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Black Lives Matter Boston

Dear Community,

As we continue to celebrate Black History Month (and again, for BLM Boston that means 365 Black, living Black, reading Black and loving Black everyday of every year), we want to turn our attention to the tiny but mighty space that is the African Meeting House in Boston’s historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, as well as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, located in Harlem, NYC on Malcolm X Boulevard. These are two great examples of small spaces that exemplify how Black people have created opportunities for Black people that have had a mighty impact in our communities. 

African Meeting House and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

The African Meeting House was first built in 1806. It initially served as the African Baptist Church of Boston and is considered the “oldest extant Black church building in America''. The African MeetingThe African Meeting House House was a gathering space for the cultural, educational, and political life of Boston’s Black community. It held classes and community gatherings with speakers such as abolitionists Maria Stewart, Wendell Phillips, Sarah Grimke, and Frederick Douglass. The Massachusetts General Colored Association, “dedicated to ending the dual forces of slavery and discrimination across the country”, the New England Anti-Slavery Society and the New England Freedom Association also met there. In addition, they used the space for meetings and to assist people on the underground railroad.

The Meeting House was used to recruit Black soldiers for the Massachusetts 54th Volunteer Regiment, who fought in the Civil War. The African Meeting House held many community celebrations which included the recognition of the end of the international slave trade as well as commemorating Haitian Independence. The African Meeting House was more than a community center located on Joy street, Beacon Hill Massachusetts. It was the heart of an empowered Black community that resonated care, safety and power.  

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in contrast is post-antebellum (1925) and currently serves as an active library. In the 21st century it is a space that continues the work of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, an Afro-Puerto Rican historian who collected, preserved and studied Black life in America and worldwide. “With the structural erasure of Black spaces, these locations serve as a cultural consortium of the African diaspora in America” (Tone). The Schomburg as a research library also holds artifacts such as rare books, paintings and original texts. The Center has recently acquired an unpublished chapter of the Autobiography of Malcolm X called “The Negro,” which includes brother Malcolm’s original notes! We are not indifferent to the fact that The Schomburg Center is part of the New York Public Libraries system and is in many ways different from the people-run African Meeting House of the 19th century. However, we acknowledge the Schomburg’s existence and importance in centering research on Black History. Like Arturo intended in 1938, the Schomburg Center continues to hold a number of primary sources. Because African history has primarily been an oral one, this location illuminates unique insights on the past giving light to how the times influenced people's feelings, intentions and how they thought about them then.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black CultureDue to both tradition as well as the white gaze as the primary conductor of formal education that mainstream culture studies and teaches today, many researchers look to primary sources to capture as much of Black oral history as they can. The Schomburg features over 11 million items that present the richness of global Black history, arts, and culture. If you visit today, you will find a Jean Blackwell Hutson Research and Reference Division, Manuscripts, Archives, Rare Books, Art, Artifacts, Photographs, Prints, Moving Images, Recorded Sound, Education and Public Programs and a Scholars-in-Residence Program. 

Community organizing has sustained spaces like the Schomburg and the African Meeting House. It is a central element to mutual aid and Black Liberation. Black community spaces center education as a tool to create a better world while offering refuge. In Harlem, like the African Meeting House in Boston, there are scores of traditions where Black people have convened, healed, organized and grown. A legacy we seek to continue to forge. 

What have we been up to this month? 

During Black History Month, our goal is not to repeat the same tired tropes about Black people, or pretend that civil disobedience cured racism, or to even paint a perfect picture of the path to our goals. We wanted to allow history to be the truth teller. We wanted to spark motivation and highlight Black people and events that are lesser known while also telling the story of our liberation. Here are a few of our highlights: 

Henry Highland Garnet

Henry Highland Garnet was born December 23, 1815 in Kent County, Maryland. His Henry Highland Garnetfamily used the underground Railroad to escape slavery. He worked as a deckhand on a merchant vessel to avoid recapture. His friends and schoolmates included Ira Aldrige, Charles Reason and Alexander Crummell. Garnet and his classmates organized the Garrison Literary and Benevolent Association as a strategy to appeal to the masses. The first meeting garnered over 150 African Americans, many who were under 25. Henry became the protegee of Theodore Sedwick Wright. Shortly after he moved to Cannan, New Hampshire, he returned to NYC to further his education after the local white community burned his school to the ground. Garnet graduated from Oneida Institute (1840) and helped to establish the Liberty Party–the first party to have African Americans among their leadership ranks. He published and distributed the Clarion newspaper which, “sought to to aid the Negro in all aspects of his emancipation.” Our work in Boston is informed by his great perseverance.

