In 2016, the office of Mayor Marty Walsh launched a program called “Boston Talks About Racism,” as a dialogue on race between residents, the Mayor, and officials from several city offices.

The second annual public meeting was held on Saturday, at the end of a year that has been rife with difficulty. Over the summer multiple instances of racial slurs being used in the stands of Fenway Park were widely publicized. Boston College students staged a walkout in October, after Black Lives Matter posters were found defaced in a dorm. Just last week, the Boston Globe Spotlight team published a seven-part series on being a person of color in Boston – detailing how minority communities are still excluded from many opportunities, with pieces touching on history, healthcare, power, sports, and college campuses.

Saturday’s citywide discussion was held at Blackman Auditorium at Northeastern University, framed as a talk on the city’s resilience plan, addressing Boston’s ability to recover from disruptions, with racial inequity as the centerpiece.

“At this event, the Mayor and members of his team will discuss the implementation of Boston’s Resilience Strategy, and will launch a year-long project that will bring small, facilitated conversations about racism, healing, and policy work into all of Boston’s neighborhoods.” -2nd Annual Boston Talks About Racism

Hundreds of participants filled the auditorium to join the Mayor in what he called a difficult, but necessary, conversation. Chief Resilience Officer Dr. Atyia Martin addressed the crowd, and discussed racism as an issue of resilience. Resilience requires contributions from everyone, she said, and “we take responsibility for the fact that we’re a part of building resilience in the city, but also the actions we take can detract from that resilience.” Addressing the participants, Dr. Martin said resilience is “the ability to recover from difficulty”, and thus racism is itself a slow catastrophe, a disruption to be addressed.

During a question and answer session with Mayor Marty Walsh, residents expressed concerns about how racism affects and exacerbates issues facing city residents — from affordable housing to work force development and education. Later in the morning, participants could opt to attend lectures and working groups on issues including housing displacement, the challenges faced by immigrant communities, and healthcare discrepancies for communities of color.

These dialogues broke down structural racism in one specific area, allowing participants to express their own thoughts on the subject as well as learn about what the city is doing to ameliorate these problems. The housing discussion covered topics from displacement of communities of color due to gentrification, inequity in home ownership rates, and housing discrimination, all concerns that created lively discussion from the crowd. Emotions ran high for many participants, and Mayor Walsh made clear his intention to continue having these discussions in neighborhoods around the city. The event, while intended to be a discussion, emphasized progress made since it was first held last year, while raising the bar for action in the year to come.

Sox ban fan from Fenway for using racial slur –