Mechanism for institutionalizing struggle for space has been urban renewal which began in the South End. Its history is representative of the plight of many inner city ethnic neighborhoods.
1638: First Black slaves arrive in Massachusetts
Early years-West Indian immigrants settled in Lower Roxbury and the South End .The South End became the point of entry for many immigrant – Irish, Portuguese, Albanians, Greeks, Lithuanians, Armenians, Jews, Filipinos, Chinese, Syrians, Lebanese – and U.S. rural Blacks, who filled rooming houses, apartments and tenements.
1820-1873: First development, fashionable area for new commercial class. Building boom crowded around family homes and brick row houses. After the crash much of SE real estate foreclosed, bought up by speculators who became absentee landlords.
1860-1880: Black population doubles as a result of Black people migrating from the South. They lived in the north slope of Beacon Hill.
1900 -1910: A second wave of Black immigration from West Indies, Jamaica and Barbados. Through 19th century, black workers were confined to domestic labor and low skilled manufacturing.
1940: Around 23,000 Black people living mostly in the South end and Lower Roxbury. South End had become the center of jazz clubs, bars.
1950: Rebirth of Mass economy after 50 years of decline, with the advent of high technology industries along Route 128, growth benefited mostly the suburbs but further the inner city decline. Textiles and shoe industries continued to move south and other countries to exploit cheap labor. In Boston, jobs decreased, supply of Black workers increased, but not their skills. Increased Puerto Rican migration and rise of undocumented workers compounded this problem. Black community faced increased segregation from suburban jobs and housing.
1950’s: Puerto Rican community began developing. Through United South End Settlements (USES) Black and Puerto Ricans got involved social, economic, recreation and employment needs. This community began to increase primarily Parcel 19(Tremont and Washington Streets). Real estate and developers and bankers began to to develop their own plans through the BRA for the removal of the Puerto Rican Community.
1960: Master Plan for urban “removal” had begun its job of forcing Black people out of the South End into Roxbury and Dorchester, to accommodate commercial and residential needs of Boston’s banks and insurance companies. Image and structure of power, creation of the “ghetto” image created by city, banking institutions and realtors, reinforced by cutting off resources, deteriorating of buildings and streets. Set stage for beginning to demolish buildings and displacing residents. Gentrification of the SE, Prudential, Copley Place, public and private investment, attractive for young professionals. Many low rent apartments and rooms converted into condos
1961-1963: Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), committee of South End neighborhood reps, local business and institutional leaders began meeting, slant in favor of homeowners. Four years of negotiations over the South End plan, residents (renters) wanted to rehabilitate existing structures rather than tear down their neighborhood, so they could stay.
1966: Estimated 1,730 families and 1820 single people living in the sections of the neighborhood to be closed. New York Streets Boston’s first redevelopment project; families displaced facing dreadful conditions finding affordable replacements.
Turning point from dominance of the service stage to organizing stage: Castle Square residents, Community Assembly for a United south End (CAUSE) functioned as a vehicle for self control and self expression, to involve residents of the community in the decision making process. CAUSE took strong stand on the displacement problem calling for a halt to all BRA relocation, demolition and land acquisition. Actively supporting a number of tenant organizations. Two of them Emergency Tenants Council (ETC) and the South End Tenants Council during the struggle for control of the land PARCEL 19, ETC campaigners wore a button “No nos mudaremos de la Parcela 19”, going door to door. ETC’s struggle intensified with the BRA; Puerto Rican community realized it had to take control of and develop its own housing. The organization developed a plan for redeveloping Parcel 19 which included mixed income housing, on site relocation and public plaza recalling the outdoor gathering spaces of Puerto Rico.
Summer of 1968 – Explosive summer began in Boston weeks after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
April 26 CAUSE members took over BRA’s South End Site office, door nailed shut to protest families’ relocations taking place under the BRA’s urban renewal plans.
April 28, demonstrators, mostly CAUSE members took over Fitz-Inn parking lot bound by Dartmouth, Columbus and Yarmouth Streets, parcel earmarked for development by the BRA. Handsome brick row houses had been razed and the lots paved-over for parking. Protest was linked to CAUSE’s demands for an elected urban renewal committee to allow for community control of urban renewal plans. 23 demonstrators were arrested. Spontaneous Tent City sprang up, people built their own city, with a city hall, town houses, recreation areas, housing and cooking facilities. Tent City was dissolved after 3 days due to internal problems.
From Tent City, residents planned other protests designed to highlight other sites that should be used for housing as soon as possible.
City Council passed resolutions to the effect that:
• An urban renewal body be elected by residents
• Election to be an official city election
• BRA to be directed to undertake renewal activities only with the approval of the elected body; and
• Elected body be delegated the power to subcontract renewal functions and to interest itself in all issues of concern to the SE.
Citizen committees appointed to work to prepare several alternative plans for election process and structures for committees. Tenants had turned out in overwhelming numbers. Established neighborhood associations submitted counter-proposals to the City Council, drastically cutting the power of elected committee from decision making. Heated meeting, community residents disappointed with the lack of initiative taken by the existing community associations or the appointed urban renewal committee. City Council compromise, endorsed by the Mayor and the BRA, stated that the council could not instruct BRA to delegate a specific amount of power to the elected body. This compromise crushed the opportunity for tenants to have a voice in the programs that would affect their housing opportunities. The ordinance gave the BRA a stranglehold over any elected committee’s actions.
CAUSE organized its own action, hold own elections. The People’s Elected Urban Renewal Committee (PEURC) got 3,141 votes. This committee first vote would be to boycott the city elections, sending letters to voters encourage them to withhold participation in the city’s sham. The South End Project Area Committee (SEPAC) and PEURC provided pressure on the BRA for action. SEPAC’s first vote was to suspend all demolition until a survey of buildings to determine which could not be rehabilitated. SEPAC and PEURC pressured BRA that gave way on issues it would never had considered before.
1980 – 1985 Close to 13, 000 private market apartments converted to condos.
Time Line drafted by ;
Revere, MA 02151
We were honored to learn from the wisdom of Mel King’s reflections on the importance of “welcoming all the tribes,” and the need for us reframe the debate about our human rights focusing on the of “all the children as our children.” One example we discussed at the meeting was the Dream Act. Classmates of migrant students need to talk to their parents about this. Likewise, Vanessa Calderon presented similar on the challenges maintain one’s identity in the midst of changes in our neighborhoods.
The next session in July 19 from 9am-12pm will we will continue this dialogue going deeper by addressing the question is what does unity look like and what will it require for today’s struggles. What do we mean when we talk about unity? What assumptions are we making that must be brought to light? Are facing a Tent City like situation today?
Is it the timidity and shyness many humans feel among strangers that keeps us from interacting and engaging more readily in work that could have collective benefits?
What are our the mutual needs and concerns that should cause us to overcome such barriers to working together?
Join the discussion and post your thoughts! Visit www.niaas.org. (for email distribution only).