Celebrating Boston’s Black History: City Council selects first Haitian American President

BOSTON — History was made last month when the Boston City Council selected its first Haitian American president.

Ruthzee Louijeune won the post with unanimous support from the council.

“I really care about responsive government because I know as a young girl who grew up in Mattapan what it looked like when your government isn’t always responsive, or you when you feel like you’re being neglected and ignored.”

Louijeune grew up on Cedar Street in Mattapan.

Her parents came to Boston from Haiti and worked around the clock at McDonalds and 7-11 to provide for their family.

“Looking back, it was hard for my parents financially. They had four daughters. We were in that Mattapan house, in one bedroom, two to a twin bed.”

Her neighborhood school and local library fostered a love of learning that propelled her to Columbia University and Harvard Law School.

Now her sights are on public service.

This is Louijeune’s second term on the council.

“I am just so grateful for the people who have invested in me, and the institutions that invested in me,” said Louijeune. “That’s what we need to do when we talk about bringing out the potential in each of our students so that my story is not an anomaly.”

Right now, she says the cost of housing is the biggest issue facing Boston.

“I think that it’s incredibly important that we continue to build more housing so that our residents have a place to call home, so that our working-class families aren’t being pushed out because the city is too expensive.”

Louijeune, who now lives in Hyde Park, considers the situation a crisis.

Another issue on her radar is to make sure every neighborhood is respected and remembered.

“We are a city of a lot of wealth, a lot of fiscal strength, and that we share the prosperity of Boston, and it becomes the prosperity of every neighborhood, from Mission Hill to Beacon Hill.”

As we celebrate Black History Month, Louijuene says “Black history is American history, and it’s important for us to repeat that over and over again. These stories are part of the American story.”

Editor’s note: An earlier post related to this story mistakenly included a photo of the president of Olin College, Gilda Barabino, who is the focus of an upcoming story. Boston 25 News regrets the error.

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