The Members of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus join many others in the Commonwealth as we mourn the recent passing of the late Representative Doris Bunte of Boston. The MBLLC itself exists because of the efforts made by Mrs. Bunte – and other founding members – to broker reforms and access for all people of color to legislative processes. Mrs. Bunte knew that any and all reforms required an intersectional lens, having also played a major role in the creation of the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators (MCWL).
As the first Black woman elected to serve in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Mrs. Bunte worked to embody the belief that all persons of color, regardless of economic status, were deserving of dignified housing, education, and employment. Over the course of her twelve years in the House Mrs. Bunte put forward legislation to improve living conditions for the elderly and persons with disabilities, pushed for tutors and greater educational resources for youth caught in the juvenile system, and worked to extend grant opportunities for grassroots community organizations. After leaving the Legislature in 1985, Mrs. Bunte went on to become the first Black woman to run the Boston Housing Authority, pioneering the desegregation of public housing. These efforts continue to provide us current Black and brown legislators with a standard of community devotion and leadership that we must strive tirelessly to meet.
The death of Mrs. Bunte also reminds us of the endless list of Black trailblazers whose work is too often left to fade into the recesses of past. As we commemorate Black History Month, we must recognize our duty in ensuring that these legacies are not forgotten nor taken for granted; as such the MBLLC is committed to doing our part to hold our elders to the light with the reverence they deserve. In accordance with this commitment, MCWL at-large MBLLC member Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley, will act as a linchpin to memorialize and honor Mrs. Bunte’s legacy. Our thoughts are with the family of Mrs. Bunte as we reflect on all that we may still learn from her work. May she rest in power.
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus wishes to commemorate the recent historic nominations to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC); the appointments of Justice Kimberly Budd to Chief Justice (initially appointed to the SJC in 2016) and Dalila Argaez Wendlandt to Associate Justice signal a major victory for communities of color who have long deserved greater representation in their judicial systems.
Upon confirmation Justice Budd, the only person of color on the SJC, will become the first Black woman to serve as Chief Justice; this is no small feat. As the State’s top court that has long set legal precedents which have national impact, we are proud it will be helmed by a such proven steward of justice. The MBLLC has witnessed the solemn dedication and sheer competence of Justice Budd for years, poignantly encompassed in her authorship of 85 SJC decisions.
The appointment of Associate Justice Dalila Argaez Wendlandt also fills us with great pride as she stands to become the first Latina to serve on the high court bench. Associate Justice Argaez Wendlandt’s record promises an SJC Associate Justice who is capable of adjudicating even the most pernicious of legal cases.
Members of the MBLLC express their gratitude to Governor Charlie Baker for his appointment of these two pioneering and committed servants of justice and equity. We advocate for the expeditious and unanimous confirmation of these two appointments.
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (MBLLC) held a virtual event to celebrate the importance of Latinx Heritage Month & forty-six (46) MA Latinx Trailblazers across the Commonwealth.
BOSTON – On October 29, 2020 the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (MBLLC) celebrated the close of Latinx Heritage Month with pride, commemorating the countless contributions of the Massachusetts Latinx community. The virtual event commenced with opening remarks by Kenneth Romero, Executive Director of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislatures (NHCSL) - an affiliate of the Council of State Governments. Romero stressed the importance of the Latinx vote in the upcoming election while emphasizing the continued fortitude and achievements of the Latino community.
“For the last three years it has felt like the Latino community has been in a permanent state of emergency,” Romero said. Citing cruel images of parents separated from their children at the border, the efforts to undercount minorities (particularly Latinos) in the 2020 census, the uncertainty felt by DACA recipients and DREAMERS alike, and the disproportionate and ravaging impact that COVID has had on Hispanics, Romero offered a call-to-action. “It’s up to us and the 32 million Hispanics that are eligible to vote in this election to put an end to [these attacks]. Latino power can only exist if we flex our collective muscle and vote,” concluded Romero.
The event was filled with powerful remarks offered by nominees, who served as a testament to the resilience and innovation of the rising population of Latinos across the Commonwealth who continually impact their communities despite grim challenges. “The Latino contributions are shaping a new and diverse Massachusetts. We are teachers, principals, nurses, doctors, builders, motivators and are motivated to make a difference in our communities for the next generation. Somos un pueblo - we are one community,” said Chairman of the MBLLC, Representative Carlos González (D-Springfield).
Thursday’s celebration recognized the rich cultural history of the Massachusetts Latinx community, and perhaps more importantly, served as a valuable opportunity to learn from one another. “I have always believed the diversity of the Commonwealth is one of its greatest assets, and celebrating cultural heritage not only instills a sense of personal pride, events like this allow others to share in that celebration, which fosters understanding and appreciation and makes our state a better place for all. I thank the members of the Black and Latino Legislative Caucus for their partnership and work on behalf of the people of Massachusetts,” said Speaker DeLeo (D-Winthrop).
