Yesterday, we took a walk down the block in Roxbury's Nubian Square to talk about how momentum from a big year for Boston's Black communities — including the unveiling of "The Embrace" monument on Boston Common, the NAACP convention and other events — can carry over there.
One person thinking about the economic potential of the area is Nicole Obi, president and CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. The organization recently moved its offices into Nubian Square.
“The investment that's needed is really focused on making sure that Nubian Square evolves into a place to live, work and play,” Obi told GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Paris Alston. “There's so much pent up potential in this area.”
Boston has invested in growth industries like life sciences in other parts of the city, but untapped potential in Nubian Square remains, she said.
“There are 50,000-plus residents in the area who can help us to meet the workforce demand to really drive us to accomplishing our climate sustainability goals and to help to keep Massachusetts at the top in the nation and in the world,” Obi said. “But if we don't effectively engage this really rich opportunity, we're undermining our abilities to really become the Massachusetts that we all want to be.”
Nubian Square has been part of city-wide discussions recently. As Celtics player Jaylen Brown has talked about bringing a Black Wall Street to Boston, Obi and Aisha Francis, president of Franklin Cummings Tech, recently published an op-ed in the Boston Globe calling for it to be built in Nubian Square.
They have not spoken to Brown directly, Obi said. But there are many organizations doing the work, including Roxbury Community College and Franklin Cummings Tech, the Urban League and Twelfth Baptist Church.
A Walk Down the Block:
“He's been talking about this for a while and we've been talking about building Black wealth for a while, and we want to work with other community players in the space,” Obi said. “There are many other organizations that are there to support the evolution of this neighborhood to become what we believe that it can be.”
And neighborhood transformation is possible, Obi said. She mentioned Boston’s Seaport, which was transformed from an industrial area to a residential and commercial center in just a decade.
“I would say that Nubian Square actually has a lot more assets and has a lot to build upon to make it be a really thriving part of the city of Boston, without having it lose what makes it special, which to us is the Black people and our culture," Obi said. “We're excited about being part of that. And we welcome our politicians and others to help us make this happen.”
But it has to be done in a thoughtful way, she said.
“There's so many assets that this area has to build upon, and what's really needed is intentionality and a will to make it happen,” Obi said.