A Tale of Two Bostons

A couple of weeks ago I was among the many who participated in the Poor People’s Campaign’s “Spill the Tea Tour”, also known at the Truth & Poverty tour, in Boston. It was an educational tour meant to bring awareness to to the plight of poor and homeless people – an issue that is ignored – to the forefront. As the bus carrying us proceeded through the city I couldn’t help but notice some startling but obvious differences.

Dudley Station is the busiest bus depot in Boston, but it’s upkeep by the MBTA and the City of Boston leaves a lot to be desired. Dudley Square is one of the poorer sections of Boston, and many businesses have closed here. Still,  there are plans to gentrify this section of the city — this seems to be the case with all the neighborhoods that are home to Boston’s black and brown communities.

Further  up the street toward the South End, close to “Methadone Mile,” we stopped at an elementary school. Children spoke of finding needles nearby, including in the parks where they play. For some reason, the powers that be decided to place a needle disposal box close to areas filled with children. Who decide that move made any sense?  

Of course Methadone Mile is littered with the pain and suffering of addiction, and many are also mentally ill and, of course, homeless. As you make your way up the street, you are struck by Boston’s beautiful skyline and then you’re right in the thick of it.

Our final stop was the Back Bay/Copley Square neighborhood, which is surrounded by pristine glass towers and thriving businesses. From the Square to Downtown Boston, the streets were filled with shoppers and tourists going on about their day while the poor and homeless struggle just to survive the moment. It is indeed a tale of two cities.

You have black, brown, and poor whites living in abject poverty in poor neighborhoods. In these areas there is addiction, gun violence and homelessness. There’s little to no investment from the city, no jobs, and those that have jobs are not making anything close to a living wage. On the other hand, you have a city where the rich and powerful live in the lap of luxury. There is indeed something morally wrong with this picture, when school children are afraid to play in the park across the street, where grandmothers are shot just sitting on their front porch, where addicts can’t get treatment when they want it, where people can’t get housing or suitable healthcare. Something is wrong.  

We need to address this. All people, no matter their race or what their standing is in life, should have their needs met. We need to organize those at the bottom to gain real power. If not there will always be two Bostons.

James Shearer

James Shearer is a writer and co-founder of Spare Change News.