On Saturday, August 13th 2016 newly renovated Mary Hannon Park on Dudley Street was teeming with local families, youth, artists and performers, food trucks, vendors, organizations, and activities. The community was celebrating a 28 year legacy - the DSNI Annual Multicultural Festival. In 1984 Roxbury and North Dorchester residents organized to form the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI), in the 80s the neighborhood was neglected by the city and filled with acres of blighted and abandoned land. The Festival was organized to create a positive family centered opportunity for neighbors to gather, connect and celebrate their cultural, ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic diversity. The Festival quickly became a tradition and a creative peaceful outlet for families, artists, musicians, and organizations to gather together.
Today the Festival not only serves as a peaceful opportunity for neighbors to gather but as a leadership and skill development opportunity for residents and youth. As neighborhood youth became more involved in DSNI and summer youth employment programs took shape, the Festival became youth led. For years the Festival has been organized by a team of summer Youth Organizers and a committee of residents, with support from DSNI staff. The youth raise funds, organize the performance lineup, solicit vendors and organizations, and arrange activities in order to realize their vision for the day while maintaining the Festival tradition.
This year the ominous weather held out for a fabulous Saturday. The Festival hosted over 60 artists and performers, 20 family friendly activities, various educational opportunities, and, of course, a lot of delicious food. Highlights from the day included face painting, pony rides, free popcorn and cotton candy, a basketball tournament, trapeze acts, musical performances, bubble soccer and community centered crafts. One craft activity asked kids to paint their “wish” for the community onto a cardboard star. While multicolored patterns and phrases like “peace” and “love” made predominate appearances - one star stood out. Though it took much guessing and coaxing, one little boy revealed that his yellow, orange, and black star was infact an “Angry Bird.” When asked what that he wishes for his community, he replied “I wish people were less angry all the time.”
This little boy’s wish is echoed by many residents and community organizers. The neighborhood has seen a steady decrease in violent crime, with 630 separate incidences of violent crime reported in 2010 and 473 in 2014, still almost double the city-wide rate. The Multicultural Festival cannot solely be credited with the trend, but it serves as an opportunity to highlight the many partnerships and people that are part of what makes this neighborhood special. The 2016 theme, “ImagiNations without Borders”, reflected the community’s re-commitment to be imaginative and creative in removing barriers, like anger and inequity, and divides, like socioeconomics and race, within the community.
John Barros, Mayor Walsh’s Chief of Economic Development and previous DSNI Executive Director, made an appearance with his family and gave his thumbs up to Ramona Lisa Alexander, DSNI’s Arts and Culture Manager. Ramona oversaw the entirety of the Festival planning process, integrating youth leadership and resident voice in the planning. John Barros’ father-in-law, Jose Barros, also continues to play an integral role in the logistics and community organizing efforts leading up to the Festival. This summer the youth especially appreciated their support from Ramona, Jose, and many other DSNI staff as they made “ImagiNations without Borders” come alive through creative T-Shirt designs, an art installation, flash mob, and spoken word performance.
Attendees, performers, and vendors were numerous. DSNI wants to express a special thank you for City Councilor Ayanna Pressley for her support. Additional acknowledgement is due to participating organizations including: The New England Aquarium, Circus Up, Company One Theatre, the Museum of Science, and BPE, featured sponsors including: Eastern Bank, The Kroc Center, Jobcase, and Boston Medical Center HealthNet Plan, and local sponsors including: Ruiz Market, La Chapi, J&C Barber, El Fongon, Heron's Auto Body Shop, Consuelo's Beauty Salon, JA Market La Borinquena, Diamond Windows and Doors, Fidalgo Travel, Margaritas Beauty Salon, Thony's Barber Shop, Villa Sombrero Café, Historic Boston Inc., Bilt-Rite Construction, Dorchester Bay EDC, YouthBuild / DEEP, K & G Legal Services, and Boston Pizza Grill.
Twenty-eight festive years would not be possible without the outpouring of local and corporate support, fighting for development without displacement and increasing youth engagement without the residents and staff of DSNI and their partners. Thank you!
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