Snow Day Brings LeadBoston Class of 2018 Together
Few activities bring people together like trudging through snow in an unfamiliar neighborhood.
Each year, LeadBoston kicks off its year of social-equity focused program days by grouping participants together and sending them to parts of Boston they know little about. During the 2018 LeadBoston orientation the week before, each class member ranked the neighborhoods they had spent the least amount of time in. On January 17th, despite snow falling, the Class of 2018 showed up ready to explore Boston’s neighborhoods.
The class day, entitled “Exploring Boston’s Neighborhoods,” aimed to orient participants to many different areas of Boston, and to help them consider how social inequities “show up” in these communities. The 41 class members come from a variety of Boston’s industries, live all over metro-Boston, and represent many races and ethnicities. With this day as a launching point, the Class of 2018 is able to not only discover what they do and don’t know about social equity in Boston, but also learn about the backgrounds of their fellow participants.
Dr. Barry Bluestone, Founding Director of the Dukakis Cener for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, helped kick off the morning by helping the class become acquainted to how Boston’s demographics have shifted since 1950, as well as the impact of Boston’s history with redlining. He outlined the pressing housing needs Boston has, including an increased need for small apartments, as more young people and aging Baby Boomers settle in the city.
At 10:30am, LeadBoston took to the snow-covered sidewalks. In groups of five to seven people, the class split up to visit Allston, Charlestown, Chinatown, Dorchester, East Boston, Mattapan, and Mission Hill. They were asked to discover as much as they could about their assigned neighborhood, from the condition of the parks to the cost of broccoli. They explored the businesses in the neighborhood, the types of housing offered, and, before returning to the large group, they ate lunch for under $15 per person.
When the groups returned, they shared back to other groups what they found in each neighborhood. They discussed the identity of each neighborhood, how many police officers they encountered, how politically engaged residents seemed, and much more. Participants remarked that the activity helped them addresses their own biases and misconceptions about various parts of Boston. Not only did the day’s activity help the class learn more about Boston’s neighborhoods, it also brought them together and helped them get to know their fellow classmates.
Participating in LeadBoston can be a challenging experience. It often requires participants to examine the ways they’ve upheld social inequities in the past, and asks them to find ways to contribute to making Boston better for all. This requires vulnerability and asks participants to trust their teammates. Many class members expressed how excited they were to get to know their small group, and that their expedition helped them feel more connected to the class as a whole.
While the snow isn’t typical for this first program day, it created a bond between participants to build on throughout the year.
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