between a presidential campaign
"So, what's wrong with that?" the campaign and a local electoral campaign, along with Jack·
worker retorted. "They're weird," the girls son's failure to actively support lhe gay/lesbian
repeated. movement influenced the decision.
The lesbian and gay committee was BLGPA has already moved to expand its
successful in a number of ways. While internal basc, Neighborhood groups (ward and precinct
education was minimal, given the hectic pace of style) paralleling traditional electoral structures
a campaign, people's consciousness was raised are bcing built. These groups will provide a
by the persistence of committee members in social context in which gays/lesbians will find
raising gay/lesbian issues at every meeting. The each other where they live. Given that is oflen
alliance between King and Scondras workers in the neighborhoods where gays/lesbians feel
meant a broader base of support was mobilized most marginal and endangered, such
to counter BLOPA's failure to endorse either developments are welcomed. But
whether
candidate in the preliminary··ultimately BLGPA's politics will be defining is unclear.
producing a victory for Scondras and a The King campaign taught many of us that
strengthening of grass roolS activism against being active in the electoral arena is nol
BLGPA's machine. In the final election necessarily in tension with "asking for what
BLOPA had little choice but to endorse King you want," as Mel said, "nOI what you think
and Scondras. you can get." Thus a strong base exists,
Yet a vacuum remains after �he election. The especially among feminists and Third world
lesbian/gay committee, unlike other lesbians and gays, that can challenge BLGPA's
committees, overwhelmingly decided not to traditional and narrow terms of electoral
extend their work into the Jackson campaign. participation.

98
Another potential factor in determining the
shape of gay politics will be whether
neighborhood based progressive/left
organizing takes up the gay/lesbian challenge
to the neighborhoods. If the alliance built
within the King campaign can extend
themselves into the future, a radical
gay/lesbian politics will be Slrengthened as will
progressive/left politics in general.

FOOTNOTES
King supporrers Df preliminary election night �icfQry par/yo
I. Here we mean legitimacy within a coalition effort,
within Boston's progressive politics, a legitimacy 8. Anita Bryant advertised Florida orange juice, thus
won by the strong mobilization of gays and lesbians a boycott of orange juice was initiated by gays and
against the rise of the New Right as we shall argue lesbians. As a result. Bryant lost her contract. For a
later. discussion of the Briggs Initiative, see Amber
2. DiGara's campaign was geared both in terms of his Hollibaugh, "Sexuality and the State," Socialist
Italian background and his young single status. Review, No. 45 (May·June 1979) and Michael Ward
Boston is a major center for young, single men and and Mark Freeman, "Defemiing Gay Rights: The
womcn·..estimates are that it includes about 80,00 Campaign Against the Briggs Initiative in
voters with gays a sub--category within that sector. California," Radical America, Vol. 11, No. 4 (July.
1. While the term "public sex" is used to describe August 1979).
sexual encounters between men in public places, in
fact they take place out of public view.
4. See below for discussion of anti·gay initiatives.
5. See Combahee River Collective. "A Black
Feminist Statement," Home Girls, cd., Barbara Margaret Cerullo and Marla Erlien are editors
SoUth. Women of Color/Kitchen Table Press. oj Radical America. Kate Raisz was a lesbian/
6. Boston Herald, September I . 1978, p. 1 .
gay coordinator Jor the Mel King campaign.
7. See Allen Hunter, "In the Wings: New Right
Jessica Shubow was active in Women 's Penta·
Orsanization and Ideology," Radical America, Vol.
15. Nos. 1 & 2, Spring 1981. gon Action.

lEFT CURVE NO. 9


WITH A FOCUS ON: WORKING CLASS CULTURE & AESTHrnCS
Essays on the exhibit The Other America: History, Art. &
CUttu,. of the American Labor Movement by Ian Burn,
Bruce !(aiper, Malte Krugmann;Conversation with Ralph
_nella; Art & Biology: An Evaluation of the Aesthetics
M.ke check. P<ly.bIe to:
of Peter Fuller by Csaba Polony; Promises of the Storm on RIOp<OOUCIi\1 R'Shll N">oml NcIwork
the lebanese composer Marcel Khalife. and Conversation 11 M�".y !.t'HI

!� Nt by Hilton Obenzinger; Beyond Transcendence:


New y",k, _ y",k 10001

�� Poetry
' 1lII of Jose Maria Sison. Filipino Revolutionary by o sa R...�I.. 0 " 2 l<ippot""B
n Juan. Jr.; Poetry by �usanna Ruth Berger; C. Butters; O ._ s..... inln.
.
�Irschman; Todd Jailer; P.J. Laska ; Susan Packie; and
-·... SCUlly.
-- -------
'"--_ •.._-- ..--
S4/<opy Subs. $12 (3 issues)
$15 Institutions

i'O BoX 472 OAKLAND, CA. 94604

99
North End, Boston. Ulrike 11'1'/$("11 p/IOIf
WHERE FREEDOM
TRAI LS: •

Race and the Mayoral Election In


Boston

Joh n Demeter

"Boston's mayoral campaign was remarkable for a city thai had


come to symbolize racist hatred in the streets. The campaign was
free of race-baiting, racial incidents and the kind of rhetoric that
made the city ashamed in the recenl past . . . Thanks to a largely
issue-oriented campaign, and the high-minded approach taken by
all the major candidates in the field, the Boston preliminary was a
healing and cathartic experience. The campaign took Boston
beyond the race question: the victors won on plain concerns of
working class voters." David Nyhan, Boston Globe, Oct. 16, 1983.

It was a cool September night as I awaited the candidate in the lobby or a three-story
WIlkup in Boston's North End. My assignmem was to spot prospective guests and usher
diem upstairs to the first campaign house party for Mel King in this working class Italian

aelahborhood. There were no doorbells at the entrance and as I nervously smoked cigarettes
ta tbe hallway, l began to think about why this election was falling outside the high school
aRcs book definition I remembered. The "KKK" scratched on the outside of the from door
_ one reason . The fact that my friend Lydia had to offer her apartment for the party on
hours notice was a second. Another King supporter had been forced to opt out
bast when several of her neighbors complained "that people were talking about her"
her address had appeared on a locally distributed leanet. I began to think about Mel
himself down the street that particular evening. It was one fear that was later to
"' unl'ound"d. But the atmosphere was charged, to say the least. I had already been ques­
� by the brother of the landlord as to why I was standing in the hall. "Just letting folks
�.
�}!')fd(
sm,.JI house party," I offered, knowing that any excuse was useless in the face o f the
of mouth in this "tight-knit" and densely populated community. The landlord
,......q appeared a few minutes later. " What are you doing here?" , his tone a touch sharper

10.
than his brother's. "Just lelling folks in for a America's Revolutionary War period, the
party," I muttered with less confidence. North End is crisscrossed with narrow streets
"Who's apartment?" "Lydia's, on the second lined with three- to five Slory brick apartment
floor." "Oh, that artist girl." J nodded as he buildings. Bordered by the city's waterfront, a
stalked up the stairs. tunnel, and an expressway, it is kept from the
Fearing the worst, I quietly followed him. He total insularity of areas like East and South
beckoned Lydia away from the seven or eight Boston by its proximity to the downtown sec­
people already in her one-room studio and tion. The fact of this proximity is not lost,
began bellowing at her a short distance down however, on condo and cooperative developers.
the hall. "This is my house. How dare you Crowds of middle-aged and elderly Italian men
bring that man in here. Freddy Langone cluster on the sidewalks in small groups from
(another candidate) lives right down the street." early in the morning until late at night . Most
Of course, neither he nor any of his family lived speak in Italian. They serve as part cultural ar­
in this run-down apartment dwelling. Nor tifact, pan "Guardian Angel. " Women in the
would they choose to. Communal bathrooms neighborhood who do nOI work outside the
were located one to a floor. The upkeep of the . horne can be spotted in the laundromats and
common spaces and hallways was minimal. The stores and, at mid-afternoon, wailing for their
Italian men's social club in the basement and a children outside Ihe schoolyards. Reconstruc_
downstairs cafe contributed to a steady roach tion of abandoned factories and redeveloped
infestation. But this parlicular "turf" - walkups on the outskirts of the area hint at thr
Boston's lillie italy, a parcel of land home to influx of condominiums and luxury apartments
IS,OOO people - is in danger of disappearing. thaI are slowly edging toward Hanover Street,
Whether the landlord's raving that night was the cenler of the neighborhood. One local
motivated in parI by displaced anger at that fate politician has estimated thaI half of the area's
is doubtfuL Given his recent reaction to residents have moved within the last threr
another tenant who had broughl a black friend years.
to her apartment, and the general tenor of the Walking door to door in the North End of·
community, racism was at the heart of his fers a much different look from the usual
response. tourist haunts. Hallway walls with peeling
This section on the northern tip of the city is paint, rusting lin mailboxes in lObbies, and
in the midst of a transition that threatens not broken locks on entranceways are standard. In­
only its identity but the future of many of its ac­ side the apartments, there is a frequent lack of
cessibly priced housing units. For some of those shower facilities in the older units. At Icast t\loU
who worked on the mayoral campaign here, meetings of campaign workcrs ended wilb
and experienced first hand the controlling, shared stories of makeshift substitutes - from
male-dominated narrowmindedness that is pan hose hookups over kitchen sinks to wadin!
of this community's social fabric, that transi­ pools in the living room. There are at lcastlhr�
tion might offer some change. But, the sweep public bathouses in the area. In short, it is an
of gentrification and displacement, and absorp­ area with a slrong history, a diminishing futuft
lion into the great American melting pot will d u e t o speculation and forces or
eventually serve only to scatter, not transform, "development" and a present pockmarked
social and cultural patterns. It is an experience with fear and uncertainty.
that multi-ethnic communities like the West Enter the 1983 mayoral race and a final etec·
End and South End and Boston's black com­ tion that offered two candidates whose plat·
munity have learned first hand in the last twen­ forms were based on returning the city to 1m
or
ty years. And the resulting anger and resent­ neighborhoods. of distributing the benefits
interestS
ment winds its way to an easy and misplaced downtown developers and real estate
target - the fear of other neighborhood and to Ihe neglected "little people" of the city. f�r
still
social groups. Italians in Boston, disenfranchisement is
Frequented for its restaurants and food part of their experience. with the city's polilicJl
shops and the historical landmarks of machinery in the control of Boston's Irish :.tto
102

who had initiated the city's redistricting, the


Jobs Program and who had publicly and con­
sistently worked to heal the city's racial strife, I
was reminded that, in many people's eyes, his
most visible attribute was in being born black.
For all the arguments that tbe two candidates in
the final mayoral election were "cut from the
same cloth," for ali lhe lack of attention to the
issue of race, for all the self-congratulatory
back-palling about the transcending of racial
division, this campaign \\lOS one of race. And
the Mel King campaign had to be understood as
an anti-racist campaign. The obscuring of this
fact renected problems with the platform and

