Episode Five: Carson Beach

Police surround swimmers during a 1977 “wade in” at Carson Beach—a stretch of coastline connecting Columbia Point (in the distance) and South Boston—during a protest against white segregationists. (Michael Peterson)

[Theme music: “Bella Ciao” by Marisa Anderson]

Tenant 1: See what types of resources we have in Columbia Point. None! We have none, and that’s what we’re asking for.

Tenant 2: 5,000 people. With nothing to take care of them, y’know. Nothing.

Tenant 3: People from the inside experienced Love, Tenacity, Willpower.

Tenant 5: The Point was not valued like it is today, in terms of being a piece of property.

Tenant 6: They’re like we want this property, we want people gone.

Tenant 7: Splitting families, c’mon now! That’s wrong!

Tenant 8: This is real intimidation. This is honest to goodness… this is life or death, here.

Tenant 9: The police invaded Columbia Point, so the men picked up their arms.

Obalajii Rust: Well, we had the Black construction workers. We had organized just about all the sectors of the Black community in Roxbury and Dorchester. We had over 5,000 dues-paying subscribers.

And of course you got to vote about what happened in the Black community at the general meetings that we had once a week.

Arcenia Allen: They were not doing much hiring of Blacks or minorities. And we did demonstrate on that.

Arcenia: You know, there were others involved as well, some just residents, that were not community-involved on other issues. But made a stand when it came to make a stand. And said, “It’s not just me, it’s not just you, it’s us.”

Leon Rock: And, with the Black Student Union, we advocated for change in the school system. And one of the changes we were advocating for was actually the desegregation of Boston public schools, or the de facto segregation that existed at the time.

Patricia Bonner-Lyons: I think we need to look at it from the students’ point of view. The students are incarcerated in schools from 8:00 in the morning to 2:30 in the afternoon. And that is the way they see it. They see it as serving a prison sentence, and it is not anything that is adventurous and something they want to get into. Education should be one adventure that we should never get off of, no matter how old we are.

Leon: And I worked with the NAACP, with folks like Elma Lewis, Ellen Batson and others, Melnea Cass.

Rev. Bill Loesch: I’m Reverend Doctor Bill Loesch, and I began serving at the Columbia Point housing community.

Loesch: At that point I was living at Columbia Point. It was challenging because I think we were taking on a lot of politics of downtown Boston, politics of everything. We were taking on all the politicians.

Loesch: Welfare, housing, education, recreation, police relations. Almost anything that was happening, that was my role, was to be involved.

Betty Ann Jones: A lot of my protests was with the welfare department, not giving African American people what was due them, you know. Poor people in general. So we protested the welfare department.

Betty: So we went from building to building, having building meetings. We had building captains and stuff.

Bill: All throughout, it would have been housing issues. Housing was controlled by downtown.

Betty: We protested the housing. Boston Housing wasn’t fixing up the property like they should, so we told them– We done a rent strike.

Betty Ann Jones: I was an organizer, my sister was an organizer, Dorothy Haskins, some other people…

Betty: When de Mau Mau came in, they began to patrol too and began to have school with the kids. With some of the kids, the younger kids, in Columbia Point. But all of us came together as one, with Reverend Loesch and stuff. We organized ourselves.

Lavaughn Howell: When busing was coming along…

Lavaughn: If you had your parked car Mount Vernon Street, people use to ride in and break all the car windows. ‘Cause there was one one way in, and one way out. So they would drive through there at night, call, you know, “N*****, n*****, blah, blah blah, blah, blah,” break car windows out. So yeah, they started posting guards out there.

Jimmy Funches: Coming in at that time, it was a need.

Qainat Khan: Were you involved with de Mau Mau or were you just sort of interested?

Jimmy: I kinda got involved. I kind got swooped in it. That’s how I got the name “Kujichagulia,” which means “self determination.”

Qainat: What was that about?

Jimmy: Okay, at the time– You have to think about what the time we was in. We were in the time of protection. So it was basically like playing security, up at night watching, making sure nobody comes in. Those types of things. Going from house to house. It was a gathering, yeah you gathered with people. But it wasn’t going out hurting anybody. It was just making sure no one got hurt. Making sure the Ku Klux Klan didn’t come in the development.

Jones: De Mau Mau was Stokely Carmichael, he was involved. Some other brothers from out of Africa.

