Good Things Happen in Roxbury

Sylvia Ferrell-Jones, YW Boston President & CEO

This week, the Urban League is hosting its national conference in Boston.  This pioneering, largely black organization last visited our city 35 years ago, when the annual conference came to Boston to demonstrate solidarity with the local black community during the city’s school busing crisis.  It is well known that Boston has an image as a city that it is not welcoming, and a recent national opinion survey revealed that African Americans rank Boston at the bottom of 9 metropolitan areas when it comes to being hospitable to persons of color.  Those who had actually visited Boston had a lower opinion than those who had not.

On Tuesday, Mayor Menino held a reception to welcome the Urban League conventioneers to Boston.  While most of the conference activities will be held at the convention center, this event was at Hibernian Hall in the heart of Roxbury’s Dudley Square.  The Mayor thought it important that visitors see not only our impressive downtown skyline, but also a vibrant, mostly African American neighborhood.  Guests at the reception included many business and civic leaders, along with a substantial number of state and local elected officials.  As I left Hibernian Hall and walked down Dudley Street toward my car, a woman stopped me to ask what was happening inside the hall.  She noted the numerous police motorcycles and cars parked on the street, and asked if I had been at the funeral of a police officer.  Fortunately, I was able to tell her that this was a celebratory occasion welcoming the Urban League’s national conference to Boston.  I explained that the Mayor and organizers wanted to make sure that convention attendees saw a part of the community outside of the downtown area.  The woman shared this news with two others who had been watching and wondering with her.  One commented, “They should put that on the news.  Good things happen in Roxbury too, not just people getting shot.”

I agree with her comment.  There has been much in the press about the presence of the Urban League conference in Boston after so many years, and also about the terrible violence on some of our city streets.  But as my new acquaintance so aptly pointed out, good things happen in Roxbury, too.  We should all be paying attention.