Th� POIII Rrl'ert' NOIISf' be/orf' rl'slOruliolr, BO$lOn, 1907. structure of the campaign as well as from
G. f""rqll* RIJrlwuy (Jlm/(), without - in the denial of that

have tenaciously held on since displacing the


Yankees in the early pan of this century. The
financial institutions remain with the old
money establishment and the real estate sector.
First Yankee. then Irish, and later Jewish, the
North End received an innux of Italian im­
migration beginning in the 19105 as old
residents moved far enough up the social and
employment ladder 10 senle in other sections.
The connict among ethnic groups was harsh
and the Italians felt the exclusion and
discrimination the Irish and Jews had ex­
perienced before them. Much of the resentment
still remains. " I ' m not voting for no Irish," The POIiI Rel'ere HOllse O/Ier fl'srorofioll 111 ),I'ors offer his
was one comment I heard echoed by several famous ride. HOSfon. 1m. C. Fronk Rod....u)' phoro.
residents. Comments like this tempted "rain� media, among politicianS', and by certain
bow" workers to exploit anti-Irish feeling but sectors of the len and progressive communities,
fonunately we did not.
As recently as the early 196Os, there were no A CUy Diyided
persons of Italian descent on the School Com­ For the left, feminist, gay, Third World and
mittee. Now however, District Representation
community activists who worked on the King
was being implemented in both School Com­
campaign, the heart and soul of this effort
millce and City Council elections. Boston's
rested as much with the person of Mel King as
? utgoing mayor, Kevin White. had just signed
with the social movements of this city's recent
1010 law the Boston
Jobs ordinance that would history, In particular, the black and women's
open up labor
on city projects to more of its movements, and to a lesser extent, the anti­
o.wn workf
orce. It was 1983, nearly a decade racist movement, provided a link with processes
s nce the

�� turmoil of busing and the ensuing


had made headlines around the world.
that had produced significant transformations
in the people and institutions of the Greater
' the choice for mayor came down to an
Il'isbman Boston area. In providing individual and

s!!:' and a black.


ing in that North End
hallway that
organizational support, they also contributed
to the campaign's operational viability. The
ber night, two weeks
preljmin before the legacy of a city, however, that was divided by
_ ary election, suppo
rting a candidate race and isolated into separate and equally

103
neglected neighborhoods hung overhead. Most boom in Boston, the physical decay of tI
significantly, the campaign began with a litany neighborhoods was as evident as their soo
of attempts at citywide, multicuhural and inte­ isolation, So, even when the eventual winner ,
grated organizing to guide its work. Groups of the mayoral race, Raymond Flynn, offered tl
progressive whites thus found themselves observation during the campaign that "II
thrust, many for the first time, into serious and problems of South Boston and Roxbury we
intense work with Boston's communities of the same," it was clear that few white residen
color. The exhilaration of cultural sharing and even shared that view. They knew Ihat th(
the respect built through cooperative work were better off. For a s rundown as some (
(much of it under pressure) certainly provided a their sections were, a black mayor would "on!
model for future cooperation. As post election bring his people into my neighborhood
evaluation sessions revealed, the experience (aulhor's italics) as one North End resident tol
also left its strains as well.· me.
For those of us organizing in communities While Mel sought to constantly remind �
like the North End, the lack of neighborhood supporters and workers throughout H
t
organizers was critical. As one by-product of campaign that his effort was aboul "empowtI
the racial polarization heightened by the busing ment and inclusion" and that "in putting g�
crisis, few reform groups did even vibes out to people, you'll get good vibe'
attempt entering white enclaves like back," some of the reactions in the North ED!
South Boston, Charlestown or Hyde Park. were a stark reminder that, intentionally or nOl
Those that did, organized around economic this erfort had to be seen as part of a "fi�
issues such as housing and utility rates and back." Attempts to reverse the gains or til
tended to shun social or equality questions in social movements of the last IwO decades wen
their work. "Thus while the King campaign not only in keeping with the national "conStl'·
posed links between racial and sexual equality vative agenda" bUI served 10 diverl attenli"
and economic matters, in the charged from the economic and social costs or Ihat pr�

at osphere of acommunity desperately gram. In such threatening times, an expansht
d
holding Onto personal an social privilege, they world view was replaced by the sare, protect!li
were difficult to assert. Even the "cloak of legi­ view from the neighborhood or ramily. Despit!
timacy" provided by campaigning for a the fact that the King campaign represented I
"serious" candidate proved to be transparent. unique merger of advocacy ror the poo,
In the tense era of the downtown development women, minorities and disenfranchised, .
slruck its most notable chord in remindilll
·Candice Cason deals with some of these questions in white Boston of the city's recenl racial lurmoil.
her article in this issue. From the evaluation sessions
Following that first "house parcy," tit
I allended, these strains of subtle and overt racism
ranged from language (referring to the campaign
North End committee began work with a COif
group of seven people. The excitement gener·
e�
office in North Dorchester as the "Roxbury office"
when it represented the distinct-though also pre­ ated by Mel's victory in the preliminary sw
dominantly black-communities of North
Dorchester, Roxbury and Mattapan) to policy and •·One particular example I experienced invoh'tll
organization. These laUer areas included, among Mass. Fair Share which works on issues ranging frOll
others, the campaign's dissolution of the Black �
traffic lights to utilily costs to redlining by bankS.
Community Coordinating Committee after the pre­
liminary election, the underrepresentation of Third
1976, they were organizing while homeowners '
Hyde Park to oppose real eslate speculation in ::
World people at the main headquarters and the con­ neighborhood. AI the same lime, newly arrived b
tinuous "assumption" by many white workers that homeowners in the previously all white area ...�
the Boston black community was "safe" and needed being anacked by area youth, The same specul�IOCI
less attention than while areas. The necessity of were encouraging "while flight" by selling dehbd"
autonomous interest groups within coalitions ike
l the ately 10 black families and realizing larger profil� bf
King campaign was one byproduct that carried over quick sales. Fair Share organizers refused 10 a1,!,

to black presence in the post-election formation of one of the black families to address their co� mu
the Boston Rainbow Coalition. II was a perspective meetings in an effort to try to ease the tenSLon. 11
..
also strongly shared by women and gays and organizer told me their purpose in the area
lesbians. simply to deal with "block busting."
-

104
-

OUf numbers fourfold. We were the largest con­ appearance on the tours and at house meetings,
tingent working in one of Boston's "white" raised two reminders about our ex:perience in
areas. All but three of us (myself inclucted) were the area. One was the different response cam­
residentS of the neighborhood. With residencies paign workers experienced when he wasn't
ranging from nine months to twelve years, how­ present, the other was that we were an all-white
ever, we were open to being described as labor force. Without Mel, the legitimacy of
"outsiders."· But by force of will, and a electoral work did not shield us from openly
constant schedule of telephone canvassing, racist reaction. Passing drivers would vehe­
door to door leafletting and frequent sign hold­ mently thrust middle fingers as we held signs
ing. we surprised the older politicos. With two and taunts of "Nigger lover!" and "Niggers
Italian-speaking volunteers, furthermore. we suck!" would follow us as we distributed litera­
were able to produce bilingual flyers and ture. One of our cars had its tires slashed and
contact non English speaking residents. We two workers were forced by landlords to stop
researched the controversy around a proposed storing posters in their apartments. Even more
fifteen year public works project to depress the disconcerting were the quiet whispers of
expressway that abuts the North End and reassurance that someone was voting for Mel
helped produce a position paper for the cam­ but couldn't take a leanet or post a sign for fear
paign. We circulated bilingual nyers with our of family, landlord or "public" reaction. I
candidate's position on the issue and took part remember feeling particularly discouraged
in neighborhood forums. Despite all this effort, when someone I had known casually before the
the business community and local political campaign recounted her response when neigh­
infrastructure remained non-committal at best. bors complained about her bringing a black co­
There were hints of support "after the prelimi­ worker home for dinner one evening. "But, you
nary" that failed to materialize even when the know," she told me, " I understand it some­
two Italian-American candidates were defeated how, it's their neighborhood and I've just come
in that election. Window signs in stores and to accept it. Some things never change." Not
dwellings abounded for several candidates but only was she Italian-American but she had lived
we Cound only one store owner who would post in the North End for twelve years. For other
a King placard-which he kept inside his people, the campaign actually provided an
market. The most positive responses we intervention. Two women contacted by our
received came from two groups-younger phone canvassers spoke openly about their
women and older Italian men. The former bitterness at having black friends harassed. One
because of King's positions on women's issues woman commented, "I'm glad you called. I've
and the latter due to an openness to radical been thinking about calling the campaign office
ideas (these were largely Italian-born and some about this. What can I do?" For many of the
bad hinted at 'political' activity in their native campaign volunteers, as well, the experience
land) and a lack of the racism more commonly brought them into a position of directly con­
Qpressed by the second and third generation fronting racism. Many of them had no prior
Italian residents. But no amount of organizing political ex:perience, in either electoral or pro­
could replace the good will and effectiv gressive causes, but their support for this candi­
eness of
the candidate himself. date who happened to be black cast them into
directly antiracist activity. With the pressures
00 ... _.
of the campaign, particularly as it intensified
When Mel joined us for walking tours of the
-In terms of the neighborhood's ethnic and class
..... Visiting shops and parks, I was constantly
makeup, it was the leadership of our committee more
--. at the response. While there certainly
:e�
so than the profile of our membership that defined us
ue handshakes and avoiding glances, as "outsiders." The coordinators for the other

� on was warm and friendly. His long candidates were local residents but a number of their

�..L
h&.o
-, m Bouon and familiarity with the volunteers came from around the city. In the final
campaign, regular volunteers from Irish neighbor­
and locale (and his media stock) cut
;-.0 the racial and political barriers. Mel's
hoods joined the F1ynn forces in the North End but
received no response similar 10 ours.

lOS
Young woman taurist, FlorenCf', Italy. @19j2 Ruth O,/(in.

