Roxbury Voters Express Wish for Change

By Hannah Harn
BU News Service

“I hope you win, Obama!” called an older woman as she passed  Boston City Council District 7 candidate Rufus Faulk. Laughter erupted and they shook hands and hugged.

“I’m telling y’all, he’s Obama Junior! We’re going to see him in office,” she said.

Faulk, a 35-year-old Roxbury native, laughed again and replied: “Thank you for your support, ma’am!” He waved goodbye as she hurried after her friends. Then Faulk turned to greet other incoming voters as they filed into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Towers. “Support me, number one on the ballot, ma’am!”

“I wanted to come to my polling place to thank these people for their level of civic engagement,” Faulk said over the mellow jazz music playing from a nearby speaker.

Faulk, who works with the Boston TenPoint Coalition, ran against Kim Janey, a project director for Massachusetts Advocates for Children to replace Councilor Tito Jackson, who ran for mayor against incumbent Marty Walsh.

As a lifelong Roxbury resident, Faulk has seen a slow rise in social issues and obstacles in District 7, many of which he saw addressed very prominently in both the District 7 and mayoral races. He describes himself as a “product of the city services that are meant for this part of the community.”

“I think, in terms of the mayoral race, the issues they were talking about were the same things we were talking about in our District 7 race with issues about housing, issues about quality education, issues about public safety,” he said. “You can’t talk about education policy without talking about economic policy, and you can’t talk about economic policy without talking about how housing is impacted.”

Roxbury’s Precinct 5. Ward 12, where Faulk himself cast his vote, was one of the most tightly contested precincts in the mayoral preliminary race as well. While he elected not to reveal his mayoral preference, Faulk felt strongly about the race and its candidates.

“If you think things are getting better you’re going to vote for the incumbent [Walsh], and if you think things need to change you’re probably going to lean towards the challenger [Jackson],” he said. “So for our district, we’ve been receiving a lot of the crumbs, so it’s time for our district to start benefitting from the economic boom that’s happening in Boston as a whole.”

Roxbury Native Wants a Change in Mayor and a Change in Roxbury

As Robert Wilson, 73, left the Martin Luther King, Jr. Towers, he immediately shakes the hands of the poll volunteers outside the gate. A rush of thanks and well wishes fill the air, and he seems eager to watch the results roll in.

“What did [Walsh do for the neighborhood?” said Wilson, who unabashedly supported the mayoral challenger, Councilor Tito Jackson. He was passionate about the need for change.

“I mean, I’ve just got a problem with some of the things Mayor Walsh has done,” he said. “We have these problems and he didn’t want to spend the money to fix them, and what he did to the neighborhood’s affordable housing is just…”

He shakes his head and lets out a sigh. Wilson is worried that as housing prices increase, more and more original residents will be pushed out.

Wilson wants to “bring something back” to the Roxbury and District 7 communities, especially the affordable housing. “It’s pushing out the residents who have been here all along. They come in and they say, ‘We’re going to buy this up from you,’ and the people should be able to say back, ‘No, we live here and we’re going to keep living here.’”

Even though he doesn’t believe Jackson will win, he doesn’t care much. “I don’t believe Tito is going to win, but I just can’t vote for Walsh,” he said, shaking his head again. “He’s a part of the gentrification. They know what they’re doing [to the community.”

Newer Roxbury Resident Wants to Preserve the Neighborhood

June McCoy-Reid, 61, has been living in Roxbury for about two years and already she is passionate about seeing change in her community. She shook local city council candidate Rufus Faulk’s hand as she left the polls, sweeping out of the gates in a long, bright blue patterned coat.

“I want to see a change for the mayor,” she said bluntly. “Because housing has gone out of range for people to stay in the city and I think that has to do with the current administration, and the new administration is talking about doing something about that.”

McCoy-Reid has seen the cost of housing, rent, and taxes skyrocket, pushing out the original residents and making it hard for young people to get access to adequate housing. “ People are moving out of the city because they can’t afford to live here anymore.”

Although she originally came to Roxbury as part of a career change, McCoy-Reid is passionate about her neighborhood.

“I love Roxbury. The history, the culture,” she said. “It has a flavor of its own.” Roxbury, a black neighborhood in Boston, is facing gentrification as housing prices rise and push out longtime residents.

Though the polling location had been relatively quiet for most of the day, McCoy-Reid also felt very strongly about the voting process. “It’s about change, you know?” she said. “You really can make a difference if you just come out and vote.”

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