Jimmy: They came out like saying, “We can help you, we want to help the community.” So you just woke up morning, and then as a young man, a lot of young people said, “This is something I’d like to be in, ‘cause it seems like it’s a helping thing.”

Betty: And they began to patrol our community.

Jimmy: The hut was where Mamasan was. Mamasan was the head de Mau Mau. She was the go-between in the Boston division because these divisions had multiple around the world. The de Mau Mu were not just in Boston, they were in Detroit, and even the name derives from an African name.

Betty: We were just all together, you know, just teaching and protecting each other.

Jimmy: We had lookouts on the roofs. Patrols going on. All those things they came in and set up when the Ku Klux Klan said they were going to come to Columbia Point.

Betty Washington: At that time people who were living there that were non-Black started to move into South Boston. It became more Blacks and less whites. People were just separated.

Michael Patrick MacDonald: I guess it was a white flight that was happening before busing from Columbia Point. But it wasn’t like a white flight to the suburbs or anything. It was white flight to a housing project that actually ended up being one of the most dangerous places to live in Boston.

Michael: Also, when we moved into Old Colony project it’s important to note that, you know, there were Black families in Old Colony before busing and especially in D Street housing project. D Street was 400 units and about 75 of those units were occupied by Latino families and there was a substantial Black minority at the time as well.

Betty Washington: The people suddenly that had been our friends and had been our neighbors were suddenly our enemies. They started coming back and the kids were fighting and they tore down the mothers’ rests that they had in the back of the project. They would be throwing rocks and they were fighting with the children.

Michael Patrick MacDonald: You have a gangster who’s been given permission by the feds to do as he likes in the community. So it’s just a deadly equation. You have the highest concentration of white poverty in America. You have a busing plan that didn’t take class into account at all.

Jim Kelley: Well the information center is a community organization. We are interested in everything that happens to our community. It’s basically and primarily an anti-busing organization, but we’re concerned with other issues as well.

Linda Wade: Information, misinformation, coming out of South Boston. This propaganda, “Do you want these people to be a part of this community? This pristine, wonderful, close-knit community that we have. What do you think is gonna happen? It is going to look like Columbia Point once they’ve finished with it.”

MacDonald: When busing happened in September of ‘74 that was just it. You just didn’t see Black or Hispanic families in South Boston’s housing projects. It just happened overnight. Like there are stories of people in September 1974 like packing up and moving out in D Street housing project, people who are who are Hispanic or Black. That was just the end of any kind of diversity in the housing projects.

Cappy: The South Boston Information Center was building a rank-and-file organization for years before the explosion, in the fall of ‘74.

Cappy: So they were base building for a very long time. And so then they brought out their troops and the things that you saw– Yeah, it serves their narrative to say this is a “spontaneous reaction.” But it was, in major part, it was very coordinated, as well. They were looking for a controlled explosion, and they got what they wanted.

Massachusetts representative Ray Flynn leads a “men’s march” anti-busing parade down West Broadway in Boston on their way to South Boston High School on February 29, 1976. (Tom Landers/The Boston Globe)

Betty Ann Jones: You know racism and stuff and the police broke it up. The men that were patrolling, it was a lot of harassment from the police and stuff, threatening them, putting them in jail and stuff.

Michael: You know we woke up to find ourselves living in a police state in September of 1974. Every single day, there were helicopters above the rooftops. There were the police, the rooftops of our housing project were essentially lined with police in riot gear and it was all law enforcement. There was local police. Within the police, there was what I would call a paramilitary force within the police department, the TPF, the Tactical Police Force. There was also state police and there were of course federal troops were brought in and there were SWAT teams with SWAT teams on our roofs as well. So we lived in an armed camp.

Cappy: Because a lot of the police officers had connections with white Southie, the approach that the police had to the Black community was, I think it was, I’m just saying: It’s systematic!

Betty Ann Jones: We protect ourselves. Yes. So the men, they picked up their arms.

Cappy: When whites from South Boston tried to night ride in there with guns they were met with gun fire. And so as a result, then, police came in because, you can’t have Black people respond with gun fire. Black people are not supposed to fight back like that.

Leon: For about 2 or 3 weeks, we had a police department armed and acting like a, you know, a gestapo on the residents of Columbia Point. It was police brutality at a significant level.

