Imagine a city where no one stands on the outside, where everyone has dignity and an equal chance. Doers and dreamers are hanging their hopes on efforts like these to make it so.
1) CREATE SPACES WHERE PEOPLE FROM ALL WALKS CONVERGE
What does it take to sustain community in one of Boston’s most culturally and economically diverse neighborhoods? ForSpontaneous Celebrations, a community arts center and coalition in Jamaica Plain, it requires a balance of spontaneity and intentionality: programming that is responsive while building tradition, leadership that reflects the neighborhood’s diversity, and a building whose look and feel actively resists the sweep of gentrification that has transformed the neighborhood.
It doesn’t hurt to have a history of activism, either. In the 1970s, the group’s founders helped initiate a movement that saved large swaths of Boston from being sliced literally in two, defeating the expansion of Interstate 95 and spawning a celebration, Wake Up the Earth, that has grown into a massive spring festival drawing some 10,000 people.
“From the beginning, the intention of Spontaneous Celebrations has been to use the language of the arts to build a community and celebrate what can be accomplished when people from all kinds of backgrounds come together,” says administrative director Marco Goldring. The organization’s second largest gathering, the Jamaica Pond Lantern Parade, rings the pond in a 4,000-person procession of light on two nights in October.
Over the years, the group’s building on Danforth Street has welcomed a wide range of programming from partners — samba and square dancing, social-justice training, dialogues on faith, stilt-walking lessons, martial arts classes, and more. Goldring describes the facility as a physical symbol of the center’s commitment to inclusiveness in the face of growing economic divides.
“We are a place that is designed to be comfortable for everybody, no matter how long or how short they’ve lived in JP and no matter how close to the edge they may be living.”