Boston’s First Woman And First Black Mayor Is Also First With Caribbean Roots

Acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey is first black, first woman and first with Caribbean roots. (Photo by John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
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By NAN Staff Writer

News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Mar. 26, 2021: A lot has been reported already on Kim Michelle Janey, the new acting mayor of Boston who has made history by being the first Black and first woman in the position. But also missing from the double firsts is the fact that her roots also extend to the Caribbean, as News Americas has found.

Janey, a fourth-generation Roxbury resident, mother and grandmother, has heritage that stretches all the way to the South American CARICOM nation of Guyana. The parents of her paternal grandmother were born in Georgetown, Guyana.

Her father, Cliff Janey, grew up in the Orchard Park projects and was one of only eight Black students to graduate from prestigious Boston Latin School in 1964. She says on her website that her earliest memories are in her parent’s small apartment on Codman Park in Academy Homes, and she would later call Highland Park home.

Her parents, however, divorced, and she revealed she spent much of her youth at her great grandmother’s house in the South End, which had a deep and lasting impact on her.

She first attended New School for Children, a community school in Roxbury founded by Black parents who wanted a better education for their children. After attending the Ellis, Garrison, and Higginson Schools in Boston Public Schools, in the 6th grade, Janey went to the Edwards Middle School in Charlestown during the second phase of desegregation busing. As an 11-year-old girl, she said she had rocks and racial slurs thrown at her as she’d ride the bus to Charlestown each day. Later, Janey attended Reading Public Schools through the METCO program, where she was one of two Black students in her graduating class.

Janey was only 16 years old and a junior in high school when she became a mother to daughter Kimesha. From their first Section 8 apartment to working multiple jobs, Janey says she always did what it took to take care of her daughter.

It was as a young mom, That Janey began her advocacy on behalf of children when she recognized that her own daughter’s experiences were interconnected with the experiences of other children. Her experience of being a teen mom having to fight for her daughter, paired with her family’s history of activism, made her a passionate advocate for equity in education for all families.

Janey built her career as a longtime education advocate and non-profit leader. In 2017 she was elected to the Boston City Council in what was another history maker – out of a field of 13 she won and became the first woman to represent District 7.

Last year she became President of the most diverse City Council in Boston’s history. With Boston mayor Marty Walsh confirmed as United States Secretary of Labor, Janey took the post.

Janey has promised to “invest” in a “summer of opportunities” — adding that she would partner with the school superintendent and business community “to help our children recover academically and emotionally.”

She only has about five months to make a strong impression before the September preliminary election, and actually has yet to declare her intentions to run for mayor.

Since the position was created in 1822, Boston has counted 54 mayoral administrations between 46 White men, according to Vitabrevis.  There have been seven acting mayors prior, two of whom were subsequently elected mayor, making for a total of 52 people before Janey, who have served as mayor officially or in an acting capacity over a 199-year period.