Op-Ed: The 2017 State of Our Neighborhood: Community Climate

By SOON Organizing Committee members

For each of the past six years, over 250 Jamaica Plain residents have met at the State of Our Neighborhood (SOON) forum to engage in a meaningful and productive dialogue with our elected officials about crucial community concerns, such as affordable housing, arts and culture, food justice, etc. The event has also provided an opportunity to ask these officials to support specific initiatives and/or legislation. Last year, for example, our request for support for approval of the Community Preservation Act, which provides funding for affordable housing, came to fruition, when Boston voters overwhelmingly approved it.

However, our JP community now faces a drastically changed political environment following last November’s presidential election. Many residents are experiencing threats to their security and safety, and most, if not all of us, are feeling insecure about what the future may hold for us and for our neighbors.

As a result, this year’s SOON will offer a new and different experience for participants, as we work to encourage mutual support and community solidarity. The program, which we are calling Community Climate, is based on the Climate Ribbon, an interactive art installation and community engagement exercise that has been used at environmentally focused events all over the world.

At the SOON we will modify the Ribbon question and ask participants, “What do you love and hope to never lose in Jamaica Plain. The sharing exercise will follow a keynote address focusing on political and social challenges our community faces and how to resist them by Elena Letona, executive Director of Neighbor to Neighbor.

Following Ms. Letona’s words of encouragement participants will move to break out groups, where they will carry out the facilitated Ribbon exercise while focusing on specific topics, including Racial Justice, Housing, Immigration, Faith and Community Engagement, and Arts and Culture. After the sharing of “Love and never lose,” ribbon responses, each break out group will brainstorm ways we can work together as neighbors to protect what is important to us all in a united community.

The evening will conclude with all participants congregating in the Curley School gym to tie their ribbons to a large Ribbon tree. Group facilitators will summarize responses to the “Love and never lose” question and the suggestions for follow-up actions and campaigns we can initiate. These thoughts will be presented, not only to forum participants, but also to our local elected officials, who have been invited to participate in the break out groups. Each official will then be given an opportunity to briefly respond to what the groups have presented.

At the end of the forum, organizers will collect the responses and use them to create a Community Agenda to be presented to our elected officials at a later date.

As every year, we hope many in our community can come and participate on April 27 to build solidarity and to share what we love and hope to never lose in Jamaica Plain.

The State of Our Neighborhood 2017 will take place April 27, starting at 6 p.m., at the Curley K-8 School. SOON Organizing Committee Members are Hyde Square Task Force, Bridges Foundation, Egleston Square Main Street, Christ The King Church, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation, Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center.

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