after the preliminary, we didn't consider raising slim in the North End was without incident­
the issue as an item of internal education but that was most likely due to the fact that \\1
beyond how to respond and deflect such leafletted doorways and mailboxes cam
attacks. Sunday afternoons, when almost all the resi­
While Mel raised the need for "accessibility" dents were seWed down to traditional family
of the city and its neighborhoods for all resi· dinners. It was unlikely, given the early tenor o!
dents. as an all white force we could not chal· the campaign which sought not to emphasizt
lenge that situation in the North End. The ques· Flynn's anti·busing history that such a proposal
tion of multiracial volunteer crews was not (using black workers) would have betS
addressed in any coordinating session by either encouraged. But some manner of integratil1
the campaign leadership or the community community meetings or forums would halt
representatives. We were guided solely by the
•Another misimpression in national press covef3il'
campaign leadership directive that the core of
was that of a campaign free of "racial incidents." II
work be done by "residents" of the neighbor· addition to what transpired in the North End, theft
hoods. Most clearly, given the violence that the were similar repom of verbal and physical threllS
campaign encountered around the city that across the city. Volunteers were twice chased b1
fall,· it certainly would have provoked a groups of white youths in South Boston. A bullet 1111
fired through the window of the Allslon·BrightOi
reaction. I remember distinctly my fear when a
campaign headquarters. Numerous death th�
black volunteer did show up for one of our directed at the candidate were received at the mad
leaflet drops. In need of extra help we had con· office. On the day of the final election, te1eph�1t
tacted the campaign's volunteer phone bank bomb threats were reported at three campaial
and been given a name and telephone number. offices.
Despite Boston's long-time mi age as the "crad� iI
In our rush we hadn't noticed that the tele·
liberty," the incidents have quite a few hi51��
phone exchange was that of the city's Roxbury precedents. In the 18305, arch-abolitionist wlUiall
section. And as the color·blindness of phone Lloyd Garrison was beaten by a mob in downtO"/l"\l
contacts go, we arranged for him to join us. His Boston and several of his followers murdered.
-

106
=

been a positive step rather than the unconscious Rainbow rally in early November. While his
acceptance of the neighborhood's inaccessibil­ gesture was appreciated, I still bristled at the
ity to people of color. Another approach would social dynamic that allowed him to offer us
have been for the King campaign leadership to protection in this manner.
confront the other candidates and their opera­
All the News that FilS
tives in specific neighborhoods on this question
and elicit their "help." For us, this actually On the day of the new mayor's inauguration,
took place when one of OUf coordinators the Boston Globe's lead editorial cited improv­
mentioned the harassment to the Flynn North ing racial tensions as the first priority for the
End coordinator. He agreed to accompany us incoming administration. The editorial
when we took part in a feeder march through followed two major reports in that paper in the
the North End that was part of a citywide weeks after the November 15 election that

Anti·Racism in Boston
n.r rust mass opposition to the racist violence that didate Mel King to denounce the act as "murder"
IIIl!fIccd with the implementation of Boston's school and re-raise his demand for a Boston Police Review
dl 1'.lion order was a November 1974 national Board.
..m and rally against the attacks on the school Organizing around Third World s i sues took on a
.-.:aa. Over 20,000 people from up and down the strong anti-racist character in Boston, given the par­
IIIt CouI and from as far away as Chicago marched ticularities of the cily's racial history. Most of the
..... downtown Boston. The march was led by effort remained on area campuses, however, except
State Sen. Bill Owens, who represented the for the large Amandla concert in 1979 which rai$Cd
senatorial district in the state. Though money for Southern Africa liberation movements
march was strengthened through the and attracted the largest multiracial crowd for a cul­
!!
��.f 1(>oaJ left and progressive forces. Over the tural event in the city's history. Featuring the late
years, outbreaks of racist mob violence Bob Marley. Eddie Palmieri, laBelle and local per­
Smaller but regular anti-racist rallies, formers, the concert was attended by over 15,000
"'them initiated by the Boston left continued. people. One offshoot of the concert was the estab·

. � �� the Ku Klux Klan to visit and present a


:: ;w
::
e:
re forcefully disrupted on a
, . The last such attempt attracted
lishment of a Rock Against Racism group of radio
personalities and local organizers who continue 10


> visit Boston area schools and promote multiracial
of 3,000 in 1982 and forced the sharing through music.
In 1979, high school football player Daryl
Williams was shot and paralyzed by a sniper while he
scrimmaged with his team in the all while Charles­
was directed at the buses carry­ town section. The incident provoked a march of 800
Racist organizers used the people during Pope John Paul's visit to Boston two
around busing to attempt weeks laler. Led by then-Mass. Rep. Mel King, the
from newly integrated neigh­ march attempted to bring Boston's racial troubles to
white left groups rallied to the attention of the Pope and pressure the city's relig­
that were under attack in East ious hierarchy (Boston is predominantly Roman
and Dorchester. Only one of the Catholic) 10 take public initiative 10 end the violence.
that appeared in this period-Racial Though King's leadership and the timing of the
Dorchester-had its base in the white marcq were heavily criticized in local media and relig­
ious circles as "confrontational," shortly afterwards
this period was continued the Boston Archbishop, Cardinal Humberto
black community. In addi­ Medeiros, along with religious leaders of other
worker James Bowden denominations, put forth a call for a "Racial Cove­
was shot and killed in nanl" to be signed by all the city's residents. Deplor­
Pate, both teenagers, ing violence and calling for racial peace, the
that offered severe Covenant was symbolized by red buttons with a
and the ability of the multicolored olive branch. The effort received wide
such incidents. The support but failed to leave any lasting organizational
a massive outpouring in the body n
i its wake.
John Demeter
C OC-':_�o_ lhe Pate incident. which took
mayoral campaign, caused can-

107
directly contrasted its downplaying of "race" in the polls by both Flynn and King, denounced
during the mayoral campaign. The first report Flynn's use of separate neighborhood tabloids
was a three-part study of six major US cities for black and white sections of the city's Dar·
that investigated the quality of life for Third chester section. In the tabloids for the black
World residents in each locale. The conclusion community, Flynn appeared in pictures with
was that Boston was the most difficult for black residents and mentioned his concern for
people of color with regard to housing, employ­ "equal rights. II For the while areas, the
ment and "racial attitudes.''' The second study tabloids featured only white subjects and
detailed a report of the federal Economic included no mention of equal rights. The result·
Opportunity Commission which indicated clear ant flap caused Flynn to withdraw the tabloids
patterns of discrimination in pay, hiring and and agree not to use similar "targeted"
promotion in large businesses. l For the numerous material. The atmosphere was filled with anger
stories and editorials during the campaign as Flynn retorted that his opponent was using
citing the "new tolerance" evidenced by Mel the issue to recover his early standing by
King's victory in the preliminary, the later reve· playing to the black community. Ironically, the
lations must have come as quite a shock. incident seems to have evoked a lot of
As for the Flynn campaign, three incidents sympathy for Flynn-in white neighborhoods.
highlighted its lack of sensitivity to the black King's response was not to enter into the
community and the candidacy of Mel King. A squabble and to continue to project a moderate
letter from local progressives for Flynn, the and "healing" tone. To campaign gatherings,
most prominent of whom were Peter Dreier* (a however, the candidate was quick to point out
housing activist and member of the Democratic that "We're winning when two candidates are
SociaJists of America) and Nancy Snyder
(director of Nine to Five, an organization for
women office workers), arrived in the mails
shortly before the preliminary election. Empha·
siz.ing the candidate's role on housing and
economic questions, the Jelter sidestepped his
reactionary past record on race and minimized
his position on women's issues. In a thinly
veiled reference to King, who had been climb·
ing in the polls, the letter declared, "This is no
time for a symbolic vote...Ray Flynn is the one
�I
HUB
progressive candidate in the race who can win. ..
A short while later, the Flynn campaign began
airing a television commercial that showed a
chess board with a single black piece. As the
voice·over intoned, "This is not a game. Don't
waste your vote on election day," the black
piece was replaced by a white knight. This from
TO
KKK:
the candidate one newspaper referred to as the
"Lech Walesa of Boston politics. "
Perhaps the most striking incident took place =.;:;:.-;
the week of October 8 when David Finnegan,

BYE B
the early frontrunner who was being overtaken

*'n signing the Progressives for Flynn letter, both


" ""d .. "",« � .0 1 . � " o . ,.non.
I. I ""
individuals noted that organizational affiliations
were for identification purposes only. DSA did not Has feminism How '. ust·second
endorse a candidate in the preliminary and endorsed ,� ... woo and win TO saves
King in the final. Both Snyder and Dreier are now of fashion? • new Ioyer BC, 14-13
-�.... .
.- _ ..

members of the Flynn administration.


-

108

-
attacking each other as racist-and they're both leader of South Boston's rabidly racist anti­
white." He was correct in assessing the ability busing forces, Jim Kelly, won the District Two
of his campaign to raise racism on the agenda Council seat-narrowly defeating a liberal
bul, in not questioning the sincerity of their human service administrator. Flynn did not
responses, an opportunity to expose both their take sides in that race in his home district.
records was lost. Such an intervention would Typical of the antics of Kelly and fellow coun­
have provided an entrance point for the debates cillor Albert O'Neil was their refusal to sign on
before the final election. As it developed, the a City Council resolution in April honoring the
King campaign strategy switch to raise Flynn's late Clarence Mitchell, a long time civil rights
past record (and his self·avowed role as racial activist. They refused on grounds that Mitchell
peacemaker) in the latter stages of the cam­ worked for the NAACP, a "racist" organiza-
paign came off awkwardly and was baited as tion.
divisive by the Globe and other local media. Five months after the election, the ramifica­
tions of Mel King's candidacy are still being
1bt Final Tally felt. Late in March, Mayor Flynn personally
Citywide, and in the North End, the election delivered a $683 thousand check to the family
results were quite telling. Despite the fact that of a black hospital worker killed by Boston
Mel King finished with 20 percent of the white Police in 1975. For four years the city govern­
vote in the city (a figure unsurpassed by first ment had refused to pay a court-awarded judg­
time black mayoral candidates), in white neigh­ ment. It was an issue both King and Flynn took
borhoods like South Boston, West Roxbury, up in the campaign and pledged to honor i f
Hyde Park, East Boston, and Roslindale, his elected. While the related question o f a police
totals in both preliminary and final ranged only review board, advocated by King, has been left
from 5 to 10 percent. His 1 5 percent total in the untouched by Flynn-a sensitive area for the
preliminary in the North End, however, grew to new mayor and his allies in the police patrol­
lS percent in the final! The rise was even more men's union-the agenda of the city is now, at
dramatic in the inner, more heavily ethnic pre­ least symbolically, moving away from its recent
cincts than in the two precincts that had history. But while Flynn seems initially com·
experienced a large innux of young, white pro­ mitted to addressing the legacy of the King
ressionals. As for questions as to whether campaign, the question of whether the risk of
voters simply voted for the "bener" of the two alienating some of his more racist constituency
urban populists, it is interesting to note that an will temper his future actions remains to be
ail poll conducted by WSZ-TV revealed that seen.
94 percent of those who voted for pro-business The morning after the final election, a North
conservative David Finnegan in the preliminary End King supporter walked into her neighbor­
cut their final ballots for Ray Flynn.· Post­ hood newsstand still wearing her rainbow
election analysis further posited that although bulton. Glancing over to her, the proprietor
two "POpulists" with progressive politics were quietly cautioned, "I think that for your own
the rmal candidates for mayor in 1983, the safety, you'd better take that off." "Why?"
"mandate" for Flynn was racial in character she responded. "The election's over, he lost,
lid. conservative in tone. John O'Bryant and whal's the harm?" Added the storeowner,
Jeao McGuire, incumbent black School "Just take my advice. People are talking about
Committee members, dropped noticeably in you and the coloreds." The story is a sobering