Nominated by legislators of the House and Senate, each 2020 Latinx Trailblazer has demonstrated exceptional leadership and served as powerful reminders that leadership means a dedicated investment in the power of community. Some nominees hold an elected position, forging new programs for the Latinx community; other nominees are young, passionate activists who have catalyzed change from climate change to LGBT+ representation and equality.
“The strength of our Commonwealth is a testament to contributions of our Latinx residents and their vibrant communities,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “One of the fastest growing populations in Massachusetts, the Latinx community plays a pivotal role in moving us forward. I am in awe by the tenacity of today’s trailblazing nominees, as well their hard work and dedication. Today, I’m thrilled to celebrate them in honor of Latinx Heritage Month. I would also like to thank the entire Massachusetts Black & Latino Legislative Caucus for hosting this wonderful celebration.”
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus (MBLLC) was created in 1973, with the intent to be a leading voice on Beacon Hill for communities of color across Massachusetts. We also seek to empower constituents to gain a deeper sense of political awareness on issues concerning them and their greater communities. The MBLLC’s fourteen legislators remain dedicated to serving communities of color throughout the Commonwealth through legislative, budgetary, and community endeavors
On September 23, 1955 closing arguments were presented in the Bryant-Milam trial; after an hour of deliberations, the jury returned with a “Not Guilty” verdict acquitting two brothers for the lynching of Emmett Till. On the same day, 65 years later, another Black life was betrayed by the judicial system. Breonna Taylor – killed while sleeping in her own home – became another victim of needless violence. We share in the hurt and frustration of thousands across this nation who fundamentally understand that Black lives – and Black women – matter.
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus decries the decision delivered by a Kentuckian grand jury to not criminally charge Brett Hankison, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove for firing 30-rounds of bullets into Ms. Taylor’s home. The charges on which Hankison was indicted prioritize concern for hypothetical harm over the actual death of Breonna Taylor. Let us be clear wanton endangerment is not a murder charge; we will continue to say her name and push for accountability when mechanisms of justice fail Black and brown lives.
As a legislative Caucus committed to uplifting and advocating for the marginalized and the silenced we will continue to fight for reforms that protect members of our community. We mourn the loss of Breonna Taylor and call for justice that has yet to be delivered.
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus condemns the recent acts of violence against Major Aubery Gregory and Officer Robinson Desroches in Louisville, Kentucky. We unequivocally condemn all forms of violence and acts which splinter our community and hinder the progress that must be built together.
In a time of unprecedented unrest and uncertainty it is vital that we find modes of connection that inspire healing and dialogue. We must form bridges with one another and violence against any member of our community threatens the stability and longevity of those pathways.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Major Gregory, Officer Desroches, and their families during this time as we hope for their swift recovery.
The Massachusetts Black and Latino Caucus joins the entire Commonwealth in expressing our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of Chief Justice Gants – a profound steward of justice and equity.
We grieve the loss of Justice Gants who proved a partner and friend to the MBLLC for many years, always extending opportunities for dialogue; and consistently finding vehicles to identify and address racial inequities present in our judicial and criminal justice systems.
Justice Gants embodied the empathy and leadership that the work of systemic change calls for and as we mourn this deep loss we are reminded that allies and partners in the work of racial parity can always be found among us.
In the spirit and memory of Justice Gants, we continue in the fight of making our judicial system one that acknowledges and confronts racial bias and prejudice at every level.
On Thursday, July 16, 2020 the MBLLC met with Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Rep. Christine Barber: lead sponsors for legislation that would enable all qualified state residents to apply for a standard Massachusetts driver’s license, regardless of immigrant status as is detailed by the ACLUM here. Both parties used the opportunity to discuss strategy on the best way to move the policy forward during this legislative session.
On Thursday, July 16, 2020 the MBLLC welcomed representatives from the Massachusetts Law Enforcement Policy Group and other police union representatives to discuss the implications of qualified immunity reform. As the Caucus and others seek to reform police standards and accountability in MA, it is important that the implications of proposed reforms are fully understood.
On Wednesday, July 8, 2020 the MBLLC met with Chairman Michael Rodrigues of the Senate Ways and Means Committee to discuss the Caucus' FY2021 budget priorities. Above all else, the Caucus noted that communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by the Coronavirus and must be a priority for the upcoming budget. The MBLLC pointed towards education, minority businesses, and youth as key areas to focus on.
The Caucus looks forward to working with both Ways & Means Chairs to ensure our that our communities receive the funding and resources they deserve.
On Tuesday, July 7, 2020 the MBLLC met with Massachusetts State Representative Chris Markey. As a former Assistant District Attorney, Rep. Markey spoke about how his previous work impacts his calls for reforms.
The meeting served as an opportunity to discuss HD5133: legislation filed by Rep. Markey to allow more political pressure on the DA or the AG to request an inquest in the most serious cases of alleged police misconduct. An inquest is a quasi-public hearing, followed by a public report highlighting findings and rulings, that provides a means for families of victims of officer involved deaths to hear the circumstances of a person’s death or serious injury.
MBLLC log posts are curated by the Caucus Executive Director.