Over 100 people gathered at the Boston Liberation Center on Aug. 21 to celebrate the organizing center’s first anniversary. The Boston Liberation Center is a working class community center located at 194 Blue Hill Avenue in the heart of Roxbury, a historically Black neighborhood and one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston.
The anniversary event drew attendees from throughout the Greater Boston area and from out of state for a day of cultural performances, political programming, local food, and to build relationships with their neighbors. The Boston branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation anchors the BLC, and organized the celebration.
Since its grand opening in August 2021, the working class community center has been home to regular political and educational events, community discussions, a library, film screenings, tenant and labor organizing, and shares the space with other local organizations such as Jericho Movement Boston and the Black Men’s Collective.
Labor organizers say, “When we fight, we learn!”
Inside the center, local organizers reflected on the successes and challenges of struggles the Boston Liberation Center and its volunteers have been involved with.
Recent Malden High School graduate Armani Dure first connected with the BLC during the Malden community’s fight against the mass firing of 105 teachers in June. Dure organized a student walkout and picketed a school board meeting with peers, teachers, and community members, supported by volunteers from the BLC.
Speaking about his experience organizing his classmates, Dure said, “Everyday people can be moved to action through conversation and a little bit of pushing.”
Other community speakers included Northeastern University dining hall workers and airport workers represented by Unite Here Local 26, and members of the MIT Graduate Student Union.
Commemorating Black August
Black August is honored every year to commemorate the fallen freedom fighters of the Black Liberation Movement, to call for the release of political prisoners in the United States, to condemn the oppressive conditions of U.S. prisons and to emphasize the continued importance of the Black Liberation struggle.
In commemoration, artists and organizers Joseph Jabir Pope and Al performed a song that was Pope’s anthem during his 37 years of wrongful imprisonment at Norfolk Correctional Facility. Pope is founder and president of a group of formerly incarcerated people called Ex-Offenders Unite. He spoke about his experience in prison and the importance of continuing the fight against the U.S. carceral system:
“It falls on us to shine a constant light on what they’re doing in prisons. If we don’t, they’ll continue to get away with it.”
A place to gather for art and culture
Many of the day’s activities happened not only inside the center but in the vacant city lot next door. BLC volunteers have been taking care of the lot since 2019, and earlier this summer collected over 200 letters of support from the local community. They submitted the letters with a bid for ownership of the lot to the city.
Attendees were invited to help paint a community mural, dubbing the lot The Harriet Tubman Freedom Park. The park is named in honor of the struggle for the Harriet Tubman House in the South End, which was demolished in 2020 to make way for luxury condos.
In the Park, Afro-Latino multidisciplinary artist, actor, and scholar, Jorge Arce, gave a history of African instruments from across the diaspora before inviting audience members to make music with him.
The Boston Dabke Troupe taught some basic steps and brought the crowd together for a community dance. The troupe performs the traditional Palestinian dance the Dabke at protests and events around the city.
Women report back from Cuba and Venezuela
The anniversary celebration closed out with a panel of women organizers from the Party for Socialism and Liberation and the BLC reporting back from their recent trips to Cuba and Venezuela.
All three panelists denounced the mass media and U.S. government’s lies about these socialist countries and gave on-the-ground insight into the numerous successes of both, especially in regards to women’s liberation. In both countries, women are active and respected leaders in the continued fight for socialism, taking up jobs as doctors, community representatives, government advisors and other roles that have long been male-dominated in the United States.
PSL organizer Rachel Domond recently visited Venezuela as part of the Alexandra Kollontai International Feminist Brigade. “As a woman in the United States, seeing Venezuelan women taking their lives into their own hands and building their own society is such a critical lesson to bring back.”
Happy first birthday and many more to the Boston Liberation Center!
After a successful anniversary celebration, organizers with the Boston Liberation Center remarked that the work was only beginning.
Down the street, Tenants at 225 Blue Hill Ave continue to fight for better living conditions with support from BLC volunteers. Union workers with Local 26 and the Malden Teachers Association are entering struggles for new contracts. BLC volunteers will continue to keep the Harriet Tubman Freedom Park clean and usable for the Roxbury community while they wait to hear news on their bid from the city.
As the event came to a close, PSL organizer Kim Barzola reminded the crowd of their collective power and duty to continue the work.
“Each generation needs to find their own way to make these struggles their own,” she said. “Not just demanding an end to the capitalist system that undergirds all this oppression, but actively fighting to build a real socialist alternative here in the belly of the beast. The people united will never be defeated!”
Contact the Boston Liberation Center:
Phone: (617) 858-1522
Email: [email protected]
Address: 194 Blue Hill Ave, Roxbury MA 02119
Walk-In Hours: Tues. 4-8 p.m., Wed. 4-8 p.m., Fri: 1-6 p.m. and Sat. 10 a.m.-4 p.m.