�-'-
tbeirvote totals from high finishes in past elec­
reminder about the "corner" Boston has not
narrowly making the cut. Conservative turned yet.
.....UI:I led the City Council at-large race and a
�or fOOTNOTES


the rest of the candidates, the W8Z-TV poll
Ynn received 84 percent of the Kearney 1 . BOSlon Globe, Dec. 25, 198).
VCIte
Kearney, self-styled liberal endorsed by 2. Bosion Globe. Jan. 29, 1984.


1JS Rep
'IOle • Bame

).
� Frank) and 65 percent of the DiCara
OICara, pro-business liberal Italian­

109
Acknowledgements: The author would like 10 Ihank
Lydia Eccles for her comments on Ihis article. I
would also like 10 Ihank Ihe Rev. William Alberts of
the Community Church of Boslon. Rev. Alberts has
wrillen a paper, "What's Black and White and
Racist All Over?" detai ling BOSlOn Globe coverage
of the mayoral campaign.

John Demeter is RA 's slajjperson and a mem­


ber oj irs editorial board. During the Boston
mayoral campaign, he was co-coordinator jor
the North End. He is a regular contributor to
Lelfers to the Editor pages in the Boston area.

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BLACK POLITICAL
PROTEST AND THE
MAYORAL VICTORY OF
HAROLD WASHINGTON:
Chicago Politics, 1983

Abdul Alkalimat and · Don Gills

The Harold Washington mayoral election was a historical event of great significance. The
success of Chicago 's mass movements in the electoral arena is a source of renewal and of
inspiration . The point of this paper is to outline the main historical background that shaped
the mayoral election in Chicago in 1983, so that we can draw out the present and future im­
plications of the Chicago experience, both for national and local urban politics in general ,
and for black liberation protest politics in particular.

8Iack PoUties in Chicago: An Outline


The development of Chicago mayoral administrations was summed up this way by Donald
iIradky:

The type of men recruited for the mayoralty changed over the 125 years of Chicago's
-
:"-*Ie is an adaptation ofa draft paper prepared initially as a discussion document. [t repre5ents our first attempt to iden­
Iask �f the �ynamic e...ents which unfolded during the election campaign of Harold Washington in Chicago. Our work

...
,::
......
� Ch!cago is pan of much larger re5earch analysis, and publications project focusing on " the elopment of
InCh,cago"
De
...

i n an effort t o contribute t o the ongoing discussions focused upon black liberation and the crisis of


- C'US) capitalist State.
.....
artide is excerpted from a book-length study of the Washington campaign and Chicago politics which will be
by People's College. For (luther information: People's College, P.O. BolC 7696, Chicago. IL 60680.
history. The office was initially (1837- overriding concern, as individuals, was to work
1869) the prerogative of the early pro­ for the good of black people, or community.
moters and original business elite of the A second stage in black politics emerged
community. Alteration in the economic when the "black submachine" was built. James
structure of the city, the proliferation of
Q. Wilson identifies its origins:
public services and official responsibilities,
the qualitative and quantitative changes in The Negro machine owes its existence in
the population, however, all created a part to the existence of a city-wide Demo­
new trend in political recruitment. The cratic machine; it is, to use a clumsy
rapid change experienced by the city in all phrase, a "submachine" within the larger
of its aspects produced an atmosphere city machine. Although, Negroes have
conducive to the cult of the personality held important political office in Chicago
that obtained between 1880 and 1930. The since 1915 (when Oscar de Priest was
1930s saw the stabilization of the commu­ elected alderman) in Cook County since
nity and the ascendency of a dominant 1871 (although continuously only since
party machine. Thus, between 1931 and 1938), and in the lllinois State Legislature
the present, the chief elected office in the since 1876. the rise of the present Negro
city has been held by a group of political machine did not begin until 1939. In that
entrepreneurs who came up through the year, Dawson, an independent Republi·
ranks of the party organization. can who had served in the City Council,
When viewed in the broad perspectives switched parties and, with the active sup­
of the changes that have taken place in port of Mayor Edward Kelly, entered the
Chicago, two factors stand out as respon­ Democratic Party as committeeman of
sible for the observed trend in political the second ward. Real political power in
leadership: the desirability of political Chicago is vested in the ward committee­
office for those differentially situated in men. Although nominally they are elected
the community fabric, and the type and by the voters of each ward. in fact. they
distribution of political resources within are selected by the party leadership. AU
the community. Related to, but analyti· political matters, including the control of
cally distinct from, the ambition to hold patronage, are decided by the ward com·
political office is the ability to muster the miteemen, either individually on mauers
necessary support. I within each ward, or collectively on mat·
ters concerning the party as a whole. Negro
Black politics fits this model to some extent. political strength is coterminous with the
Early black politicians from 1870 to the 1920s number of Negro ward committeemen,
were individualists who attached themselves to and the existence of a single Negro
a political faction when it served their ends, and machine is dependent on the extent 10
frequently changed sides as political expediency which these Negro ward committeemen
can be led as a group by one of their
dictated . They were "race men" in that their
number.l

Beginning with massive civil rights demon·


strations in the J 960s, a third stage began 10
emerge-independent politics. Rooted in radio
cal movements, and including activists who
would later rise to prominence (e.g Harold
.•

Washington, Gus Savage, Bennett Johnson)


blacks began a movement often discussed as
"Protest at the Polls," the first organized
thrust for black political power. At times the)'
.,
supported regular Democrats. but by the urn
�ht
�!���jif'${
of the militant anti-Daley demonstrations in
1960s, a stream of independents began banglnB
Qndjirl/ blQc/( member o/U.S. Reconstruc­
fion; John Jones (right) Qoolirionlsf Qnd jif'${ elected blQck

o/jici(ll in ChicQgo. Cook County Commissioner.
March on Washington/or Jobs and Freedom. A ugust 28. /96J.

OD the door of City Hall. insurance, and investment capital organiza­


Despite these actions, they gained little sub­ tions. Second. Daley was able to hold together
staotiaJ benefit for the masses. The 1960s, a a tenuous political coalition including increas­
ckcade characterized by sustained mass protest, ing numbers of blacks who could not be readily
struule, and involvement, won some benefits absorbed into the patronage exchange system.
for middle..class blacks. But in Chicago, the Local contradictions which were apparent with­
middle class lost interest in local voting because in the old Democratic coaJition were held in
they had nOI derived sufficient material gain abeyance by the influx of urban renewal dollars
from it. Further, the machine did not work for into the central city and under control o f "The
' tarae Voter turnout, so the masses of blacks Mayor."
were not encouraged to vote. The undisputed dominant figure in the
Democratic Party, Daley was pointman for the
BIIe, ..d tbe Machine Irish. and administered their disproportionate
Ric:bard J. DaJey's tenure in office (1955- control of power and jobs despite their declin­

��
I976) was important in several respects. First, ing numbers and percentage of the population.
ded over the structural transformation In 1955, when Daley was first elected, the Irish
OUcaa
�Y
o from an industrial city into a were 10 percent of the population, but held
metropolis where the leading role in one-third of the City Council positions. Irish
etoDomy was played by corporate banking. mayors have been in office from 1933 to 1983,

113
except for 1976-1979 (when Daley's noor
manager in the City Council, a Croatian, was
installed after Daley's sudden death). This has
been a source o f grievance to the Polish, the
largest white ethnic group in Chicago, who
have never had their own mayor.
Many interest groups were co-opted and held
together by the machine, through an exchange
of material rewards for delivering the vote
1 1'1
t I
\
based on precinct organizations within the
wards. Jobs and economic favors were differ­

y p.
entially and disproportionately allocated. Irish
votes counted more than black votes, and rI •
blacks were given jobs on the lower levels, in
the less well-paying agencies. The black middle
class was given honorific positions of status -
with Iinle control of jobs because they could
not be trusted to hire "right"-meaning, hire
mainly loyal Democrats and blacks who would
work for the organization.
Daley was unopposed for four of his six elec­
tions. He was a formidable opponent who
could scream four-letter words on national lele­
vision, order police to shoot and kill looters
during riots, and force prominent civil rights
leaders to give him the "black power" hand­
shake. In fact, when he did these things.
work·ing-class white ethnics loved him even
more.
Things began to change in 1975 when Daley
was challenged in the primary by an inde­ CilY LiJrlVidu U,bonu, 8OSlOn
pendent (William Singer), a reform-oriented
black (Richard Newhouse), and an out-of-favor tion of acting mayor. Armed Chicago police
machine hack (Edward Hanrahan, the met him at the mayor's office, however. and
infamous butcher who ordered the murder of rudely turned him away. Power was seized by
Fred Hampton of the Black Panther Party for using the armed force of the state, and blacks
Self-Defense in 1969). Then Daley died on on the City Council were forced to swaJlow
December 20, 1976. As in all political regimes pride of self and community in exchange for
run by a strong leader, the question of succes­ Frost becoming chair of the Council's finance
sion is a critical issue. and it is here that the committee. Michael Bilandic, a Croatian whO
seemingly invincible machine revealed its inter­ was Daley's Council leader , became the fourth
nal tensions, and fundamental weaknesses. conset:utive mayor from the predominantly
Irish l i th ward.
Post-Daley Factionalism The special election in 1977 attracted som�
The position of president pro tern of the challengers: Roman Pucinski (running for Ih�
Chicago City Council had been held by three Polish). Harold Washington (replacing New'
blacks (Ralph Metcalfe. Claude Holman, and house as the black reform candidate), and
Wilson Frost) up to Daley's death. When Daley Edward Hanrahan (the machine renegade).
died, Frost believed that conventional constitu­ This was the last race to be controlled by the old
tional precedent would elevate him to the posi- machine regulars. Blacks were now less reliable.

