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What makes my neighborhood special

Sep 3, 2020 6:43 PM

Photo Essays

What matters most about the community that you live in is whether you can feel comfortable, welcomed and safe. If you take a walk around the block in Jamaica Plain, I bet that you won’t be able to go more than 10 feet without seeing a sign related to social justice. Whether it’s defending Black lives, supporting the queer community or empowering girls, my town is full of people ready to defend their beliefs, and anyone can walk through my neighborhood and feel welcomed.

This is because my neighborhood is a place full of people eager to change the world in any way possible. Besides just signs at the front of houses, messages are spread in creative ways. Notes written in chalk on the street or sidewalk are impossible to miss. And it can be just enough to give someone a reminder that every voice matters. Although little things like a sign in your front yard or a message in chalk can seem miniature, together they can make a huge difference.

This is a picture of Center Street. Made up of several small businesses, each store has its own character. Together, all the stores make up a wide variety of creative shops loved by everyone. From a mini bookstore with hand-picked choices to a local grocery store, each place is very personal and shaped by the owner’s ideas, not constructed from a branch of a large company. Small businesses are getting hit the hardest by COVID-19, and supporting them during this time has never been more important.

In order to help these stores stay in business, orange lanterns are hung up in front of the places that are open on Centre Street. This small action shows how connected my neighborhood is. Rather than competing against each other, all of the stores are working together and supporting one another. It’s important to learn from this; remembering that hard times will be easier when you help one another. This is one of the many ways that my community has worked to survive the virus: as a family.

The art that surrounds the walls, streets and houses throughout Jamaica Plain is different than anything you’ve ever seen. This is a picture of a mural located right off of Centre Street, one of many murals made by talented people. But more importantly, they are full of character just like each store or the handwritten messages that fill sidewalks. This mural stands out because of the vibrant colors, creativity and intricate shapes. The artwork is obviously personal to the creator but leaves anyone looking at it with the ability to imagine what they want to see.

Massive murals aren’t the only way that artists in JP can publicly display their talent and creativity. Throughout a walk down the Southwest Corridor Park, there are splays of decorated boxes or spray-painted walls that can bring a smile to anyone’s day. The Corridor, which stretches 4 miles long, is a place where people of all ages can walk their dog, go on a run, bike, skateboard or meet up with friends.

Moving on from the spectacular art and fun walking paths, many individual houses and places have their own way of connecting and contributing to the community. This picture shows someone who is selling paintings outside of their house in exchange for optional money donations. The thought put into this is so meaningful and resembles the ways that each person in my neighborhood develops their own idea of how to contribute and be special.

This is another example of a mini-project outside of someone’s house, where you “take a book, leave a book.” This is a system that many houses choose to get involved in, where you can exchange books with others in order to spread education to anyone and everyone. It is also directly helping those who might not have the resources to buy new books, serving almost as a mini-library. Through processes like painting and book exchanges, education and art are spread throughout my community to everyone.

The picture above is showing the contrast between new and old buildings in JP. This neighborhood has gradually been getting gentrified. As buildings are renovated and become much more expensive, it is pushing out the people formerly living there because they can no longer afford rent. As gentrification continues, the things that make my neighborhood special like the personal artwork, small and creative businesses and strong and connected voices will begin to disappear. But this doesn’t have to happen. If we use all the things that make us unique, like our voices and creativity, we can stop gentrification.