Boston Mayor Michelle Wu is facing backlash for hosting a holiday party exclusively for “electeds of color” on Wednesday night.
The invitation: The conflict arose when Wu’s director of City Council relations Denise DosSantos sent an invitation email to all 13 members of the council to an “Electeds of Color Holiday Party.” Shortly after, an apology email was sent clarifying that the event was intended only for minority elected officials, uninviting seven white council members.
“I wanted to apologize for my previous email regarding a Holiday Party for tomorrow,” DosSantos wrote. “I did send that to everyone by accident, and I apologize if my email may have offended or came across as so. Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.”
What’s the issue?: Although some councilors attending the event supported its purpose, others, including outgoing City Councilor Frank Baker, found the party divisive and expressed concern about the message it sends, particularly for a council historically plagued by infighting.
“I think the holidays is a time for people, everybody, to get together, so we will see what happens,” Baker told NBC Boston. “I do find it divisive, but what are you going to do about it?”
Wu defends the party: Wu, the first Asian American mayor of Boston, defended the party, stating that it has been held without issues for over a decade. She does not believe that the gathering is divisive, but says that it is an appropriate way to celebrate “identity, culture and heritage,” according to International Business Times.
“This is a group that has been in place for many, many years,” Wu told reporters. “We celebrate all kinds of connection and identity and culture and heritage in the city. Just yesterday we hosted our official City Hall Hanukkah lighting. We have had tree lightings, and we want to be a city where everyone’s identity is embraced, and that there are spaces and communities we can help support.”
Wu also emphasized that there are numerous inclusive celebrations planned, with invitations extended to the entire city council and elected colleagues.
“And I look forward to celebrating with everyone at the holiday parties that we will have beside this one as well,” she said. “It is my intention that we can again be a city that lives our values and creates space for all kinds of communities to come together.”
Supporting statements of attendees: Some councilors attending the event supported its purpose, emphasizing the importance of creating spaces for shared experiences.
“It is not at all divisive, it is creating spaces for people, and communities and identities with shared experiences to come together,” Boston city councilor-at-Large Ruthzee Louijeune said. “We are still breaking barriers and it is so important for us to carve out and create that space.”
Outgoing City Councilor Ricardo Arroyo agreed and dismissed the issue as an attempt to create conflict. He expressed frustration that the issue was being amplified, stating that the event is a non-controversial annual holiday party for people of color. Arroyo also emphasized that the party is not intended to be divisive as most of his colleagues are aware of the existence of the Electeds of Color group.