Afeni and Assata Shakur

Afeni Shakur was a prominent member of the Panther 21, a group of twenty-one Black Panther members from the New York Chapter, who in 1969 were arrested and accused of “planned coordinated bombing and long-range rifle attacks on two police stations and an education office in New York City.” Not only were police, BOSSI and federal agents found to be infiltrators that played key roles in organizing the so-called bombing attempt roles, Afeni Shakur’s advocacy and legal astuteness gained acquittal in May 1971. The jury came back after 45 minutes to read 156 not guilty verdicts in what was, at the time, the longest and most expensive trial in NYC history. 

Defiance and intellect regarding risking her life for long-lasting change is something we remember in our modern fight for liberation. 

The NY 21

Assata Shakur

Assata Shakur was born on July 16, 1947 in Flushing, Queens. After her parents divorce she first moved to Wilmington, North Carolina and lived with her grandparents before moving back to Queens, New York. Before being taken in by her Aunt Evelyn A. Williams, a civil rights worker who lived in Manhattan, Shakur experienced housing insecurity. Aunt Evelyn was described as “very sophisticated and knew all kinds of things. She was right up my alley because I was forever asking all kinds of questions. I wanted to know everything." She also further exposed Shakur to the arts. Assata was fascinated by history, and was frustrated by the oppressive nature of her formal education, "I didn’t know what a fool they had made out of me until I grew up and started to read real history". Her political leaning and activism was sparked when attending the Borough of Manhattan Community College and City College in the mid-1960s. 

You might've heard of the Black community dubbed “Black Wall Street” in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but there were many Black communities that existed throughout the country. What happened to them? They were affected by state sponsored removal like displacement, eminent domain, redlining, gerrymandering and racist white supremacist terror (much of which is sanctioned by the state), for example Tulsa in 1921. We have posted about some of these communities during our Black History Month series. Here are some existing Black communities that you can support today:

"Black people still live here!"

Actively doing the Work

During CurbFest we stressed the importance of advocacy for our Political Prisoners and elders being one of the center points of our movement. BLM Boston continues to lead community efforts through ongoing letter writing campaigns both to them and on their behalf. We also remain active on various campaigns for political prisoners. Learn more about some political prisoners below.

On July 3rd, 1982 Mumia Abu Jamal was unjustly sentenced to death by a racist system despite being factually innocent and legally not guilty. Fear mongering is one of the mechanisms used to keep the elder Mumia incarcerated while attempting to erase him from our concern. Visit the Love Not #Phear website to stay updated on events and efforts to support our goals.

Mumia Abu Jamal - Love Not

We have also been involved in the fight for political prisoner Kamau Sadiki (Fred Hilton), an original Black Panther Party member, to receive proper medical care and freedom. Kamau Sadiki has open infectious wounds, sarcoidosis of the liver, Hepatitis C, malnutrition, and no assigned physician so he is being forced to do his own medical care while being held captive inside of the most notoriously fatal, COVID-19 infected and medically neglectful prison hospital in the United States. Another tactic used to oppress freedom fighters is medical neglect and malnourishment. We saw this weaponized against Russell "Maroon" Shoatz, who unfortunately passed on December 17, 2021 only 52 days after his release. Visit the Free Kamau website to remain involved in this fight. 

Kamau Sadiki

Finally, we want to encourage you to visit to engage with an extensive list of political prisoners that BLM Boston is focused on. The work is everybody's work and it is our priority to ensure their safety and bring them home.

In Solidarity, 

BLM Boston

“Neither God, nor angels, or just men, command you to suffer for a single moment. Therefore it is your solemn and imperative duty to use every means, both moral, intellectual, and physical that promises success.”

– Henry Highland Garnet

“That's just the way life is. We have to be willing to pay the price. You have to be willing to pay the price for what's right - and for what we do wrong.

– Afeni Shakur

“It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win.

– Assata Shakur, Assata: An Autobiography

For more information, and our Community Calendarhere are some links

The Freedom Georgia Initiative

Downtown Crenshaw

The Black Block

BLM Boston Community Calendar
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