The Boston Liberation Center celebrated two years of education and organizing with its third annual block party on Aug. 26 on Blue Hill Avenue in Roxbury. The celebration was held in a vacant lot next to the Center – a lot that will soon become the Harriet Tubman Freedom Park.
Cultural performances featured local cheer team Roxbury Titans and artist-scholar Jorge Arce. Organizers from Teamsters Local 25, UNITE HERE Local 26, the Boston Teachers Union, the Justice for Faisal struggle, Ex-Offenders Unite, the Boston Youth Organizing Project, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation — the BLC’s anchoring organization — presented on and discussed topics from community safety to movement building.
The Harriet Tubman Freedom Park: ‘A seed that grew …‘
Last year, the BLC announced their plan to turn the vacant lot next door into a park stewarded by the community. BLC organizers described the Harriet Tubman Freedom Park as “a seed that grew from the Harriet Tubman House struggle in the South End,” referring to the I Am Harriet Coalition’s fight to save the historic Harriet Tubman House. The Harriet Tubman House was a historic community hub for Black Bostonians on Columbus Avenue that was demolished in 2020 to make way for luxury housing.
“Do we need more unaffordable housing in Roxbury? No!” said organizer Rachel Domond. “What we need is control over our own communities: what is built, what is changed, what is protected.”
Roxbury is a historically Black and Latino working-class neighborhood. Roxbury is also a “heat island,” meaning it’s on average 10 degrees hotter in Roxbury than it is in the surrounding neighborhoods because of the lack of green spaces and trees. Like many working-class neighborhoods, there is also a need for more accessible spaces for socializing and community building, especially for youth and elders.
Last summer, organizers collected over 200 letters of support from local residents to develop the Harriet Tubman Freedom Park. Residents are excited for not only the park, but the potential programming and what it represents in the struggle against gentrification, displacement and racist urban planning. Community members shared their ideas for park programming including yoga classes, art therapy, dance, local history, programs for the youth and elderly, and more.
Groundbreaking is planned for Spring 2024. A community meeting, part of the process of developing community control of the park, is scheduled for Sept. 23 from 1-3pm.
Why a socialist community center?
In our communities, we see countless national and local nonprofits and service-based organizations which can provide temporary aid and support — but ultimately, they do not challenge the capitalist system causing the problems they address.
The Boston Liberation Center stands out with a clear and sincere vision for a new society: socialism. As community organizer Andira Alves said during the We Keep Us Safe Panel, “We’re not just about ‘addressing’ but ending violence in our communities — we can explore and reimagine society.”
“We don’t have a right to housing, food, or any other basic necessity, and we’re conditioned to compete against each other for scraps, rather than to cooperate with each other,” said BLC organizer JD, who moderated the panel. “Under these conditions, it’s no surprise that our communities are divided. This is why, in addition to fighting for short-term improvements, we should fight to replace capitalism with socialism. In a socialist society, political power is in the hands of working and oppressed people, and the top priority is to guarantee everyone a high quality of life.”
“One of the special things about this space is that we are not doing things for our community members, but with our community members,” said BLC organizer Joe Tache. “We know that ordinary people are capable of anything when we come together and stand up for ourselves, and each other.”