I remember way back in the day, me and my friends were walking home from school and the police roll up on us. They had said something about thefts in the area and needed our information. We were in like 4th grade none of us had IDs. So one of boys immediately lies about his name the officer picked up on it and then demanded we empty our book bags for something with our names on it. An older black woman pulls over and asks what’s going on, the officers explain they are investigating something and she’s like, well I don’t know what’s going on but I was just headed to get them from the bus stop and she tells us to grab our stuff and come on. We’ve seen her around but didn’t know this woman but in the moment we knew exactly what to do,
We grabbed our bags and got our asses in that car. She spoke with the officers a little longer and she drove us around the corner to my house. It’s what my mother would’ve done, what any of my friends mothers’ would’ve done. We all we got.
There’s plenty of things I don’t miss a out living in the “hood”, the aforementioned police harassment being one, but I do miss that particular sense of community that came with it. The neighbors, the corner store that would let you pay them back on Friday, block parties, basketball tournaments, simply being able to go outside and all my friends were there. For the reputation Boston had as a racist city, I lived in a bubble. I didn’t see the 900% income difference in neighboring towns outside of Halloween. As an adult, I read more about Mandela, Massachusetts; a proposal in the late 70s that would’ve had my neighborhood of Dorchester, as well as the predominantly black nearby areas of Roxbury and Mattapan simply secede from Boston altogether and form it’s own municipality. The city never came into fruition but existed unofficially, as black people in Boston largely lived in our own bubble until one day, white people realized they were commuting 30+ minutes everyday and we lived 10 minutes from downtown with 2 subway lines. Fast forward to now, I live 30 minutes away from my childhood home which would cost at least $650,000 if I was ever feeling so nostalgic. Jesus be a GoFundMe.
I think about all this as I see more and more news stories of ________ while black and having the police called on them. It’s what happens when there’s no community; Susan and Spencer just moved a few weeks ago and doesn’t get how and why people are just on the stoop all day kicking it, or why it’s 9pm and they’re still barbecuing, or they see me walking home in a hoodie and feel uneasy. They don’t even attempt to ingratiate themselves into the community they’ve moved into, they try to force into it’s own likeness. So Fernandez Grocery is turning into a Trader Joes (Full Disclosure, I love Trader Joe’s but that’s not the point). That Jamaican spot that only has oxtail from 11-2:30 on Wednesdays but you love them anyway…now it’s a coffee shop. Didn’t that used to be a dollar store? Well now it’s a froyo spot. And those black people that were on the stoop, well they just keep getting harassed and arrested until they just stop coming around. Now that 3 bedroom that had a family of 4, now is being rented to 3 rad professionals, that totally like the work hard, play hard. One guy cycles a lot and another is in a band. No worries, he doesn’t practice at home. They come, Thanos snap, turn us to dust and brew cold brew with it.
Then there’s me, middle class? Eh, let’s just go with “mid” class black man who can’t afford to buy, can’t afford to rent but can make just enough to get the hell out of there. There’s no soil to sow roots, Boston is becoming more and more the city you just spend your mid to late 20s then go. Racial AND income inequality is a mighty strong cocktail, and so you have a major metropolitan city where the median net worth for a black family is $8.00. Eight. Yes, one digit. Leave or struggle, such a far cry from the city my parents moved to and started a life in in the 80s. I long for the Dorchester that once was, and the Mandela that could’ve been. Where I’m not the only black person on my block, where the corner store at least has a cat. Or maybe we should just all move to a city in Montana and don’t tell *them* about it. What the weather hitting like over there anyway?