An open letter to the City of Boston

Williams, Jae

In the city viewed as unwelcoming by 54% of surveyed people of color, organizations throughout Boston must make substantial strides to fully realize the talent and intellect of a diverse workforce​. As young professionals of color are three times more likely to quit their job than their counterparts, it is critical that organizations and individuals be equipped with the networks, empathy, and knowledge that foster inclusion and its powerful benefits.

LeadBoston 2019 participant Jae Williams wrote about his experience in the LeadBoston program and how it transformed his relationship with the City of Boston. Read Jae’s letter below to learn more about his journey to becoming a leader equipped to drive equitable change within his organization and community:

Dear Boston,

We met in the Summer of 1993 and although still a young boy I realized that you felt very different from what I knew as home. Although the weather was similar to that of the Southside of Chicago…the people, the sights, the smells, the hustle and bustle of the city, and the overall vibe took some time to plug in to…to connect. The “Big Dig” brought my family here…Pops was a contractor and so Boston …well West Medford was home in between holidays, summer breaks and the random weekend getaways back to Granny’s.

Growing up I never went “to you” always “through you.” Never “to Roxbury” only “through Roxbury, Mattapan, Dorchester, JP” and all the areas that make up your community. High school basketball tournaments were my only glimpse of what you were like and I was always told that you weren’t safe for those that looked like me or any other person of color, but my intuition told me that the local news wasn’t an authentic representation of who or what you were.

Years passed and I grew up, started a family and began to live closer to you, and work with you, striving to better understand you. But there was still something missing. There was a disconnect and for me, still a looming perception that you didn’t care about us …the people that didn’t grow up with you, that spoke like you, that really knew you. Boston vs. everybody else is what I came to know of you, and I wanted that to be different…I wanted to get to know you…the real you.

A friend of a friend posted on social media congratulating them on graduating from this year-long program called LeadBoston sponsored by an organization called YW Boston. Maybe you’ve heard of them. The woman in the photo seemed so happy and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of such an amazing experience. I gave it the “thumbs up” then continued to scroll through my newsfeed…but something told me to go back, dig a little deeper and find out more as to why that smile was so bright.

Since that pause in scrolling…since that click on that post, I have been digging deeper and discovering more on who you are and how I can better connect. I joined LeadBoston and every month since January of 2019 I have been in a room full of amazing individuals of various walks of life in different industries who serve as educators, executives, managers, and entrepreneurs…who also identify as introverts, extroverts, leaders, and those have been led. I have learned more about the many great aspects of you and your accomplishments.

We have also had many uncomfortable conversations about you, your history, your present, but most importantly on what we hope you can be. The multi-dimensional perspectives and varying lenses of culture, empathy, and understanding allow me to not only get to know those in the room but put me on a deeper path of discovery.

From racial inequality to healthcare and education, we have all learned a great deal and we are just scratching the surface. This idea that you…this community…Boston… a place that so many people call home can be rediscovered and reimagined to be better for those who live, work, and play but more importantly for those who may stumble upon you as I did many years ago. With the connections that I have developed through LeadBoston and the deeper understanding of the different dimensions of you I plan to implement strategies on changing the perceptions that you are not welcoming to people of color.

Conversations during our program days have been thought-provoking and have also opened an incredible network of people that I am confident will come together with me to make you an even better home for many more amazing people and more importantly for me… people who look like me. I am so happy that I have had a chance to get to know you better and I hope to continue to discover more. You are beautiful, you are historic, you are innovative, you are worldly, and thanks to LeadBoston …now you feel more like home.




Interested in joining leaders like Jae, who can respond to the increasing need for inclusive change agents and propel their organization’s success forward?

Become a part of YW Boston’s LeadBoston program and join a network of over 1,000 inclusive leaders in Boston. During this 10-month program, participants explore and learn how to address barriers to inclusion through facilitated dialogue, expert speakers, and peer learning. Through experiential activities, participants delve into the socioeconomic realities of Boston and explore innovative solutions to inequity.

Learn more about participating in our next class of leaders by attending our upcoming September Info Session, or click here to apply to join LeadBoston 2020.