By: Cici Yu
Mayoral candidates John Barros, Andrea Campbell, Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu presented statements on their vision for arts and culture in Boston at an online celebration of civic engagement Thursday. Mayor Kim Janey was not present. The event also provided information on where and how to vote in the upcoming city elections.
Create the Vote Boston 2021 — a coalition of leaders and organizers in Boston seeking to increase investment in the art and cultural sectors — hosted the virtual celebration, emphasizing the diversity of Boston’s artistic community. The event was emceed by actor Maurice Emmanuel Parent and artist Tran Vu.
The celebration follows Create the Vote’s latest event, the 2021 Boston Mayoral Forum on Arts, Culture and Creativity Sept. 2.
“We are living in historical times and our current mayoral election is no different,” Vu said.
Barros opened with a statement on his promise to build a new arts agency if elected mayor.
“As mayor, I am ready to lead and fund a new organization called the Boston Arts Development Agency with a $10 million fund, plus make sure that arts continues to be part of how we do the built environment in our city,” Barros said.
Campbell spoke on her experience as a city councilor, where she is working on activating housing for the arts community and improving schools with the Youth Development Fund.
“Going forward for me, it really is about ensuring that that leadership continues, but the investments are made,” she said, “That we do it across every single department, and that we finally center this community in everything that we do.”
Wu stated that with the city of Boston “in crisis right now,” her plans as mayor would tackle the housing crisis, racial and climate justice, the transportation system and uplifting the advocacy of the arts community.
“We have everything we need in our city, the resources, the activism, the ideas, we just need to have political will that recognizes the urgency and intersectionality of our challenges,” Wu said.
Essaibi George discussed her aims to include opportunities for young people to participate to receive arts education, as well as building up economic development for small arts businesses.
“I recognize how incredibly important it is that we work together to make sure that we are strengthening the opportunities for artists, for makers, for crafters, to be a part of the fabric of our great city,” she said.
Mayor Kim Janey did not submit a statement for the event, but the public can access a summary of a discussion between Mayor Janey and artists and cultural leaders on Create the Vote Boston.
Cottle, the executive director of Dunamis — an organization that provides support for those in the arts industry — said in an interview the virtual celebration can still provide energy and joy during a pandemic, with performances from Boston artist Zakiyyah and They Watch You Thrive.
In the celebration, Zakiyyah played her new song, “Hip-Hopera.” As a singer and activist, she uses her music to explore the complexities of marginalized communities.
Parent elaborated on the accessibility of the arts and its power in defining the human experience.
“The arts are not a luxury,” Parent said. “They are not line items that come and go when times are tough. They’re not just for the elite. They are the very essence of our lives and our communities.”
Cottle said the reason this event was presented as a celebration was to positively motivate Bostonians to vote.
“There is joy and honor in this community, and how do we really uplift that and have that be the thing that energizes people to be a part of this, not just for this election, every election afterwards,” he said.
Oct.13 marks the last day to register to vote for the municipal election on Nov. 2. On Election Day, Bostonians can vote in person at the local polling location from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Voting by mail is also an option.
Information on your registration information, voting locations and ballot tracking information is available at the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ website.
“Aside from being a civic responsibility, voting is one of the most important tools we have to make the change you want to see manifest in our communities,” Parent said. “Your vote is your voice, and it’s one we need to hear.”