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  • Jennifer Ojilere

BLM in Boston

In June, the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets in towns and cities across the nation. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor shed light on the tension between people of color and the police. It has been several months since the first demonstrations, however, the people of Boston continue to demand racial justice along with an end to police brutality.

Boston hosted daily demonstrations in the wake of Taylor and Floyd’s wrongful deaths. According to the Boston Calendar, from June 6 to November 19, thousands of Bostonians have gathered to take a stand against ”systemic racism and police brutality.” From daily demonstrations by the Stand Out for Black Lives Matter movement in Arlington to the Daily Stand Up movement for Justice in Somerville, activists have been expressing their voices on a regular basis. In November, the demonstrators started to become more vocal about their disapproval of the Trump administration. On November 14th, Boston hosted a #TrumpPenceOutNow rally from 1 to 3 pm.

President-elect Joe Biden’s victory also ignited plenty of rallies, both in the spirit of celebration and continued accountability under the incoming administration. In the midst of Trump supporters demanding a recount, counterprotesters celebrated Biden’s win from across the street, sometimes coming close to physical altercations in the crosswalk. Across the Charles, more celebrations broke out across Harvard Square in Cambridge, along with a BLM rally in Copley Square. Prema Bangera said she was "feeling good" about Biden becoming the president-elect, but said it won't affect her activism.

"Biden winning means nothing in terms of the work that we need to do," she said.

Kamala Harris becoming the first woman of color to become Vice President-elect only gave local activists more incentive to call for racial justice. BLM organizer Monica Cannon-Grant said she also wants to make sure that Harris answers for what she calls a “poor record of criminal justice.” Harris has argued that her views align with the new progressive movement. Still, her record as a prosecutor in California with “tough on crime” politics is shown to be filled with contradictions. A close examination shows that while she pushed for programs helping people find jobs, she also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proven innocent while defending the bay area’s death penalty system in court.

“The DNC should be thanking Black women in Atlanta, South Carolina, and across this country because Black women again have saved them," Cannon-Grant said. "We're going to pull up to the table and have a conversation." She continues to push for more BLM rallies in the hopes of making lasting progress towards racial equality. Still, her advocacy scales much farther than rallies. For Cannon-Grant, this means active involvement in community district meetings for her and her town.

The BLM Boston demonstrations are bigger than just neighborhoods and towns. BLM Boston now has a strong presence on college campuses, despite being relegated to computer screens for most of their events. On November 2, UMass Boston held its first annual Black Lives Matter Day. With their theme “Setting the Foundation” and a donation goal set for the George Floyd Scholarship each year, BLM Day takes an integral step towards fostering a positive community and one that manifests racial equity and positive change among students, said Chancellor Marcelo Suárez-Orozco. The momentous occasion began with three virtual BLM seminars and an in-person memorial, consisting of donated artwork, collages, and a visual timeline of injustices against Black Americans throughout history. Because BLM day proved to be such a big hit, the memorial was extended by another two hours for viewing. The day concluded with the unveiling of a mural done by Lonnie Amado, the Maintenance Supervisor for the Office of Housing and Residential Life, and a virtual ceremony, where faculty member Dr. Joseph Cooper gave a keynote address, talking about students changing UMass Boston for the better. Additionally, the George Floyd Scholarship Fund surpassed its $1,000 goal, with over $1,600 raised. This event was held up by UMass Boston’s very own planning committee, run by Pilar Nelson, Community Director for the UMass Boston Office of Housing and Residential Life.

“This is just one step to creating our campus to be more welcoming to people of all backgrounds, that it's not specifically about Black people per se, but it's one step that we're making to ensure that the campus can be inclusive to all,” Nelson concluded.

There are many different ways that Bostonians can contribute to the cause, especially for the more artistically-inclined. Jorge Morfin, for example, designed a project titled ‘Black Lives Matter in Color.’ Taking over 100 hours to finish, Morfin’s project stands complete at Fields Corner, showing illustrations of 110 people of color who were victims of violence. These photographs include some notable victims like Ahmaud Arbery, Emmett Till, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and dozens of others. Morfin’s project is now available to the public at the corner of Charles Street and Dorchester Avenue. “It’s not just a memorial but a celebration,” he said. In 2021, Morfin has big plans to bring his mural to other Boston neighborhoods.

The city has proved again and again that the Black Lives Matter movement is here to stay. Bostonians still showed their stripes and found a way to show solidarity and support. From demonstrating and protesting, to creating and celebrating, the message of Boston Strong is loud and clear. Activists hope the momentum will continue and theic calls for change will continue to bring upon tangible results. If 5 months of a pandemic won’t relinquish the city’s fire, then it’s hard to imagine anything that will.


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