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Parks Equity & Spatial Justice Projects come to Boston Greenspace!

Olmsted Now

| 7 min read

For the 2022 Bicentennial, $205,000 in Olmsted Now Parks Equity & Spatial Justice Grants will fund 16 inspiring proposals from local creatives! Check out who, when, where, why and how these projects will come to life through October.

Rather than focus exclusively on the history or landscapes of Frederick Law Olmsted, Olmsted Now invites all to explore the contemporary relevance of Olmsted’s legacy values: shared use, shared health and shared power across all parks and public space. Olmsted Now’s core grant program has been likewise values-driven: parks equity and spatial justice guiding the process in which decisions are centered in community and resources are de-centered across neighborhoods.

Grant decisions were made by the Committee of Neighborhoods: trusted Boston neighborhood leaders respected for their commitment to amplifying under-heard voices and under-resourced open spaces with a dedication to opportunity, advocacy and justice. Inspired by Olmsted’s vision of parks as places to “Come together and be seen,” the grantmaking is supported by the “Come Together” Fund of the Emerald Necklace Conservancy Board and the broader Olmsted Now coalition.

The Committee ultimately chose to allocate $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000 grants to projects that strive to “turn the idea of parks equity into strategic action.” The Committee received 87 proposals totaling $1,175,000 in requested funding – nearly six times the granting capacity – a testament to both the deep talent and overwhelming and outsized demand for more culturally inclusive, neighborhood-determined greenspace programming in Boston.

A grant review task force of the Committee of Neighborhoods selected projects with the potential to make the most revitalizing or reparative impacts on Boston public space across cultural scope, scale and format. The task force also strove to fund both projects that might expand already highly admired programs into locations needing new voice or visibility, and those that launch new initiatives in established and highly visible locations. The use of artistry and greenspace sites to amplify each other was a prime consideration.

When and Where:
Awarded projects will take place across more than 10 Boston neighborhoods in the remainder of the Bicentennial season, July – October 2022.

Here are the Project Leads and their Proposals:

The grantees bring a vast range of experience to their proposals: some have built trust in Boston over many decades, while others are testing terrain to mark new chapters in greenspace activation and spatial justice. Each proposes to engage participants through intersections of movement, making, music, storytelling, ritual, history-keeping and future-making. Cultural affirmation and themes of healing and revitalization run through all of the projects

“We’re so grateful to the Olmsted Now Committee of Neighborhoods,” said Christine Nguyen of Asian Community Development Corporation. “Chinatown Backyard has been a refuge and space for connection and creativity for the community since its inception a few years ago. This grant will help us usher in its next phase of community gardening and arts and culture.”

Writer and educator Nakia Hill said of her proposal to publish a book featuring stories of women and girls of color and their connections to Boston parks, “I think this is a really great way to archive Olmsted’s legacy and for community members to have an intimate keepsake for future generations to look back on their Boston park experiences.”

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Andre Strongbearheart Gaines Jr. (, @no_loose_braids)
Proposal: Indigenous cultural revitalization in Boston, making a mishoon (traditional canoe) as a bridge between the Nipmuc and Massachusett tribe.

Anita Morson-Matra (, @a_anita_anita_a) with Jean Appolon Expressions

Proposal: “Baldwin in the Park”—Collective Healing through Movement & Meaning, featuring Baldwin texts & AfroHaitian rhythm to guide relationship building & explore/reclaim freedom in parks.

Asian Community Development Corporation (, @asiancdc)

Proposal: Hudson Street Stoop/Chinatown Backyard ongoing antidisplacement series in which residents collaborate with artists to recreate “stoop culture.”

Boston Liberation Center (, @bostonliberationcenter)

Proposal: 1-year anniversary celebration & reflection event on public land with local food, music/art & family activities for a working-class community center.

Bridgeside Cypher (, @bridgecyph)

Proposal: Public Outdoor Hip Hop Open Mic Series cypher sessions to expose & invite passersby of all backgrounds to celebrate the energy of live hip-hop.

