Boston Harbor Now brings arts, music and cultural inclusion to waterfront
As part of increasing efforts to make Boston Harbor and the waterfront accessible, non-profit organization Boston Harbor Now has released a robust event schedule for the summer, centered on welcoming people of all backgrounds and creating unique experiences on the water.
“There are barriers to being on the waterfront, to understanding how to get there, there is historic discrimination and lots of places that are unwelcoming for many different reasons,” says Jenn Meakem, Community Engagement Manager at Boston Harbor Now. “We fundamentally believe that the waterfront is for everyone. If there are groups of people that are being excluded from that, that is not equitable.”
Increasing access means working on everything from multilingual signage to transportation from Boston neighborhoods to the Harbor. It also means bringing communities and cultural activities to these spaces. Maekem says the team at Boston Harbor Now achieves that by working with community leaders on programs.
For several Sundays this summer Piers Park will come alive with the sounds of salsa and cumbia. Boston Harbor Now worked with Mariachi singer, choreographer and Latinx cultural leader Veronica Robles to put together a Latin Cultural Dance event overlooking the Boston skyline. At the one-hour program visitors can learn steps to traditional dances from Central and South America and watch professional performances of the dance.
Another popular program series are the Community Cruises that run throughout the summer. Each cruise is designed specifically for a different neighborhood or group, for example the Roxbury Community Cruise on July 21, when residents of Roxbury are welcomed on a complimentary harbor cruise with music, food, dancing and art making. Participants register online but the event is free, meant to serve as a reminder that the Boston Harbor and waterfront are for all residents of the city.
“There’s a portion of getting to know a place and spending time in it that makes you realize this is your space, this is for you,” says Maekem. She recalls designing a flyer for a community cruise and using an image of a happy family from one of the previous events. At the cruise she ran into that family and they said seeing themselves all together on the flyer with their grandmother, who had since passed, inspired them to come again in her memory. Maekem says, “If you never see someone like you on a flyer then how are you ever going to be able to envision yourself there?”
These events are a few of the most culturally specific and accessible, but there are many other ways to enjoy the waterfront including with free workout classes spanning from yoga to interval training and ticketed events like a clambake on Spectacle Island when you ferry out to the island, eat a three-course classic New England meal and return home as the sun sets over Boston.
“Boston has so much to offer and without the waterfront, you’re going to miss out on so much of that,” says Maekem. “Downtown is great, but have you seen the views?”