For years, the commuter rail passed by but never stopped at Dorchester’s Four Corners, another slight for a part of town that was largely ignored. Drug deals and gang violence dominated life there. Outsiders avoided it, residents wanted to leave— who could blame them?

For the past 20 years, Marvin Martin has devoted most of his waking hours to changing the reputation and the reality of this neighborhood.

“If you’ve got 4,000 thousand households, which in Four Corners there are, and you got a couple of houses going buck wild, that’s two out of 4,000 thousand households,” said Martin. "So the majority of people are good, hard-working people. So you just gotta organize them."

And as the man behind the Greater Four Corners Action Coalition, that’s exactly what he’s done: mobilized residents and politicians to push out gangs and bring in parks, housing and business.  

Now every corner of Four Corners is attracting development, and residents are buying instead of renting.

"And that’s part of the change in attitude in this community," he said. "It’s not coming from some benevolent person saying let’s do this for the neighborhood. It’s the neighborhood saying this is what we need done."

There is more work to do, and a younger generation, inspired by Martin, to take it on.  

"He taught us how to be better organizers and how to actually be an agent for change in this world,” said community organizer Mela Bush-Miles, who grew up in Four Corners. “I think there should be a walk of fame for all the people for all the people who have changed this community, and if we could get a walk of fame, and if we could get some stars into the sidewalk, I’d like to see that happen and Marvin get the first one."

The signs of his success are everywhere. It took more than a decade for the community to make it happen, but these days, when the train comes through, it stops.  

It’s easier than ever to leave Four Corners, but now there’s a reason to come back.

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