114
=

and no charismatic white candidate who could city hall posture of some key media
raJly the old coaltion was in sight. figures, and Bilandic's handling of the
Bilandic was not an exciting mayor. He pre­ public all combined to encourage a mas­
sided over factional fights and simply tried to sive anti-machine turnout on primary day.
Byrne received all of the normal anti­
hold things together. An academic insider,
machine vote in the city plus an outpour­
Milton Rakove. in his book Don '/ Make No
ing of normally lethargic non-voters who
Waves, Don't Back No Losers. sums up the end
trooped to the polls to register their anger
of the Bilandic administration:
and vent their frustration on the machine's
candidate, Mayor Bilandic.·
In the winter of 1978. one year into
Bilandic's mayoraJity, there was, however.
By January 1983, the combined total of black
a minor upheaval of some consequence.
Jane Byrne. who was Commissioner of registrations was 610,000 out of an estimated
Consumer Sales, Weights and Measures, 750,000 eligible black voters. These potemial
a small city department, accused Bilandic voters had to be protected from challenges by
in the media of "greasing" the city's taxi­ the machine-controlled Board of Election Com­
cab companies with regard to a projected missioners. This was done successfully, mainly
fare increase. After a shari brouhaha in through strong community monitoring and
the press between Byrne and Bilandic, the vigilance.
mayor fired the Commissioner.
Then in November 1982. although the black
Byrne, aggrieved by her sudden dismis­
community leadership was lukewarm about
saJ, convinced that the new regime headed
Adlai Stevenson candidacy, the black turnout
by Bilandic constitUled "an evil cabal"
that had corrupted the political organiza­ against Republican Governor James Thompson
tion and city government built by her was overwhelming. This mobilization demon­
mentor, Richard J. Daley, and bem on strated to the black leadership and to Washing­
revenge for the wrongs done to her and ton supporters in particular, that the black
Daley, announced that she would run for community would unite to support a viable
mayor against Bilandic in the February black candidate for Mayor.'
1979 primary . . . . The Washington strategy had been predi­
Under normal circumstances, Bilandic
cated on at least two strong white Democratic
and the machine would not have suffered
Party candidates vying for the primary nomina­
from their political mistake. But the winter
tion. The theory was that Byrne and Daley
of 1978-79 was not normal . The worst
would split the white vote and neither could
snowstorm in the city's history paralyzed
the city and aroused the citizenry. The city afford to attack Washington for fear of alien­
government's inability to clear the snow ating the black vote. The campaign was the
away, the breakdown of public transpor­ most ex.pensive (over $18 million was spent),
tation and garbage collection, the anti- the most corrupt (Byrne's blatant payoffs to

Table 1
POLITICAL MOBILIZATION OF RACIAL·NATlONALlTY GROUPS:
REGISTRATION AND TURNOUT AS PERCENTAGE OFYOTING AGE POPULATION,
1979-1983

Registration Turnout
Black Latino White Black Latino White
Primary 1979
G 69.4 3 1 .5 77.4 34.5 18.3 50.6
eoeral l982 20.9
86.7 35.1 78.3 55.8 54.0
Primary 1983 87.2 36.1 82.2 64.2 23.9 64.6
ClcoeraI I983 89.1 37 .0 83.2 73.0 24.3 67.2

'"
street gangs), the moS( polarized along race! revealed the depth of political corruption. This
nationality lines (Byrne and Epton share the caused a further loss of credibility, especially
laurels), and the most publicized (internation­ among the liberal opinion makers in the media.
ally, nationally, and locally) mayoral race in Byrne apparently was willing to accept this
Chicago history. More people participated in accommodation so long as she was able to Swell
the primary and general elections than in any her " war chest." Byrne raised some $10 million
other election in Chicago history, and more for political campaigning by the primary open:
white people voted on the losing side than in ing. A large proportion of this money came
any two successive elections in the city's from city workers (a source of resentment) and
history. Going into the 1983 Democratic pri­ from agents with city contracts.
mary, the Chicago black electorate had three Third, she reorganized the Office of Neigh.
choices. As it turned out, Byrne represented the borhoods as a device to promote her image and
present and Daley the past, while Washington to secure re-election as opposed to providing a
was identified with their aspirations for the channel for mass input into community
future. development policy. Moreover, she alienated
community leaders by reducing and then reo
routing the flow of money out of neighborhood
development programs and into "downtown"
projects.
Fourth, while leaving her doors open to real
estate developers and business contractors,
Byrne lost credibility with many among the
corporate elite who viewed her as politically
unstable, prone to quick changes of both policy
and personnel. Thus, she contributed to an
unfavorable business situation by failing to
provide a climate for continuity of program,
personnel and policy making in government
. leadership.
HOfQld Woshinglon joins Mel I 80S/(ln. Dick
Gregory (Ief/·s/onding) joins Woshing/(ln (Iefl front), Mel
Fifth, while consolidating her alliances with
ond Joyce King 01 South End roffy. the most reactionary and irresponsible wing of
the Democratic party, she alienated herself
The Incumbent
from the mainstream of the party. On the one
Byrne's 1979 campaign strength had been hand, not having strong connections with the
among middle-class and working women, the corporate and declining industrial elite, she was
neighborhoods, and seniors. But she was not forced to build up her coffers by repeatedly
able to hold her electoral coalition together for "tapping" city patronage workers in addition
very long after her election for several reasons. to contractors doing business with the city. On
First, she was saddled by a deepening fiscal the other hand. Byrne encouraged further frag·
crisis that affected her relation with city mentation of the Cook County Democratic
employees. In order to keep spending in line to party and instead of uniting the party, she
satisfy creditors, as well as to protect her base undermined her most organized potential baSt
among white homeowners, Byrne was forced to of support. She did this in the following wayS:
hold down salaries and block further increases 1. dropping President Carter after earlier
in social expenditures given the city's declining endorsing him in order to support Kennedy
tax base.
Second, in order to govern, she had to
during the 1980 presidential campaign;

2. opposing Daley as State's A torney
.

accommodate the machine leadership which favor of Ed Burke in the 1980 pnmary an
l
demanded a free hand with patronage and the Bernard Carey, a Republican during the genera
opportunity to make deals that, once exposed, election;

116

.-
-

SIfflt WoMer :rings "Happy Birthday " Of A ugus/ 27, 1983 March on WashinglOn. James Green photo.

3. closely identifying with Reagan and be­ "Gold Coast and the Slums." She lived in the
comioa the only mayor of a large city not to Gold Coast; it is contrasted by the Cabrini­
oppoec his domestic and urban policies; and Green housing development (known for the TV
4. opposing former party chairman George show "Good Times") in the slum. Byrne, amid
DIame and supporting Bernard Carey. the tremendous publicity. "moved in" to Cabrini.
Republican candidate for Cook County Board While she was there with her personal protec­
_to tion, crime was reduced. But she soon left, and
PiDaDy, Byrne made a series of tactical it was worse than ever. Elevators would go out
bIuaders that undermined her brittle support for weeks, leaving senior citizens and the sick
IIIDDD& blacks and Latinos. under a sinister form of de facto house arrest.
I. She attempted to play off blacks against The gangs retaliated against families who were
1..IIiDoI on the one hand while exploiting the able to avoid the mass evictions as so-called
DIdoaality differences among the various "anti-social" elements. The outcome o f this
IIOIIpI within the Latino population in the city. drama was that many of the people who initi­
.. dlc:I this mainly through her appointive ally praised Byrne for her actions in Cabrini
PGWIn (i.e., replacing Kenneth Smith, a black were later neutralized by repons that services
....... who chaired the School Board, with a were being withdrawn from other CHA
0abIa. Raul Vialobos). developments to support a temporary publicity
2. &be made a series of white appointments
rna
stunt.
black and Latino representation on In general, Jane Byrne initiated policies and
....bauds, commissions. and within depart- actions which served to dilute black represen­


tation and divert public resources out of the
i:&
.. P Yed the role of a " sacrificing black community at a period when it was exper­
,.... ofIiciaI," learning firsthand what the iencing a sharp downward turn in their relative
.... faced. Byrne is from the 42nd ward, standard of living. Byrne underestimated the
IDcomI)aSSes what Chicagoans called the preparedness of blacks to resist, and of Latinos
•2

117
and poor whites to rally in support of black primary elections. This forced black aldermen
protest. to take more independent stances panicularly
Byrne ran against the machine, won, and around representational issues (Le., black
then the machine took power after the election. appointments to public housing, public school
The "evil cabal" became her closest advisors, and police review boards. etc.). Finally, and in
and the people she feared most were those who conjunction. local activists involved in a series
had elected her. Further, her protest vote had o f welfare and substantive issues targeted Jane
also elected new young black Democrats to the Byrne's administration and the mayor's office
City Council-Danny Davis, Niles Sherman, as the focus of protest against the deteriorating
Timothy Evans, and Marian Humes-all with conditions blacks faced in housing, health care,
independent postures. She had to deliver, or be employment, distribution of welfare benefits,
challenged as she had done to Bilandic. Byrne and educational opponunity.
blew it. She gave virtually every aspect of the Thus, a most imponant dimension of the
movement fuel for building a protest movement 1982 voter registration drive was the linkage of
against the machine. Further, and more organizations and community activists involved
decisively, she did this when black and progres­ in struggle around "economic" issues into city­
sive forces were conscious that they had created wide networks which aimed their protest
her with their votes and could eliminate her the demands at City Hall.
same way.
The People's Choice
The Byrne Interregnum lind Mass Protest Beginning in 1980, a movement to find a
In the period from 1967 to 1979, black repre­ Black mayor began again. A " Committee For a
sentation in the City Council leaped to virtual Black Mayor" had been formed in 1974. In
proportional representation. From 1 9 1 8 to 1977, Harold Washington tested the waters and
1947, there were only two blacks in City Coun­ garnered 77,()(X) votes. Now, anticipating the
cil. By Byrne's inauguration there were sixteen 1983 election. a consensus-building process had
blacks in City Council . Byrne's administration emerged. A variety of surveys within the black
becomes important in several respects. First, a community all showed that Washington was the
significant number of bl8.lk aldermen within strongest potential candidate. By the summer
the Council began to vote consistendy against of 1981. led by some activists from across the
the machine on issues viewed as vital to the city, a concerted movement began to "draft"
black community. Second, and related to the Washington. Harold Washington had been a
first, black aldermen came under mounting Democratic Party regular, the son of a precinct
pressure from a black electorate which had captain whose position he assumed. but he
demonstrated a growing tendency to withdraw bolted the party machine in 197.5 and became
support from machine-backed candidates in an independent. He had achieved national visi·

