Here’s a story about Boston in 2021: three of the most powerful people in town are Black women—US Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass. 7th) (Hon.’21), District Attorney Rachel Rollins, Acting Mayor Kim Janey. The nearly two-century-long uninterrupted reign of white male mayors is ending—the top candidates on the November ballot are all women of color. The face on the cover of Boston Magazine’s annual 100 Most Influential Bostonians issue this year is Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of BU’s Center for Antiracist Research. Boston may still be grappling with entrenched systemic racism—what American city isn’t, one might ask—but a lot has changed.
And yet the narrative of Boston in the popular imagination—the Boston of Good Will Hunting, beer-drinking white bros and a lingering hostility to Black people—hasn’t caught up. City leaders, and a creative team with BU connections, have set out to change that. This spring Janey, the first woman and the first Black person to run city hall, kicked off a $2.5 million marketing campaign to rebrand Boston, a majority-minority city, as diverse, welcoming, and “all-inclusive.” The tagline: “Maybe you don’t know Boston.” Aimed at boosting the Hub’s pandemic-battered tourism and hospitality industry, with a workforce that is 70 percent people of color, it’s part of what Janey calls the city’s equitable recovery plan.
So, how do you rebrand Boston?
First, with money that…