There were hot dogs served (below), visions of the future painted (above) and concerns about development raised at last Saturday’s “EJ in the ’Hood” festival, held in Dudley Square by local nonprofit organization Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE). For the first time, the festival was held outdoors, with the newly gutted Ferdinand’s and Guscott buildings providing a reminder of the area’s changing face. (Photos courtesy of Alternatives for Community & Environment)
Hip-hop, steel drums, street sermons, raffles, a dunk tank and free hot dogs were just some of the attractions available to Boston residents at this year’s “EJ in the ‘Hood” Festival, held last Saturday afternoon in Dudley Square.
The annual event highlights the services of Alternatives for Community & Environment (ACE), an organization committed to organizing local residents to address environmental and social justice issues. The small Roxbury-based nonprofit also used this year’s forum, which organizers say had been in the works for two months, to bring the community’s attention to the development going on right behind the festival.
“This was all about how do we get people to have a good time in Dudley, but also to build a sense of community,” said Lee Matsueda, a community organizer with ACE. “This is a beginning of a process.”
That process, Matsueda emphasized, is an integral part of getting Roxbury citizens involved in issues that affect their neighborhood, particularly the development discussion.
“We need residents coming together, to the table, to provide a vision of the community and present it to the mayor, to people at the [Boston Redevelopment Authority] and other city agencies,” he said.
Khalida Smalls, a program director with ACE, said the organization felt a new responsibility this summer to expand its scope beyond its linchpin issues of transportation equality and youth justice.
“We are very concerned with making sure our home base is taken care of,” said Smalls. “We wanted to get a group of Roxbury folks engaged, particularly around development issues. We really want people to not just be informed, but also know how to engage in whatever process that’s bringing on that development.”
In years past, ACE has held the festival at indoor venues like Roxbury Community College and the Harriet Tubman House in the South End. But with the importance of development at the forefront, ACE and other area organizations felt the need to hold an outdoor event, leading to last Saturday’s festivities taking place in Dudley Square, where the newly gutted Ferdinand’s and Guscott buildings serve as both backdrop and constant reminder of the area’s changing face.
“Bringing the community out to talk to organizations in the shadow of the Ferdinand’s building was really important to the festival,” said Soledad Lawrence, a community organizer with City Life/Vida Urbana, a nonprofit group focusing on tenant organizing and tenant rights that had an informational table set up at the festival.
Lawrence echoed Smalls’ sentiments of wary interest in the ongoing development proceedings.(p2)