Bernie Sneed: In ‘74, busing was a major issue for Columbia Point.

Bernie: Kids were going over to South Boston, the buses were being stoned. And the residents were concerned. They had no way of getting over there because a lot of them didn’t have cars. So we set up a rumor control center where we could call over South Boston and find out if there is anything going on. Plus, we had young adults as bus monitors riding the buses, so they would protect the kids and what have you.

Rev. Bill Loesch: There were some days that I rode the bus, some of us clergy volunteered to ride the bus. As a white person, I’d go over with my car to where the crowd was, come back, because there were no cell phones, go over and say, “This where the crowd is, we gotta take the bus.” So we sent a decoy bus up one way, where the crowd was, and then another bus with the kids would go another way. So as a white person I could sneak over there see and come back. We couldn’t deal with the cops because the cops were pretty much all on one side.

Bernie Sneed: And there was a rumor that de Maus Maus were shooting at the police. And here comes five paddy wagons of police with guns, they’re hanging guns out the window, M-16s, out the window and everything. And went and took over the rooftops, took over our rumor control center and the whole bit. And we stayed there for– We were put out.

Betty Ann Jones: Bernie Sneed and myself, we was at our headquarters. And the police came and they started hitting on him, you know.

Betty Ann Jones: The police blocked us, blocked the residents in and blocked the residents out. That was the most traumatizing, one of the most traumatizing things that took place. I had to leave my job with the government to try and get to my children at Columbia Point. And they wouldn’t let anyone one, even though you were a resident. So I had to take a chance on them, as you said, as I came through the barricades, they would shoot at me. And I said well you have to have a good shot, because I was going to my kids. I was driving. Because my kids were home in the house from school, and I was at work at the VA. So that was probably one of the most traumatizing things. But God is still good.

Rev. Bill Loesch: The cops had never had a SWAT team back in those days. So this was the very first SWAT team that came in. So they were testing their power. So it became, these policemen came in, this highly trained SWAT team came in and they dropped some of the guys by helicopter onto the rooftops and some came in from the street. And they surrounded the whole place, thinking they had these militants they were going to shoot out. So it was more a rumor, kind of rumor, that the police were afraid of. And what happened is they moved into a space that I had control of which was the Columbia Point Christian Center, which was our church, a big hall.

Bernie Sneed: Then we decided that, hey, we gotta get our rumor control center back. Tenants didn’t know. The kids were still going into South Boston and the buses were still being stoned, and this made it even worse. So, we said, “We gotta get our rumor control center back.” And we decided to do that that afternoon. And there was a lot of police there. 19 or so. And they seen us coming, and I was going to go right up. Well, 19 or so cops came down on me, with billy clubs, what have you. I mean I had stitches on my forehead, stitches in my eye. Knocked me out. When I woke up, they had me in a paddy wagon and they take me to a police station. And they booked me.

Bill: That was the most serious event in 30, 40 years of confrontation between organized police and organized low-income people seeking to improve their neighborhood.

Leon Rock: I was there on the first day, being there on the first day as monitor, probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in my life. It was one of the most scary experiences I’ve ever had in my life. The bottom line is, as we drove up to the buses, thousands residents of South Boston chanting “N***** go home” in unison. “N***** go home.” The police department was in concert with it — they never told people to move away, they never told people to disperse, what they did was allow the chaos to exist.

[sound of busing protests, chaos]

Angie Irving: Busing came, I really had a hard time because it was the same people I went to school with in the fifth and sixth grades were the people who were throwing rocks at these kids and we’d look at them and say, “Hey hey, you know this is Irving, this is Angie.”

Archive student: And they were throwing eggs at the windows.

Angie: And they didn’t even hear or see me anymore. All they saw was the color of my skin. And the next thing you know the rocks are coming.

Angela: When I was young, we used to go to all the St. Patrick’s Day Parades. I would wear my green, my mother would walk us up to Broadway. And we’d stand there. And the brigadiers were in the parade, the Black bands and everybody were all in this parade. And I remember there was a group of people that were of Irish descent who were like freedom fighters because they were fighting like– they understood some of the issues we were facing prior to busing.