118
=

bility as the popularly elected replacemem for The Campaign Buildup: Voter Registration
Ralph Metcalfe as Congressman, and he was While many of the traditional institution­
elected national vice-president of the liberal alized organizations (Le., NAACP, Chicago
Americans for Democratic Action. Urban League, PUSH) had attempted to build
Washington knew that low electoral partici­ for a mass black community registration as
pation was a serious historical problem facing early as the previous year, the really significant
any "challenger" who represented excluded aspect of the pre-primary voter registration
constituencies. The Chicago Urban League had drive was marked by the entrance of grassroots
issues a report on this problem in September community efforts lfth within and outside of
1981: Why Chicago Blacks Do Not Register the black community. Several community
and Vote. It began with a focus on the 1983 groups contributed to the effort (e.g., Chicago
mayoral election: Black United Communities, Vote Community,
Peoples Movement forI Voter Registration,
If Black political participation could be PUSH) but the most innovative contribution
increased five percent to ten percent, was made by POWER, a citywide coalition of
Blacks might effectively determine the
welfare recipients . and unemployed workers
outcome of this crucial election. Within a
under the leadership of heads of community­
year after that, control of the City Coun­
cil and most services of city government based organizations among blacks. whites, and
also may well be at stake. Latinos. POWER concentrated on nontradi­
tional sites for registering previously alienated
Analyzing whether the 5 to 10 percent increase new voters (e.g. welfare recipients, youth. and
was possible, the report offered eight reasons the hard-core unemployed).
why blacks don't register and vote; heading the The black leadership in most of these groups
list were "nol interested in any of the candi­ became the principal actors in the formation of
dates" (49.4 percent) and "fed up wilh the the Task Force for Black Political Empower­
wbole political system" (32.2 percent). ment, which emerged as the informal arm of
Harold Washington's campaign organization.
Lack of electoral participation appears to Added to these efforts was the significant
be a long-term. deeply-rooted "struc­ infusion of money from black businessmen to
tural" problem-one for which electoral the voter registration drive. Most notable was a
reform and other superficial stop gap cosmetic industry millionaire, Ed Gardner (Soft
measures can only have very limited and Sheen).
temporary success . . . Sizeable, sustain­
By September 1982, the earlier goal of 50,000
able increases in Black registration and
new registered voters had been reached with the
voting are unlikely without a rather fun­
damental effort to make politics and tactic of mobil$:: registrations-taking registra­
public affairs a much larger part of Black tion stations to welfare and unemployment
family and community life.' offices within the city's South. West and North
1"1" . '
1-101 ;,
:'�'''' -ef O'll ER
",iSl iC

119
Sides. Washington's response was to increase Daley "The Son"
the call to register 100,000 new voters! The
Richard Daley's candidacy brought panic to
leadership of this movement answered him.
Byrne's camp and smiles of hope to Washing_
With combined efforts of POWER, PUSH,
ton supporters. Daley had a number of credits
Vote Community, People's Movement, CRUC,
which enhanced his viability.
and Citizens for Self-Determination, an all-out
1 . He had his father's name and his mother's
campaign was launched to meet this challenge.
blessings. "Sis" Daley is the machine matriarch
Churches were targeted, as were public aid
who has carefully guarded the Daley legacy to
offices, while library centers were established
be bestowed upon her sons.
and an extensive absentee-ballot thrust was
2. He appeared to have had sufficient sup­
coordinated by PUSH and CBUC. Gardner put
port within the party to make winning against
up $50,000 to sponsor a "Come Alive" media
Byrne a realistic prospect.
blitz targeting the black community for the
3 . Political elites throughout the city owe
weekend of October 5 . Over that weekend
their careers to Richard J. Daley.
alone, some 60,000 registrations were made,
4. He had a significant political base within
principally in the black community and mainly
the black community among the old generation
independent of the regular party apparatus.
of business and professional people and the
Overall 160,000 new voters were registered, of
clergy who remembered Richard J . Daley, "the
whom 120,000 were black.
Father," and saw " the Son" as one who would
have innuence among their constituencies.
5 . Daley was expected to pick up substantial
support among the "Lakefront liberals," city
union workers, and many employees who were
perceived as having "nowhere else to go" given
the hostility directed to Byrne.
Since Daley had to compete with Jane Byrne
for white votes, and did not want to embarrass
his liberal supporters or alienate his potential
black support by attacking Harold Washing­
ton, he had to make a relentless attack on
Byrne's mayoral record before white audiences.
He had to attack her without attacking the
Democratic Party. He was not able to dislodge
black support from Washington, nor to gain
more than an even-split with Byr�e among
white voters .

If on the surface, most of Daley's reform


positions were shared with Washington, it only
points to the fact that they both are liberal
Democrats. In the Illinois General Assembly,
Daley's record matched Washington's on most
issues, i.e., the fight against the consumer sales
tax, the fight for mental health and nursing
home reforms, ERA, prenatal health care,
expense of day care centers, equal pay for equal
work, medical and mental care for rape victims.
and child abuse--child support legislation. .
. . a
Daley had taken strong administrative 10][1

lives on issues relating to women, and in pro-


Ulrill.t Wtlscll photo.
-

120

Washington received 36.3 percent of the 1.3


million votes, Jane Byrne 33.4 percent and
.
- .....---
... Richard Daley 30 percent. Washington took 80
percent of the black vote, Byrne 14 percent, and
Daley 6 percent. Byrne and Daley split 88
percent of the white vote, while Washington
received 10 percent. The Latino vote went
mainly to Daley, 52 percent, while Washington
received 24 percent-a percentage that would
dramatically shift in the general election.
Eighty-four percent of Washington's support
came from black voters, IO percent from whites,
and 6 percent from Latinos.
The overwhelming support for Washington
among blacks is most significant. In eleven
wards with high concentration of black voters­
ranging from 91.8 percent to 99 percent black­
Harold Washington won 77.7 percent of the
276,678 Democratic votes cast. By contrast, in
seven white wards, Washington won only 0.94
percp.nt of the Democratic votes cast-2, 131 of
227,327 votes.

Ellen Shub photQ


The National Party and Realignment
The national Democratic Party, sensing an
motion of women to positions of responsibility. upsurge in electoral participation among blacks
This enabled him to gain endorsements of lead­ and working people throughout the country,
ina Ubera] feminists such as Dawn Clark saw in the Washington victory the first step in
Neuch, a State Representative who emerged as Reagan's defeat in I 984-a rebuilding or recon­
his campaign manager. However, he did not stitution of the Democratic coalition. There­
pin much support among women's organi­ fore, recognizing the importance of black voter
zations. They dirfered on the issue of patron­ strength, Democratic party leaders, candidates,
lie· Washington moved from a soft position on and officeholders put Chicago on their calen­
PIltOnage reform to a hard position in appo­ dars and made it known that they would
sidon to it, while Daley was locked into a white support Washington in "any way he desired. "
Clbnk base primarily among white trade union This comment was echoed by the early presi­
workers and city employees on the Southwest dential frontrunners. The venerable Claude
Side and part of the North Side of the city. His Pepper (D-F1orida), a leader of the senior citi­
strong stand against street violence (as opposed zens lobby in Congress, was brought in to
to Drpnized crime) had earned him the enmity target the white ethnic vote among the aged.
of the black and Latino street gangs .
� Some Bert Lance of the Georgia State Democratic
uaUy became paid. active supporters of Party endorsed Harold Washington amidst a
• After failing to get money from the great deal of publicity and led a delegation of
W
llbinaton campaign, the El Rukns cut a deal southern state party chairs to Chicago. Demo­
Wkb the machine leadership which
netted as cratic fundraisers were held by black and white

::::
mUCh IS $70,000
for "polling" assistance. The party insiders across the country, notably in
of the primary election indicated a New York, Washington, D.C., and Los
of both the gangs and Daley by the Angeles. There would be some degree of
IIIIct eIeaorate .
reciprocity involved.

121
The Congressional Black Caucus
The success of the Washington campaign has
and the Southern Strategy
led to a significant stimulation of interest in
The Congressional Black Caucus represents local elections across the country. Oearly, the
the formalized political center of the black elite international, and certainly, the national media
in the US. Since 1980, Washington had been attention generated by the Chicago mayoral
one of its newest but most vocal and progres­ election has had a major, perhaps enduring
sive members in Congress. But it was only impact upon the level of black political partici­
during the later stages of the primary, begin­ pation and the nature of local electoral coali­
ning with the TV debates (in which Washington tions. This certainly was the case in Phila­
made the best showing) that the Black Caucus delphia, where Wilson Goode withstood the
began to view the Washington bid for mayor as challenge of Frank Rizzo, the arch-villain of the
a serious one. At this time Caucus members Philadelphia black movement of the late '60s
leaned on the national Democratic Party to and '70s. It also had a positive contributive
support Washington if the Democrats were to effect upon local elections in Boston and Balti­
have any hope of winning in 1984. They were more, where strong black electoral challenges
particularly incensed with, but not surprised were being waged. It is too early to foretell
by, Kennedy's endorsement of Byrne in the pri­ what the full ramifications of the Washington
mary. However, they reserved their sharpest campaign success will be on the unfolding
critiCism for presidential hopeful Waller alignment of race, nationality, and class forces.
Mondale who endorsed Richard Daley-in a A part of it will have to do with the outcome or
miscalculated under-assessment of the level of the benchmarks and limitations of Washing·
local black unity operative in the Washington ton's reform administration in its practice. as
campaign and an overassessment of Daley's well as the practice of progressive and radical·
support in the regular Democratic Party. ized sectors of the Chicago movement scene.
John. Conyers (D-Michigan) spent nearly In Chicago. Washington had won the
three weeks in Chicago and brought in his primary without the support of the regular
leading organizers to head up the Election Day Democratic Party organization. It appeared
apparatus for Washington during both the that he would have to win the general election
primary and the general election. Other mem­ without broad pany support . Should he lose,
bers of the Caucus raised money for his can­ the Democratic Pany would have blown an
didacy. While over 95 percent of his $1.3 excellent opportunity to consolidate on a new
million in primary funds was raised locally, basis. Should he win, without the party sup·
over 25 percent of the $3 million raised for port, there would be no basis for a rapproch·
Washington during the general election period ment. From this standpoint, national Demo·
was from national sources-with Black Caucus cratic leaders had nothing to gain and every'
individuals serving as conduits for a large per­ thing to lose by not supporting Washington. In
centage of these monies. This is, in part, sub­ supporting him, they had an opportunity to
stantiation for the observation that the rebuild on the basis of an upsurge in mass
Washington campaign had been "nationalized" participation among blacks and other dissatis·
and taken on as an agenda item of the national fied segments of the electorate in an aJl-out
black political elite. ' effort to defeat Reagan.

