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Roxbury residents celebrate their neighborhood with Unity parade

Barbara J. Ward of Dorchester walked in Sunday’s parade, shielded from the sun by her parasol.
Barbara J. Ward of Dorchester walked in Sunday’s parade, shielded from the sun by her parasol.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Toy Burton noticed that some Boston neighborhoods held parades to celebrate their residents — but hers, Roxbury, did not.

So on a rainy morning last July, she gathered friends and neighbors for the first Roxbury Unity Parade. And on Sunday, despite the overwhelming heat, she and the Roxbury Unity Committee gathered again to put on another parade.

“Usually when they show Roxbury on the news, it’s when there are shootings, and we’re more than that, Burton said.

“It is important that the people who are doing good in the community are being recognized and uplifted, so the kids that are watching have something to aspire to,’’ she added.

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Dozens of people came to walk in the second annual parade or celebrate at its end with live music and snow cones at Malcolm X Park.

The parade was for Roxbury residents, but also for people who had never been to the neighborhood, Burton said. She hoped that in the future, tourists milling around downtown will hop on the Silver Line to Dudley Square to see the parade, spend a few dollars at a local business, and meet locals.

“We want them to do that, we want them to come into town on the third weekend in July and say, ‘The Roxbury unity parade is going on; let me come into Roxbury,’ ” Burton said.

Caroline Kimball-Katz (left) greeted US Representative Ayanna Pressley on Sunday.
Caroline Kimball-Katz (left) greeted US Representative Ayanna Pressley on Sunday.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

US Representative Ayanna Pressley, who was honored with a Pillar of the Community Award for her work in Congress, rattled off a list of historical figures who have passed through Roxbury including Mel King, the mayoral candidate and community leader; Alfreda Harris, the former Boston School Committee member; and Melnea Cass, the civil rights activist.

“I want our young people to know the soil in which they are rooted in,” Pressley said. “This incredible community that is Roxbury has such an incredible history of contributing to the arts, to innovation, to business.”

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State Representative Liz Miranda, who grew up in Roxbury, said Burton’s passion inspired her last year.

“I saw so much love for her community in her,” Miranda said Sunday, after accepting her own award from the committee and greeting constituents.

“She made sure that Roxbury is remembered, and people know that it matters. I’m just happy to be here to say to her, ‘See how your dream has moved forward?’ ’’

Dancers twirled batons and moved gracefully for Roxbury residents and others.
Dancers twirled batons and moved gracefully for Roxbury residents and others.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Before the parade, children got their faces painted in front of Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and dancers from 4 Star Dance Studio in Dorchester huddled in the shade.

Organizers and volunteers wore T-shirts with the parade committee’s logo — a burst of black, red, and green leaves, which Burton also had painted on her cheek.

“Immigrants came to this community back in the day,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said. “Civil rights fights were on these streets. There’s just so much history in Roxbury, and people are great here. It’s the heart of the city — literally, the heart of the city. When you’re in Dudley Square, you’re in the middle of the city.”

The parade felt like a homecoming to Chervon Montgomery, 37, who has lived in Roxbury all her life, she said.

“It’s just nostalgic for me. And I know everybody,” Montgomery said. “Like, I know everybody. Everybody has a familiar face to me.”

Edith Esterene stood on Washington Street, down the street from her home of 36 years, watching the Roberto Clemente 21 Dancers twirl batons and dance down the road.

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“I love it, love it, love it,” Esterene said. “We need it. We need this.”

Sanaii Johnson, 12, of Roxbury got her face painted by Vladimir Smith of Dorchester.
Sanaii Johnson, 12, of Roxbury got her face painted by Vladimir Smith of Dorchester.Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/Globe Staff

Contact Gal Tziperman Lotan at gal.lotan@globe.com.