As Boston officials try to shed the decades-old stigma that the city is a less-than-welcoming place for minorities, recent news of alleged discrimination at a Dorchester bar has somewhat set back those efforts.


“It exists in the country, so Boston isn’t exempt from it,” said Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley when asked about racial tensions in the city.


Leaders and attendees at the national Blacks In Government conference, which kicked off at the Hynes Convention Center this week, acknowledged that Boston is perceived as a city that is divided by race. Just last week, the Attorney General’s office filed a lawsuit alleging that a Dorchester bar forbid minorities to enter.


J. Keith Motley, chancellor of UMass Boston, told the convention about visiting his native Pittsburgh from Boston years ago.


“When I would return to Pittsburgh, I got standing ovations just because I made it back,” Motley said.

The conference was one of the latest achievements for Boston officials who for years have attempted to court more minority events and conferences to come to the city that was once described by Celtic great Bill Russell as a “flea market of racism.”

The training conference is being held in Boston for the first time in its 33-year history. Also a win for Boston was the selection of the city as the site for this year’s National Urban League conference. The Urban League had not returned to Boston since 1976.

Leaders on Monday also touted the elections of Pressley — the first black woman elected to the council — and the state’s first black governor, Gov. Deval Patrick, as examples of Boston’s growth.

“We are better off than we used to be and we are still not who we can be,” Pressley said.