They were talking about some the political issues that they were facing, and they were like against Kelly and all these other people, who were pushing sort of an early hatred. There were the Protestants, the Catholics, I mean Protestant-Irish against the Catholics. I was like amazed, and they were like, Angie read Thorn Birds, read How the Irish Became White, educate yourself about the plight that they were going through as well. I was like, “oh wow.” I thought white was white. They were saying, “No, no, no. It’s a privilege, and you gotta understand what that was.” So they were kind of educating us back then. And so, you are sort of like, okay, it’s good to know that we found commonality through struggles, and that if we put our efforts together, we can work out these kinds issues together against the political establishments and things like that, that have other agendas.

But I think that when they saw that we were actually beginning to align ourselves, seeing commonalities, political issues, issues of poverty, issues of economics, et cetera. And race wasn’t part of that equation. I mean it’s always there, but it wasn’t the highlighted equation. It was more economics at that time. They said, “Okay, let’s bring the race up, Angie, and you are Black. And you are not Black,” you know, my neighbor.

Angie: South Boston and Columbia Point had changed greatly, like I said before, I was raised in South Boston, went to school in South Boston. I was familiar to this strange and hostile environment, to the point I feared that I would not go anywhere near South Boston. When my little kids were young, you know like I said, Columbia Point is this one way in, one way out kind of thing. And there were people from the South Boston community that would line themselves up on these bridges, on these trestles, bridges, and literally bomb us with cans and rocks as we were coming into Columbia Point. We would get stoned all the time. And luckily my kids were too young to go on buses. They were going to school in Columbia Point. But anyways, I rode the bus one time with them. And got st –, got so–

Everything. Mothers, fa– everybody. And I’m looking at people saying, like, “Cathy, cathy, it’s me, it’s Angie!”

“Pssh… Go home, n*****s!”

And all these rocks and bricks. And so that was the last of that. I said I won’t do that again. I said, it’s much too dangerous.

But other people stayed, you know tried to fight the fight and try to protect the children as they got off the buses into the schools in South Boston. We stayed away from Columbia, back then, Columbia Station or anything that would get you near Day Boulevard, because we knew that if anyone saw you. Black, or anything like that. You would get rocks thrown at them.

And my mother who was an extremely fair-skinned Black woman was coming home from a shop or whatever, in her car. And some people were just stoned from a group of kids in South Boston. And then they saw my mother, my mother’s arm was, driving, she had one arm out the car as she’s driving home. And they mistook her for a white woman. So the kids decided to retaliate when they saw a white person come. The Black kids were saying, “I’m going to get this white woman.” And started throwing stuff at my mother. And someone recognized my mother, “Oh, that’s Mrs. Irving, she’s Black! She’s Black! That’s Mrs. Irving.”

So we realized it became truly a color shade thing, and not so much– People were no longer identifying people fairly. Either you were Black or you were white, and if you fell into any categories that were gray, it was just best that you figured out how to maneuver around the community to get back in and out safely without getting rocks or cans. My children were fearful for a long time. They got barraged with their dad. They were on their way home from somewhere. And our car was tore to pieces. Fortunately, nobody was hurt badly. But the mind thing? It was like being bombed. Warfare. Real warfare. Missiles are being targeted at you. Open cans. I remember cans of soda bursting open. You know they would throw the tonic — we called it tonic back then — they would throw the tonic at us. And then they would burst. And you’d get covered with soda, all the sticky soda stuff, and tonic. And then they would throw dirt at you at the same time. They are throwing soda and then dirt. And then all of a sudden your whole body is stuck with the dirt, and sand, and rocks, and dog ****. Oh, it was just–

Conor: Traumatizing.

Angie: And there was no support whatsoever. We went through that kind of trauma. You saw your family and friends coming home with all kinds of bloody faces. But you consoled each other, but there was no formal trauma support.

Sheila Williams: What I felt was crazy is how how when people were attacking buses with children, I was probably one of them, going into South Boston. I felt like if that had happened out here, they would’ve been more protected then they were. It was horrible, it was horrible, a very horrible situation.

Leon Rock: White children had assaulted some Black teenagers from Columbia Point that had gone to Carson Beach. They were just having a good time at Carson Beach and got assaulted. We reported it to the police department, Metropolitan Police, we reported it to the NAACP. Tom Atkins said, “Guess what, Leon, you know what we’re going to do, we’re going to organize a demonstration over at Carson Beach. And what we’re gonna do, instead of just a demonstration, we’re just going to go to the beach.” There was about, if I’m not mistaken, three or four hundred Blacks from Columbia Point and from Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. They had both the state police and the metropolitan police along with Boston Police. And they had horses and we said come on let’s go out and do some swimming.

