When I talked to Gerly Adrien about the latest racist outrage in Everett Friday, she just sounded tired.
Hers was the familiar weariness of a Black woman who has struggled with being the only one of her kind in the room, with being told she was overreacting, that things weren’t really as bad as she was portraying them.
“Things” in this case refers to the phenomenal ingrained racism within Everett City Hall, where Adrien served as a city councilor until earlier this year.
We were talking in the wake of the most recent revelation — the leak of a recording of several city officials making light of the idea of actually including Black people in city business. The exchange should come as a surprise to no one who has followed the politics of this deeply insular city.
Adrien told me she had refused to watch the video, which several people had attempted to share with her.
“I don’t think it’s anything new that I hadn’t already known about these people,” she said. “It’s very upsetting and it makes me sad.”
According to a report by the Globe’s Stephanie Ebbert, the video of a private Zoom session shows Everett city councilor Anthony DiPierro “joking” about inviting Black people to events, as a way to fend off allegations of racism.
The video was recorded in 2020 or 2021, when a group of city councilors and other city officials, gathered informally on Zoom, were discussing — clearly, none too seriously — how to demonstrate that they aren’t racist.
It recently surfaced as a post in a Facebook group. A whistleblower also turned it over to city officials in late March; the city has said it is investigating.
In the video, the mayor’s press secretary, Deanna Deveney, urges DiPierro to bring “one of your dark friends” to a political event.
“I don’t have a lot of those friends, I’m just saying,” DiPierro said.
“No problem, we’ll find you one,” Deveney replied.
Let me pause here for a moment. DiPierro has been under fire for months for a previously revealed string of racist comments in e-mails he sent, many of them including the n-word. He has half-heartedly apologized, and fended off calls for him to step down. The Mystic Valley branch of the NAACP demanded that he leave office, noting that his “frequent and consistent use of the N-word in his communications is systemic.”
DiPierro is a cousin of Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who has waved off his relative’s previous disgusting comments as “mistakes.”
DeMaria is also, of course, the press secretary’s boss.
I’m sure the mayor will be coming down hard on both of them any day now.
Everett has become a perfect example of how a city can change dramatically without changing at all.
This is a city that, according to 2020 US Census data, is nearly half Black and Latino. The Encore casino — DeMaria’s legacy — has transformed its longstanding reputation as a perpetually declining industrial backwater.
But look deeper, and much of Everett is the same as it ever was. Its leadership remains virtually all-white, mostly people from the town who have all known each other forever.
And while they might struggle to string together a few of the right words about ”inclusion” in public settings, what do you suppose you get when they think they’re speaking amongst themselves?
N-words and pathetic attempts at humor about not knowing any Black people, or how someone could maybe invent a Haitian boyfriend for political appearances.
Everett, this is who you really are. This in liberal, ever-so-exceptional Massachusetts.
Which brings me back to Gerly Adrien.
She once had aspirations of being a person who could make a difference in Everett politics, a person who could be a bridge between the stubborn old guard and the newer population in the city that clearly has no representation to speak of.
Just one term on the City Council was enough to disabuse her of that notion. After two years of being ignored, ridiculed, and dismissed, she ran for mayor — mostly, I think, as a protest — and left the council to help run her family’s small business.
No, Adrien’s not surprised by the leaked video. Like many of us, she always knew how her colleagues talked when she wasn’t in the room.