122

The Black Caucus understood this and it the last weekend before the primary election, he
beCame easy for them to influence white Demo­ made the clearest statement of the central issue
cratic leaders of the national pany to put of the campaign: racial power. In arguing
Chicago on their itinerary. And thus, a succes­ before Nonhwest side pany workers, Vrydolyak
sion of Democratic politicians and hopeful argued that the party should close ranks behind
candidates were paraded through Chicago to Byrne and abandon Daley, for a vote for Daley
convince white Democrats to do what blacks was a vote for Washington. "Afler all, it's a
had done for 50 years: support Democratic race thing, " he said. I
candidates. After the primary, Vrydolyak procrastinated
and he convened the party central committee
Lotal Realignment and Intra-Party Struggle only after the national Democratic Party
Initially, the white Democratic Party leader­ leadership made it clear that Byrne's write-in
ship was paralyzed. The primary upset had left bid was to cease and the local pany leadership
them in search of a political cenleT around should close ranks behind Harold Washington.
which they could rally. While a few of the most This gesture of suppon came a full month into
staunch reactionaries bolted the party and cast the seven-week-Iong general election period.
their support to Eplen. weeks went by before Vrydolyak is the leader of the current bloc of
Byrne attempted a short-lived "write-in" can­ "29" aldermen in opposition to Washington's
didacy. It fizzled. With only four weeks to go reform-in-government program. This group
before the general election, a wave of white has been labeled as pan of the " Cabal-ocrats"
aldennen and ward committeemen bolted the -Republicans masquerading as " Democrats"
party. They openly or privately worked for the within the party.
liberal but little-known Republican, Bernard
Election Day Voter Turnout
Eplon, who under ordinary circumstances
would have been crushed at the polls by a Nearly 1.3 million people, 82 percent of the
united party organization and a decidedly eligible voters, voted on April 12. Washington
Democratic electorate. Perhaps it was the early received 50.06 percent (668,176) of the votes
indecisiveness among the regular organization while Epton recei...ed 619,926 votes or 46.4
leadership that prevented a united effon to percent. The mobilization of the electorate
increase white ethnic ward voter registration in along racial and nationality lines (white ethnics
the nut weeks afler Washington's primary included) made this one of the closest local
upset. Such a campaign could have generated elections in the history of machine politics in
')",(ficiem new voters for Epton to claim a Chicago. Washington carried twenty-three
nOminal victory and for the machine to retain wards. two more than he carried in the primary
control Over the mayor's office. election. Epton carried twenty-seven wards on
"Fast" Eddie Vrydolyak, the party chair, the strength of the white ethnic backlash and a
must be singled out as the center of the racist mass bolt from the fifty-year tradition of
reaction to the Washington campaign. During Democratic hegemony at the polls.

123
While Epton carried 86 percent of the vote in general election. In the general election, in each
predominantly white wards, (compared with 12 ward, Washington received at least a 126
percent for Harold Washington), Washington percent increase in support over the primary.
garnered 98 percent of the vote in predomin­ What explains this dramatic Latino turn­
antly black wards. In the traditionally liberal about? Washington made a major effort to
"Lake Front" white wards (usually carried by attract the Latino vote. Latinos were put into
Democratic candidates) Epton carried 72 positions of visibility and responsibility within
percent of the vote, outpolling Washington (24 the campaign. Washington targeted his pro­
percent) nearly 3 to I. When we consider that gram and campaign literature to address the
the Lake Front wards are more racially hetero­ needs and aspirations of the Latino population,
geneous, and given the pattern of black and and presented major campaign publications in
Latino voting (9 to I and 3 to I respectively for Spanish. Also, the Washington campaign
Washington over Epton), it is not difficult to underwrote a newspaper project, El lndependi.
argue that Washington received an even lower ente. a "secret weapon" that targeted the
percentage of the white vote within the Spanish-speaking communities of Chicago. At
precincts. least three issues were printed. In addition, a
If the Latino vote (discussed below) were Latino "Blue Button" was also produced and
held constant, our data indicate that the general distributed.
election was even more racially polarized than
The Governance Period
the vote in the primary. In the primary returns,
the leading white candidates received an esti­ The first months of the Washington admini­
mated 88 percent of the total white vote and 21 stration have been akin to war. In typical
percent of the total black vote. However, in the Chicago fashion, Rudy Luzano. a Hispanic
general returns, Epton captured 9S percent of labor leader. and staunch supporter of
the total white vote but only 2 percent of the Washington, was murdered after the general
black vote. election. In the past two elections since Daley's
If racial bloc voting was the defining charac­ death. the reconciliation of the Democratic
�eristic of the electorate in the primary. then Party has been marked by the negotiation of
voting along nationality Lines was a character­ deals that prevented black leaders from attain­
istic feature of the general election vote. The ing a greater semblance of power and privilege
single most important aspect of the nationality within the Democratic Party. Such deals have
vote was the dramatic shift in support among not happened this time, since the party bosses
Latinos for Harold Washington. had not supported Washington and in many
instances actively opposed his election.
Tbe Latino Turnout and Nationality Washington had called for a unity breakfast
in tbe General Elecllon'
after his primary and general elections vic­
A1lhough Washington received 74 percent of tories and many principals in the losing campS
the vote in wards that are numerically did not attend. At the inaugural, Washington
dominated by Latinos, the Latino vote varied broke with precedent-a City Council chamber
markedly along nationality lines. Puerto Ricans ceremony which could only be attended by 300-
and Mexicans gave Washington 79 percent and 400 and held an open ceremony at Navy Pier
68 percent respectively while the more con­ attended by several thousands. During
servative, but smaller, Cuban electorate gave Washington's speech he reassured his promise
Washington only S2 percent of their total voter of reform government. elimination of machine
turnout. patronage, and open government without
The outstanding features of the Latino burdening the electorate with mismanagement,
impact on the 1983 mayoral election are: (I) a unfairness, and inequality.
near 20 percent increase in the Latino regi­ While Washington attacked the past prac,
strations, (2) the increase in Latino turnout, tices of the machine. he also promised fiscal
and (3) the dramatic increase in the vote for restraint and stability in government, and
Washington between the primary and the sound business practices. Thus, an olive branch

124

Conclusion and Implications


was being extended to the corporate despite its
lack of support in his primary and general In general, we have attempted to base this
election bids. In his Transition Team, Washing­ analysis on the objective development of the
ton dispelled any notions of that a "black take­ historical forces that led to the campaign, and
over" was imminent by appointing a majority the social character of the campaign itself.
of whites. While more blacks were appointed to Indeed, this campaign will be discussed as a
a government Transition Team than at any time permanent event in black political history, and
in the city's history, the most significant aspect the history of Chicago . ' o Our contribution in
of the policymaking structure of the early this paper is to provide the essential facts in an
Washington governance collective is its over­ organized manner. Further, we believe this cam­
whelming composition drawn from business paign should be studied to understand several
and professional elites and political insiders. major points:
I . Black adults demonstrated that under
specific conditions they will defy all expecta­
tions and mobilize at unprecedented levels.
These conditions are unity of black leadership,
public attacks from white racism, and a legiti­
mate form of mobilization such as voting.
2. Racism. nationality, and class dynamics
were operative factors explaining the Harold
Washington election and fueling the dialectical.
political process of unity building over all three
Ellen Shub photo stages of the mayoral politics process that
moved a black into City Hall in 1983.
The further working out of the economic 3. There was a dynamic tension between
(class) contradictions at the center of issues of coalition development on the inside of the
urban governance has been overshadowed by political structure and coalition development
the persistence, even intensification, of a viru­ among movement forces using resources
lent strain of racist reaction. A major theme in outside the system.
the early Washington administration has been 4. During the first two stages, clearly the
the confrontation between black power and the movement forces had the ascendancy (concrete
Chicago "white power" structure. At the hean struggles and community issues, boycott of
of the current struggle between the Vrydolyak Chicago Fest. mass voter registration, the
29 in City Council and the Washington 21 is the formation of the Task Force, etc.). During the
C:ODtinuation of the struggle of black power vs. general election, a tedious balance was struck
white COrporate America. This scenario tells us between the movement forces which sustained
u much about the limitations of reformist the mobilization and a transition apparatus
electoral black power strategy as it reveals its which clearly was composed of elements whose
inability to provide a fundamental redistribu­ main base and orientation was from within
tion of social resources. All the "29" are white system structures. During the governance phase
aiderpersons and tend to be ward committee­ we see a decided trend, beneath all the public
men, and the Washington 21 is composed of calamity and rhetoric emitting from the conflict
black alderpersons and white independents with between tlie "Vrydolyak 29" and "Washington
Uberal or predominantly black constituencies.
21" in City Council that the movement forces
Beyond these distinctions, past all the hype
are taking their lead from City Hall rather than
IWrounding the struggle to institute reforms defining the context of struggle and the terrain
Wbk:b target the machine. there are few sub­
of battle.
IIIDtive bases for unity. Thus, on many class­ S. At this point. the most progressive aspect
.... issues we can expect fragmentation
�. both camps along the lines of material
�ves and resource redistribution.
of the current struggle has been the movement
of the struggle into the wards in an attempt by
populist-reformists to unseat ward committee-

