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Young, Black, and energized: These voters could play a pivotal role in the Boston mayoral race

Boston Globe, August 2021

Dilce Oliveira, a 19-year-old Dorchester resident whose parents were born in Cape Verde and Jamaica, is a John Barros crusader who enthusiastically tells other young Black voters—or anyone willing to listen—about the mayoral candidate’s plans to improve the city’s troubled schools.

Lanaya Kimble, who like Oliveira will be voting in this year’s mayoral election for the first time, is stumped when it comes to who she will support. But like many young Black residents of the city, she’s tuning in as the candidates address soaring rent, policing reform, and the quality of the city schools. In a historic race with five major candidates who are all accomplished people of color, including three who are Black, many Black Bostonians under the age of 30 say they are more motivated to vote this election than in years past.

Some will be casting their first ballot. Some are community organizers. Others are new to the city. Some are all of the above. But they have one thing in common: They’re an important voting bloc. Across the country, young Black people are becoming more engaged in the political process than in yearspast, according to national polls, emboldened by a racial reckoning and an increase in candidates of color competing in municipal elections.

“Young Black people really feel a sense of agency where their voice matters, and they’re finding greater levels of respect,” said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics who leda survey of over 2,500 young Americans earlier this year. “They really feel empowered because of the degree to which other people outside of their communities banded together after the murder of George Floyd.”

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