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former coordinator of the International Black Youth Summit, diva film-maker of “After the Rape” and all around beloved genius visionary diva Bonita Walker and her sister-in-love Nataka Crayton are reigniting this community center in Roxbury in a way that honors the vision and spirit of the black community in pervaisvely segregated Boston. Do it!
for more about the history and vision read this:
United Neighbors of Lower Roxbury (UNLR) is a neighborhood association
dedicated to maintaining and improving the quality of life in Lower Roxbury,
a historic neighborhood in the heart of Boston, Massachusetts. Members meet
monthly to discuss issues affecting the neighborhood, such as major
development projects, city services and public safety.
UNLR was founded in 1971 after two decades of “urban renewal policy” that
saw 2,000 housing units in Lower Roxbury destroyed to make way for a highway
that would have gone directly through the neighborhood. Largely due to a
community organized protest against the highway, the plan was canceled.
UNLR harnessed the activist energy of the time to organize neighbors around
protecting and revitalizing the now greatly reduced neighborhood that had
lost parks, schools and historic homes during the highway planning period.
In 1978, UNLR purchased a building in the neighborhood that served as a
community center and a meeting hall. The building hosted a variety of
events and programs, such as youth and educational programs, neighborhood
meetings and social events, weddings and political forums. Since 1997, the
building has been vacant. It now requires renovations to the roof, windows
and doors, plumbing and electrical systems, stairways, flooring and walls.
Demolition and new construction are a possible alternative to renovation.
Lower Roxbury includes a diverse range of people including youth, elderly, young families, artists and community activists who would all benefit if this property were once again a community center. With limited to no resources Lower Roxbury residents have worked to build community and address the needs of our neighbors. In just this past year, our neighborhood hosted the annual South End Jazz Festival, ran youth baseball programs, managed community gardens, conducted a drum-making workshop for children, organized neighborhood cleanups and hosted numerous other social events open to the public. This past summer, with assistance from Boston College’s Urban
Ecology Institute, members of the community created a beautiful park along Cabot Street with a gazebo and gardens. Through its CityRoots program,sporting goods store REI recognized resident Nataka Crayton as a “Steward
for the Environment” for her work in organizing these efforts and awarded a
$20,000 grant to Urban Ecology Institute. This coming Spring, these same neighbors are planning a cultural and farmers’ market in the neighborhood.
UNLR members work and volunteer for numerous community and public
organizations including Boston Public Schools, Northeastern University
Community Taskforce, Roxbury Neighborhood Council, The Roxbury Oversight
Committee, The Ramsay Park Community Advisory Board, United South End
Settlements and the Urban Ecology Institute.
In summary, neighborhood residents are energized and ready to improve the
quality of life of the neighborhood. Revitalizing this community center
back would greatly contribute to this goal.
Further, neighbors believe that this building could serve as a forum for a
diverse and changing community to better understand one another. In a
neighborhood that is seeing more and more change, there are few mechanisms
to build neighbor to neighbor relations and to address the social dynamics
between long-time and newer residents. Clear divisions between these groups
remain a barrier to a unified community. We envision a community where
every member is valued and plays a role in defining what the community can
be. UNLR believes that the preservation and restoration of this building,
along with its surrounding open land space, can be the beacon that provides
a light of hope in a neighborhood that has paid the price of change and has
become stronger for it.