Jul 26, 2023 - Business

Spotlighting Boston's Black neighborhoods as NAACP Convention kicks off

A long shot of Blue Hill Avenue, a main thoroughfare in Boston's Mattapan neighborhood.

Blue Hill Avenue in Mattapan. Photo: Nicolaus Czarnecki/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald via Getty Images

When the 114th NAACP Convention kicks off this week in Boston, it's expected to draw more than 7,000 attendees and generate $12.5 million for the local economy.

  • But most programming will be in the predominantly white Seaport neighborhood — where the city's major events often are.

Why it matters: Locals tell Axios it's important for attendees to see Boston's majority-Black neighborhoods too, to highlight the city's crucial role in the Civil Rights movement and spotlight a diverse set of businesses and landmarks that tourists rarely see.

Driving the news: Boston's NAACP chapter — the organization's first chartered branch — is hosting a tour of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan Friday afternoon for convention attendees. Visitors will get to know local businesses and the neighborhood's ups and downs, organizers say.

  • "Boston is actually going through a renaissance," state Sen. Liz Miranda (D-Boston), who helped plan the tour, tells Axios.
  • "Renaissances aren't easy and quick. They take a lot of work."

The big picture: The convention, which runs through Aug. 1, last came to Boston in 1982.

Flashback: Boston was by then known as a home for a young Malcolm X, arts educator Elma Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who met his wife Coretta Scott King while attending Boston University.

  • He famously addressed 22,000 people who marched from Roxbury to Boston Common in 1965.

Yes, but: By 1982, Boston was also grappling with a racist resistance to school desegregation and has since struggled to shake a reputation as racist.

By the numbers: The city is majority-minority with a 44% white population.

  • Nearly a quarter of its residents are Black, about 20% are Hispanic/Latino and about 10% are Asian, according to Census data.

What they're saying: Boston is a melting pot of different cultures, says Collin Knight, owner of Live Like a Local Tours. "You won’t know that unless you come to the city, and the city gives you access to those neighborhoods of color and promotes those neighborhoods of color."

  • Knight's tours feature Nubian Square staples like Frugal Bookstore, P&R Jamaican restaurant and the neighborhood's murals.
Colin Knight leads a group of Northeastern students through a tour of Roxbury and discusses a mural of former Mayor Kim Janey.
Collin Knight, owner of Live Like a Local Tours, walks a tour group through the murals done by local artists in Nubian Square, including one of former Mayor Kim Janey. Photo: Steph Solis/Axios

Details: The NAACP-led tour will start in Mattapan, where attendees will visit the Cote Village Apartments — a new affordable housing complex, replacing a long-abandoned Ford dealership.

  • They'll hear about local activism, food justice and the Caribbean diaspora, says Noemi Ramos, executive director of New England United 4 Justice.
  • They'll also meet with teen organizations, such as Teen Empowerment and Greatest MINDS, in Grove Hall before visiting Nubian Markets in Nubian Square.

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