[photo credit: DigBoston]

Dzidzor Azaglo & Crystal Bi Wegner (, @dzidzorazaglo;, @crystalbi_b)

Proposal: Wilderness Project, an interactive art installation inviting participants to write ancient and new prayers, proverbs, and poems on ribbons tied to woven structures of Asiatic Bittersweet vines. Sept 30- October 7

Hyde Square Task Force (, @hydesquaretf)

Proposal: “Afro-latin cultural affirmation”—live concert, new visual arts activities by BIPOC artists, mural celebrating Latin music and youth dance performances across 3 locations.

Ife Franklin (, @ife_franklin_slave_narrative)

Proposal: A processional at Copps Hill Burial Ground, North End Sunday September 25, 1-3:30pm to communally honor gravesites & bring justice to the ancestral spirits of Boston’s enslaved African Americans.


Karen Susan Young, Mica Rose and Mel Taing with elders of Older & Bolder and Elizabeth James-Perry (, @karensusanyoung)

Proposal: “Taiko and the Parks”—3 events led by an intergenerational team to center Boston elders, acknowledge our lands, share sustainable gardening practices, and celebrate the power of taiko to hold and highlight our green spaces.

Kera Washington/Zili Misik with sculptor Walter Clark (, @zilimisik)

Proposal: Festival to highlight Afro-diasporic arts with interactive dance workshops, performances by 4 music troupes & temporary installation of sculpture.

[photo credit: Michel Dessources, Jr.]

Linda N. Wells (, @lindawellnesswarrior)

Proposal: Platform for Black and indigenous yoga practitioners to lead.

MetaMovements Latin Dance (, @metamovements, @ladyelipabon)

Proposal: “Salsa in the Park”—bringing live performance & dance instruction for people of all abilities & backgrounds back to where it all began in Boston’s South End in 2008 & to Jamaica Plain.

Nakia Hill (, @nakia_hill)

Proposal: “Writing our truth in the Park”—intergenerational workshops for BIPOC women and girls to write about their memories and relationship to Boston parks. Their nonfiction stories will be eligible to be professionally bound in a published book.

Ngoc-Tran Vu with Asian American Resource Workshop (, @tranvuarts)

Proposal: Public interactive arts exhibition (local music, mural, food, stories) to amplify critical spatial justice & displacement issues within the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

Robert Peters & Erin Genia (;, @emgenia)

Proposal: Ceremonial circle on public land to provide a spiritual, cultural and educational space for usage by Indigenous people and the public.

Veronica Robles (, @vroccboston, @veronicaroblesmariachi)

Proposal: The Day of the Dead Celebration & Parade, inviting local community to co-create visual elements that reaffirm Latin immigrant culture.

Jen Mergel, Director of Experience & Cultural Partnerships at the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, works closely with the Committee and observed: “What is most exciting about these proposals is how they seek to move the needle, not only on how cultural activities can enrich Boston’s greenspace, but how greenspace can be essential to enriching Boston’s cultural landscape. As the bicentennial invites neighborhood leaders and local creatives to seed this fertile ground, now the key question is how to learn from and sustain this work going forward – through and beyond 2022.”

Parks Equity and Spatial Justice Project Interviews:
Boston Liberation Center Celebrates One Year
Ngoc-Tran Vu on Bringing Social Issues into the Open
“It Gets in Your Soul:” Taiko and the Parks with Karen Young
Fear and Shame, Love and Thanks: Facing History with Ifé Franklin
Kera Washington’s Project Misik: Vulnerability and Exploration Through Collective Music-Making
A bittersweet exploration of place with Dzidzor Azaglo and Crystal Bi
Grounded by Baldwin, Anita Morson-Matra and JAE bring movement to the parks
More than a Mishoon: Andre Strongbearheart Gaines Jr. and Tom Green on Indigenous Cultural Revitalization
Souls and Soil: Día de los Muertos in the park with Veronica Robles
“Dancing well into the night”: Hyde Square Task Force reflects on summer programming
Ownership through Archiving: Nakia Hill’s Anthology of Boston Stories
“A time of healing” in Franklin Park with Robert Peters
“To bring back the front stoop of Chinatown”: ACDC’s efforts toward community greenspace

Pataje istwa-w