Highlight on Activism: Dorchester People for Peace

The Dorchester Think Tank is starting a new segment to highlight those who are activists in our community. Dorchester is one of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city and we want to illuminate the contributions of our fellow residents who are on the ground making our community and world better. Our first featured group is Dorchester People for Peace.

For years Dorchester People for Peace has been organizing opposition to the war in Iraq and US militarism in general. Their mission states they are building, "a multi-racial peace movement throughout the neighborhoods of Dorchester that can work against the war at home, including violence, budget cuts, racism and political repression." Recently, Dorchester People for Peace held a protest against President Obama's expansion of the war in Afghanistan, sadly only a few media outlets covered it (NECN for example), but never-the-less their activism needs to be commended. Every year we have seen this group tirelessly marching in anti-war protests on Boston Common and in the Dorchester Day Parade. As the radical historian Howard Zinn has said, "the day must come when there will be justice for women, for people of color, for the poor of the world, when the stupidity of war will be recognized, and military machines dismantled, and the world made safe for children." In a sentence this is the essence of the Dorchester People for Peace.

To find out more about Dorchester People for Peace or attend their meetings, check out their website: www.dotpeace.org


ADORE-chester! Top 5 Reasons Why Dorchester Is Progressing Boston Forward

Boston is America’s quintessential colonial city with its old world charm and quaintness, but it is also the country’s bastion for progressive reform. The last decade has brought many changes to Boston, pushing this hub of the universe into the next century. Dorchester Think Tank focuses on community change and activism, so our theme for our ADORE-chester! project posting is reasons why Dorchester is the neighborhood that leads the way on progressing Boston forward!

1. Dorchester is about social improvement. From the health care centers (like the Codman Square Health Center and Dorchester House, to improvements of our wonderful city parks (like Dorchester Park, Ronan Park, and Franklin Park, improvements to our thoroughfares (Dorchester Avenue Project), our plentiful farmer’s markets (Dorchester Farmers Markets), and urban farms (The Food Project and Revision Farms), we care about our neighbors' health and livelihood.

2. Dorchester is green. From environmentally sensitive restaurants like Ashmont Grill and dbar, to the always active DotBike, and transit-oriented and green building projects (such as The Carruth) in the neighborhood, and the thousands of Dorchesterites that ride the Red Line daily, we are doing our part to help make this world more sustainable.

3. Dorchester is one of the most politically active neighborhoods in the city. You can’t have an election without seeing the thousands of signs lining the avenues. You can’t vote in this neighborhood without shaking (or quickly dodging) the hands of many of Boston’s pols. And more importantly, you can’t win a citywide office without courting our neighborhood’s residents.

4. Dorchester supports its locally owned businesses. Whether it is family owned restaurants, the neighborhood mechanic, local hardware stores, or small ethnic groceries, Dorchesterites know supporting locally owned businesses is key to our neighborhood’s economy. It also means trying to avoid chains, who often take from us and not give us anything in return.

5. Dorchester is the most diverse neighborhood in Boston – and we love it that way! Dorchester’s cosmopolitan population makes us feel like we are walking through the United Nations everyday. Our ancestors came from so many different places: Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, South and East Asia, and Latin America, and we have made Dorchester that great salad bowl, were our cultures retain their individual characteristics, but also interact in a smaller version of globalism.

To read the other ADORE-chester! postings, please check out their blogs:
Lower Dot
The Dottie Hottie
The Dot Matrix
Dot Boston
Local Spice
Candeliera Silva
Social Butterfly Experiment
Greening of Dorchester


#9 Expand Grocery Options for Dorchesterites

Dorchester (and the rest of Boston) should follow the lead of cities like Paris, Tokyo, New York, Montreal, and even New Haven, Connecticut and promote development in their small grocery stores. In each of these cities you can't walk more then 5 or 6 city blocks without running into a small grocery store (often they are family-run or locally-owned). Although Dorchester is ahead of many other Boston neighborhoods with its growing number of ethnic shops run by our Vietnamese, Latino, Caribbean, Greek, and Irish residents, sadly for many Dorchesterites there are no grocery stores in walking distance and the nearby convenient store is where they must purchase most of their food. As a result, many of our fellow residents are essentially forced to have unhealthy diets. We encourage:

1. Local entrepreneurial-minded people to consider opening grocery stores in Dorchester that carry healthy and organic options (one good example is Jamaica Plain's Harvest Co-op) and small grocery stores in sections that have a major shortage of healthy food options.

2. The establishment of more ethnic eateries that carry the produce and products that many of our immigrant and migrant residents desire (after all Dorchester is Boston's more cosmopolitan neighborhood).

3. Dorchester demands the chains that offer reasonably-priced healthy and organic produce to our neighborhood, such as Trader Joe's (see our Lower Dot posting) or Foodie's Market. This also includes persuading our grocery conglomerates (Shaws and Stop and Shop) to carry more healthy and organic products (When I go into the Shaws or Stop and Shop in the 'burbs, they always seem to have a better selection of everything, why is that?).

4. In the warmer months, support the many farmers markets throughout Dorchester (and help the local farmers) at Bowdoin Square, Codman Square, Dorchester House, Fields Corner, Franklin Park, and Peabody Square or join a Dorchester farm share like Re-Vision Urban Farm or The Food Project.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

(Pictures of (top to bottom) Dorchester markets taken by the Dorchester Reporter, a grocery store in Paris, and Trader Joe's)


New Choir in Dorchester?

