fb-pixel

NAACP volunteers turn out to beautify, celebrate and uplift the city’s Black communities

NAACP volunteer Raquel Webster posted coronavirus awareness posters at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School on Saturday during a NAACP "Day of Service" event.
NAACP volunteer Raquel Webster posted coronavirus awareness posters at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School on Saturday during a NAACP "Day of Service" event.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Teams of two scattered over three floors at the massive Madison Technical Vocation High School in Roxbury on Saturday, taping up safety signs about social distancing and face coverings next to classroom doors, along hallways, and in bathrooms.

These volunteers turned out for an official Day of Action and Service put on by the NAACP. Volunteers wore dark blue T-shirts with gold lettering that said “Freedom is our Mission.” They divided into teams and descended on neighborhoods, parks, and school buildings in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, Jamaica Plain, and Hyde Park Saturday afternoon.

“Today, we are going to touch, in a very concentrated way, thousands of Boston residents,” said Tanisha Sullivan, president of the NAACP’s Boston branch.

Advertisement



NAACP volunteers prepared to take part in the day of service.
NAACP volunteers prepared to take part in the day of service.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Among the Saturday projects under the umbrella of “Freedom Weekend” were community beautification and cleanup events, as well as voter registration and a phone bank for the US Census. It all served as a precursor to the organization’s 111th national convention, which was headed to Boston in July but got forced online by the pandemic.

It was a natural fit for high school teacher Cherie Pinchem’s volunteer efforts to center on building preparations for the first day of school.

“It’s Aug. 1 and September will be here before we blink,” said Pinchem, who teaches world history and African-American studies at the Boston Latin School.

At the Egleston Square Peace Garden in Jamaica Plain, volunteers dug holes for fresh plantings, plucked weeds, and spruced up the tiny corner park.

The Roxbury contingent met up at 1 p.m. at the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, headquarters of the Boston Public Schools, on Washington Street. There they divvied up into groups heading off to various project sites.

NAACP volunteer Terrell Heyward, of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., handed out meals in Nubian Square on Saturday.
NAACP volunteer Terrell Heyward, of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., handed out meals in Nubian Square on Saturday.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Jaeda Turner, 28, and about 10 of her Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority sisters were headed to Orchard Gardens, a K-8 magnet school, in Roxbury to post “Stop the Spread” and other coronavirus-related signs.

Advertisement



Turner, who works in marketing and lives in Roxbury, said she came for “the satisfaction of knowing that I’m helping someone other than myself.”

When the pandemic foiled the possibility of a traditional in-person convention, it prompted a scramble to reconfigure the event as a virtual one and drove up costs, Sullivan said.

But from the inception of this year’s convention, long before COVID-19, Boston organizers were determined to keep their expectations tempered, Sullivan said.

“We were really focused on not trying to wrap all of our hopes into the event,” she said. “It had to be about the work and the people, and here we are. ... The physical event had to be canceled and what we have left is the work and the people.

“So for our part, our goal in many respects is still being met.”

Leading change makers, policy makers, activists, and organizers will come together online to examine and discuss issues of specific concern to Black communities — police brutality, racism, economic empowerment, and health and wellness.

Also on Saturday, troops of volunteers took to telephones in a US Census phone bank. Callers concentrated on the city’s hardest-to-count neighborhoods to encourage Census participation.

One more group headed to about half a dozen high-traffic MBTA stations to get out the vote and educate voters about mail-in ballot rules and deadlines.

About 500 volunteers signed up in all, Sullivan said.

The celebratory weekend kicked off Friday night with a drive-in soul music concert at Bayside Expo Plaza that not only put a spotlight on Black arts and culture but also provided an economic boost for local vendors, artists, and business owners, Sullivan said.

Advertisement



It had a capacity turnout of 150 vehicles, brilliant live entertainment, and an enthused crowd, she said.

“It was amazing,” Sullivan said. “The production was first rate; everything from top to bottom was wonderful.”

Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.


Tonya Alanez can be reached at tonya.alanez@globe.com or 617-929-1579. Follow her on Twitter @talanez.