",
men and old guard politicians in the March Some Concluding Comments
primaries that open the presidential electoral This analysis has demonstrated the vitality
season in llIinois. Other efforts to establish and and viability of the black liberation movement,
consolidate independent bases of power and
specifically an instance of struggle in the elec­
movement resources have been feeble to this toral arena. The election of Harold Washing.
point. ton, a reformed machine politician, was the
In Chicago, decades of electoral political par­ result of a crusade in the black community. A
ticipation on the part of the black community, network of militant organizations had been
its political leadership. and movement activists. developing from the late 1970s and early 1980s,
have resulted in some substantial political and the spontaneous mass movement was led
gains. Relative proportional representation in by these forces. The fundamental conditions
the City Council, substantial representation on for this electoral victory include successful
major political boards and commissions, and a mobilization of masses of people, a broad con·
black man occupying the "Fifth Floor" of City sensus of political focus. and a united leader­
Hall were merely fantastic visions in the pre­ ship.
vious decade. In Chicago. blacks had histori­ Of course, these are the factors internal to
cally exhausted the limitations of the symbolic the movement. The victory was also possible
representation offered them by the Republican because a change in the structure of political
Party. the decades of struggle within the Demo­ opportunity beginning with Mayor Daley's
cratic machine produced substantial gains and death and ending with a split white vote in the
the emergence of the black electorate as the Democratic primary in 1983. These many
pivotal force in city politics. The Washington special conditions have led to the discussion of
mayoral victory and the subsequent power whether Washington will be one-term mayor or
struggle within government and the later not. The main swing factor is whether white
treachery of the Democratic Party elite have liberals can get more whites to vote for political
brought blacks. progressive whites, and a reform led by black people. If white people
growing Latino electorate to a critical threshold don't support Washington in increasing
of political action and to the brink of a decisive numbers, racial hostility is likely to be at
break with the Democratic Party.
1_ -.. - -
unprecedented levels by the time of the next

r" � r'

Harold W(lshinglOn celebrates his vinory.


-
-

mayoral campaign. national Democratic Party in its electoral push for the 1984
presidential election.
There is also another issue of great impor­
7. For background on Edward Vrdolyak, see the pamphlet
tance: Can Jess run like Harold? In states like
SlOP Fast Eddie, available from Timbuktu Books ( P .0.
South Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, Ala­ Box 7696, ChiclliO, IL 6(680).
bama, and Georgia, and in cities like Chicago, 8. A starting point for an understanding of the historical
New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, the role of the Latino community in Chicago politics is the

answer is likely to be yes. Here, the white work by Joanne Belenchia "Latinos in Chicago Politics,"
in S. Gove and L. Massoni, Afler Oo/ey: Chicago Polilics
candidates split the white vote, and Jesse pulled
in Transition, pp. I l g-145, op. cil. Sec also, John Walton
most of the Black vote. The main thing is that and Luis Salces ( 1977), "The Political Organization of Chi­
the race issues are definitive in those areas, and cago's Latino Communities," Red Cover Report. Evan­
uI' to this point the structure of political oppor­ ston: Northwestern University Center for Urban Affairs.

tunity has been virtually closed. The critical 9. We have continued to collcct n
i formation on the Wash­
ington elcction and his subsequent administration. Included
question is whether the long-term result will
in this material is a regular, ongoing, newcUpping project.
strengthen the Democratic Party or the move­ Moreover, we have continued to monitor Chicago politics
ment. For the political effons of Harold and the social prOtest movement in order to provide the
Washington and Jesse Jackson. the results basis for a continuous asses sment of Chicago political
dynamics as they unfold.
shouJd be in over the next three years. The big
question is how long will the cathartic ritual of
voting black satisfy the hunger of black people Abdul Alkalimat is active in the black libera­
for freedom, since the material benefits of tion movement and is presently teaching in the
black ejected officials are so limited? AfrO-American Studies and Research Program
0/ the University ofIllinois. Don Gills is a PhD.
FOOTNOTES candida/e in Political Science 0/ Northwestern
University. Both are active in People's College,
I. Donald S. Bradley, The Historicol Trends ofIhe Political an organiz.ation involved in struggles for
DIIa ill a Melropolilan Central Cily: The Chicago Mayors
(Worltin& Paper '10, Center for Organizational Studies,
African libera/ion, community, housing, and
Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, May the curren! battlefor a new politics in Chicago.
1963). See also Donald S. Bradley and Mayer Zald, " From
eo....&! Elite to Political Administrator: The Recruit·
IIICIII of Mayors n
i Chicago, The American Journal of
SotioIov. (September 1965), 1.S3-161.
1. '-Q. Wilson, Negra Politics: The Search/or Leader­
.,, (Qkqo: The Free Press, 1960).
J. Maoa Rakove, Don't Make No Waves, Don 'I Back No
lAan.' An Insider's Ana/ysis 0/ Ihe Daley Machine
(IIomr;"I''Dn: Indiana University Press, 1915): see also
.. O'Connor, Clout: Mayor Daley and His City (Chi­

ClllD: Heory Regnery Company, 1915); Mike Royko, Boss:


� Daley 0/ Chicago (New York: New American
...
.,. 1911).
CItbeo Urban League, "Why Blacks Do Not Vote,"
....:. Research
and Planning Department, 1981).
.. It ... .idely
projected that this high turnout in the Nov­
I election represented the resurgence of the
Regular Democratic Party by Chairman
VnIoIYlk rather than an independent upsurge based

:�:::�';:;:� i,
Black community. See "Huge Voter Turnout En-

���:;�'�
Mayoral Bid," Chicago lJ(fender,
1982; a
lso the summary analysis articles of the
lubernatorial turnout on the mayoral race
Tribune, November 3-4, 1982.
of reciprocity, since his election, Wash­
COnsiderable time on the road campaigning
electoral bids across the country as part of
to the NBPE, first and foremost, and to the

127
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128
Workers' Struggles,
Past and Present
A "Radical America"
Reader
Edited by
James Green
"""""" Selected from the pages of RRdicai
l�byJ_ G"m America, one of the few New Left
p.., One: 11K Struggle: for Control publicarions originating in the 1960s to
The Dctnmd rOl'" Blxk Labor: Historical nOtQ survive into the eighties, these: anicles arc
on me PobucaJ Economy of Racism, by HIIOTJUi a rare combi nation of labor and social
M S- , Four D«ades of Oiangc: BI�ck
history wrinen by engaged scholars for a
Workcn In Southern Tatiks, 1941-1981, by
popular audience, as well as conremporary
M." Fmkni:1tsim ' 1bc Stop Wuch and the
Wooden Shoe:: Sclcnllfic Managcmc:nt and
the srudies of labor movement politics and
workplace struggles wrinen by worker
lndumul Work.:rs of the World, by Miltt DIlIIis
Thc CkritaJ Sisterhood: Rationaliution and the imellccruals and activist historians. Long
Work CWrure of Sakswomtn in American before mainstreanl scholars of American
Dqnnmc:n : t Slora, 1890-1960, by SWlln Pm". hisrory, the writers in RRdictU Amtrita
&.u.. • Sexual Har�cnt at the Workplace: were focusing on rhe work experiences as
HUlOI'ICaJ NOtes, by Mil'] BuJRrzi. seen from the shopfloor and on the special
Part TWo: Orgllliz.ing me Unorganized issues of women and blacks.
w� CIus Sclf.Acriviry, by Grorgt R"IPIC/t •
• UIUOn F
ever: Orgam1.lng among Ckricai
Worten, 1900-1930, by ROf/yrl L. FrJiIlHTg '
� the UrtcmployM: Th.: Early Years
of the <mal 0epr�1On, by RfIJ RQllmJa't!!l"
The Ptu,bJllty of RadIcalism in the Early
1930.: The Case of Sleel, by SIAMghr(J1l LymJ .
A Ptuhp Randolph and th( Foundalioru of
Black Arnc:nc;an Scx:J.ill.sm, by Mfmni"6 MllrlJblt

�g againSI Sexual Harassment, by fin


AIil.a.v_I &x...u ConQq"
Part 1bru: Militancy, Un On Polmo, ;and
I
Wortm' Control Workers, Unions, and ClasJ
Forta.. ., SWI Ww- ' Defending the No-Srrike
I'kdp:. CIO PollflQ dunng World Wu II
'
� Bbel\. nrnm, Won
.,N.". Udn • The Lc<l.guc: of
cr,; An Assa.s mcm
., u... AUno, /,., Bcnc<l.th the SUrbce; The'

Wt oIa herOt)', Ir] DwIu FrnNlJ


� . When: Is

�. Holding
TcarnstCT Rc�llion Going?, Ir] Stlu'g
htrm

� of the LUlC; Minel'$' Militancy and


1978, by]_ Gnm • Shop Floor
�'
Lc.tber
. Fle,etwood lr]]oIm Lipptn • Tannin
Tannmg Hu:ks: HeaJth and Sa
f ety
g
In a Leather Factoty
byAMPnJ

.... Workcq' Coouol �


u�_

thc News: 11M:
WlICOnsm Prm am....criM, by

�� �� �
--... �
....
' 11M: P�t and
. by DnUl Mrm
Furun:
DIJPit/

tgomny

43'" �g,tple
\,ULUnLU CLUCliL
. or IIOS'i'ON, ONE & ALL,
101 Ire bereby rtSlle£lrutly tAUTION ED IDd
Idflsed, to alold cODlUslng 1l'IIb tbe

Watchmen
. ami Police Omcers
of Boston,
..... .1... ..... Nee.' ORDER OF THE MAYOR "
ALDERMEN, the,. .re empowered to .ct ••

KIDNAPPERS &JnI .

Slave Catcher�
.....d tlleJ ".ye .Iready beep .ctullJ emplOI e41 ..
....DNAPP.NG. CAT(;H.NG. AND KEEP.l'IG
fiLA.YES. Therefore, If you 't'Rlae your LIBERTY,
... tbe ...-eV.,.e .f ,lie hg"'re• •81oag you, SA_
tltle. la every ptHi§tltle .....er, R, -.0 .A.)' HOlllfDIl
.. the track .ftbe .ot' •• f.rlunMlc of )'our nce.

Keep a Sharp Look Out for


'
K I DN A P P E R S, and h ave
TOP EYE open.
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