Peter Vaughan, a Dorchester resident and member of numerous Boston choirs is interested in finding others who want to organize a Dorchester choir. If you are interested, please contact him at bachfan23@gmail or petevaughan@gmail.com.


Follow Up: A World Class Zoo

Back in June of 2008, we suggested that Zoo New England close the Stone Zoo to strengthen its focus on the Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester (the much larger of the two, located in the heart of Boston's Franklin Park). We have to admit we did not come up with this idea, it has been something we have heard from our neighbors for years. Finally, the Boston media has joined us in this idea.

Globe Article: One Zoo, Not Two

Original Post: A World Class Zoo


Dorchester Community Websites

Chad Baker, Melville Park resident, suggests we spotlight several websites that have sprung up allowing people in Dorchester to communicate and participate in the community. We encourage you to visit... Neighbors for Neighbors Dorchester, SCI Dorchester, and DotWell.


#8 More Art in Dot

All great neighborhoods support their artists and have their share of great public art! Of course we have the Gas Tank on the Expressway, the many street murals along Dorchester and Blue Hill Ave., the Edward Everett Square Clapp Pear, and the soon-to-be Peabody Square Moon. With organizations like Dot Art and Dorchester Arts Collaborative and the many artist studios throughout the neighborhood, Dot has its share of art, but could use more! Here are some suggestions for increasing the art in Dot:

1. More public sculptures. There should be sculptures at all of the various squares throughout Dorchester (especially along the main thoroughfares of Dot Ave., Blue Hill Ave., Columbia Road, and Adams Street). It would allow the public to engage with art on a regular basis and would draw attention to the squares. Downtown Boston is filled with statues of the Brahmins of yore, let's make Dorchester known for modernist sculptures. It would be like an outdoor museum!

2. Expand the Mayor's Paint Box program to paint most of the utility boxes in Dorchester and put more murals on the sides of our buildings. This makes the neighborhood seem artsy, while deterring graffiti.

3. Increase opportunities for the non-visual arts. Let's have more events with musical acts and theater, as well as performance art. From the newly renovated Strand Theater to more performances in our parks, let's do more to help these artists as well.

4. Have more local art on display in our Dot Businesses. This is already the case at places like the Ashmont Grill, Dot-2-Dot Cafe, and the Flatblack Coffee Company. This helps support the artists and adds a nice local flare to area businesses.

5. Continue supporting our local artists! Attend the annual Dorchester Open Studios and Arts in the Park at Dorchester Park. Donate to Dot Art and the DAC, and buy works from our many Dorchester-resident artists (see the links on this page).

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.


Follow Up: Improve Public Transit in Dorchester

The Dorchester Reporter and other news outlets report that the state will receive $100 million federal stimulus project to greatly improve public transportation along Blue Hill Avenue from Mattapan to Dudley Square, including a new connection to South Station via the current Silver Line. Although this is not quite the Indigo Line, it seems to be a step in the right direction. However, there is a debate whether this will actually be rapid transit or a glorified traditional bus route. It is key that the state implement the following in any design of a Silver Line extension: dedicated bus only lanes in the center of Blue Hill Ave. (like the Green Line trolleys), heated enclosed stations, signals timed to give buses the right-of-way, and no required transfers between Mattapan Station and South Station with minimal stops along the route. The people of western Dorchester deserve rapid transit!


Follow Up: Dorchester More Bike Friendly

Things continue to look better for bikers (although certainly talk is one thing and action another), but the Dorchester Reporter is making it sound like Dorchester Ave. getting bike lanes is closer than ever and there is even more talk of rental bikes coming to town. There is also a pending lawsuit mentioned in the article and if it prevails, biking from Edward Everett Square to downtown safely will be possible via a bike lane on Mass. Ave. in northern Dorchester. As far as the rest of the neighborhood, it seems things are looking less hopeful (especially for Talbot Ave. or Blue Hill Ave., which are equally in need of bike lanes). Consider writing the city about increasing bike lanes throughout the neighborhood.

Reporter Article: Mayor's bike plan draws support, and criticism


#7 Improve Public Transit in Dorchester

With the Boston Globe reporting T ridership at its highest level in the agency's history despite dropping gas prices, and concern that so many people are using the red line that they are creating seat-less trains to hold more passengers, the MBTA must do several important things to hold on to this new increased ridership.

More people ride the Red Line daily than any other subway line. Dorchester residents make up a large portion of those riders and several of the city's busiest bus lines exist in our neighborhood. Dorchester is the largest and most diverse neighborhood in the city and must be a priority for the MBTA.

1. Create the Indigo Line: It is both an important and thoughtful idea to get more people from Somerville and Medford to take the T into the city instead of their cars through an extension of the Green Line, but more people in Dorchester rely on public transit as their only means of transportation and deserve a rapid transit in the western side of Dorchester. This could be addressed through the Indigo Line Plan. Providing rapid transit with more stations, where currently there is a commuter rail, would give daily, reliable, and fast transit to downtown for thousands.

2. Improvements to Red Line: Consider running more red line trains, run trains later (perhaps until 2:30 am, even if they are infrequent after midnight), and for Ashmont station have the next train wait at the platform (like they do in Braintree and Alewife) providing a seat and protection from the weather for passengers. Finally, better time the Mattapan-Ashmont trolley to drop off passengers just before the next inbound Red Line train leaves and hold trolleys to Mattapan if an outbound Red Line train has just arrived.

Do you think this is a good idea? Rate below.

(Pictures of the new Ashmont Station, proposed Indigo Line, and outside the new Fields Corner Station)