Steve Meacham: There was a lot multi-racial, anti-racist activity. One such example was a march from Franklin Park to Carson Beach. The police on horses charged the march and everyone is saying, “Why are you driving us off, you should be protecting our legal rights to be here and wade. We’re not causing any violence.” And the crowd around us was throwing rocks over the heads of the police. The police, large sections of the police, were in league with the pro-segregation forces and weren’t going to do anything to push them away from us.

Leon: We started swimming and then all of a sudden the state police and the Metropolitan Police say everybody out of the water. The police come in with their horses into the water and say, “everybody out.” Mel is saying, “Why, why are we leaving?” All of a sudden the officers get off their horses and attack Mel King and bring him down. It is pandemonium, chaos. The police start belting people, hitting people, pulling on girls with bathing suits. It was ridiculous. Unbelievable assault on Black people that were just doing one thing — having access to a public beach.

Angela Irving: Remember we were raised on Carson Beach- my mother used to go clamming before clamming became not a thing anymore. My mother would go out there, stamp, bring home clams, and we’d wash them and boil them or fry them — everything. Carson Beach was our home. We’d go to the beach and the beach next thing you know people are throwing rocks at us. We’re saying, this is our beach, what are you talking about?

Linda: State police, right on top of the beach, with no protection, no one to help. Yet they stood there and watched.

Angela: Suddenly it became a political football. And we couldn’t go on, you know without fear and terror, to go on a beach that was literally in our backyard. Literally in our backyard.

Betty Washington: Living at Columbia Point we experienced a lot of things just trying to protect our children.

Betty: My story is a story that just came about suddenly. I never was a person who was involved in any kind of political activities. And that day that that child got ran over by the car, it just changed my life.

Now she got ran over, and there’s a beach right out there that we can see. She should be able to go to the beach. She shouldn’t have to be in the street. So I started calling up people, and telling them, “Let’s call the radio, and let’s see if we can’t do something and have these kids go to the beach instead of being out there in the street.”

It was during the time of the busing and there had been a time when we could go to the beach, and suddenly we couldn’t. And again, that was because of most of the white people moving over to South Boston, and those same white people were fighting with us. And just because we wanted to use a sandy, dirty beach. And I didn’t even like the beach. I never liked to go the beach, I never liked sand and dirt, but I went. I was making a statement: We just want to use the beach. That’s all we wanted.

Dorothy Haskins: My father took me, 6 years old, to Carson Beach. I remember right to this day. So we went over to the beach, everything was fine then the time came when the kids were going into the water. The police department came over officer came over to me and asked me, can he speak to me. And I asked, to speak to me about what. And he said, “Some people here I want to know if you know who they are.” I tell him, “Oh no. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I’m here to exercise we’re all here to exercise our rights to use a public beach. I’m not over here to help you arrest nobody.” The next thing I knew the kids went in the water and were having fun and these white kids came in the water and attacked them and it was a sad situation. It was really was, for it to be a public beach and you can’t go there.

Archive from Down the Project film: The things that we had seen there when we were growing up weren’t there any more. They knocked out all the lawns, took out all the lawns and paved them over. Cut down all the trees. They broke it down to basics, man. Before that it wasn’t basics, man. It was– Everything you need was there, man. A kid could grow up down there and look around and there’d be trees, there’d be flowers, gardens.

Leon Rock: When someone moved out, or when the condition was so uninhabitable, the decision was made to move them out into another public housing community. It was natural attrition. So they began to board up the buildings. In fact, the Housing Authority was told to mothball buildings.

Linda Wade: It looks like a ghost town. These seven story buildings being boarded up because elevators that don’t reach to the top or fall or whatever, problems that they had.

Angela Irving: Maintenance was cut down in half. Remember we used to know the maintenance people? And then suddenly there were a bunch of people we had no idea who they were and they weren’t working as people. Yeah there were not–

Linda: Lots of rats, lots of big water rats, that also invaded the community in big giant droves. They used to eat through concrete.

Bill Loesch: If they had done some preventive maintenance, if they would have done something preventive– There was, to me, it was a racist move by the city to get everybody out of there. Once they got everybody out, their goal was to get everybody out of the whole project so they could rebuild the whole project.

Donna Haskins: I have to say the BHA basically did not keep up the property or didn’t enforce the keeping of the property as it did in the earlier years. So it started going down.

By 1979, after over a decade of neglect and a deliberate policy of “mothballing” buildings, Columbia Point became mostly vacant. (Boston Globe)

Esther Santos: We saw, in the early 80s, the task force really began to talk about that that we knew that something else was not done that no one will be here. Because by then talk was that University of Mass wanted the buildings for housing. We said that if you give people a clean decent living area, new units, they would take care of it. And we decided that let’s pursue, let’s figure out who we start meeting with — HUD for one thing. We wrote letters asking them for information as to how to go about you know talking about redevelopment. We weren’t thinking so much as knocking down buildings. We were just talking about to do it in such a way that would give people a decent place to live.

Leon Rock: Our concern early on was that they were conspiring to close down public housing as we know it. Particularly in Columbia Point being the first stage. So they did conspire, because they didn’t involve residents in the planning process. A conspiracy on the part of the University of Massachusetts, on the part of the Kennedy Library, on the part of the Massachusetts Archives, on the part of First National Bank, on the part of Boston Redevelopment Authority, on the part of so many of those institutions to close it down and provide an opportunity for a new community. But they didn’t anticipate residents would organize to at least demand a “mixed income” housing community.

Leon: I was supportive of it, in fact I was one of the people that educated the residents to the fact that “mixed-income” housing may be the way to go versus keeping it just public housing. And so I was the advocate for it. And in fact I think based on the fact that I was the advocate, and the residents took their position to Harry Spence, Harry Spence began to do some research and find out that “mixed income” housing may be a way to go.

Lily Geismer: Mike Dukakis is in many ways the kind of classic suburban liberal who supported this idea that the size of government had gotten out of hand. So this idea that I’m going to kind of come in and clean up– clean up government. One of the big programs that he focuses on is welfare and really reducing the size of welfare rolls of taking the sort of trying to sort of limit who had access to the program and making it that it was only the really, really needy. This engendered a huge amount of backlash from liberal critics and then also from this very active welfare rights movement. So this actually fits very much in line with kind of Dukasis’s and this new generation of Democrats’ sort of ideas about the importance of “earn it,” like the power of work as a means of upward mobility and opportunity. It’s somewhat more meritocratic.

Linda Wade: I think we were blindsided by the sale of Columbia Point by Boston Housing Authority. We didn’t have all the information that was asked to sign off on quite a bit of things we didn’t quite understand. I was the one who had the dissenting vote all the time.

Because I wanted more information. I wanted to be able to understand, there’s no way! So the new task force needed a solution to work with Boston Housing. This is before we knew that there was already a plan from Boston Housing with the Corcoran Jennison Mullins corporation. So when they introduced themselves and said that they can improve Columbia Point, and the people here could live better, and take advantage of all wonderful amenities that we never even heard of before like a clubhouse and all kinds of things, and this work would be in “phases” and buildings being torn down and people being displaced, really thrown out and evicted—quite a few. Also, we are being wined and dined by CMJ. You know, so they really put sparkles in our eyes.

To me there was just a level of misunderstanding and a level of people were not, on the Board, that was purposely there that people were not asking questions. Didn’t matter about me being there because I was voted down all the time. I wanted to know when, why, how, who and what. It was not just CMJ that for the bid, they made it seem. But they already had made the deal, so I thought. It was a 99-year lease that would allow CMJ to own, not the land, the property on the land, for 99 years, before allowing them to own that peninsula.

Cappy Pinderhughes: I would refer you to a very prescient book published in 1969 by Robert L. Allen called “Black Awakening in Capitalist America.” And he talks about how on a national basis, the rebellions were counter-insurged in part by the development, the beginning development of a new Black middle class. The promotion, the developing, of the Black petty bourgeoisie.

Cappy: Now this neocolonialism was in the process of development. This was nationally now. But the mechanisms that were utilized, were utilized also in Columbia Point. Although in the case of Columbia Point, they weren’t trying to develop an actual, a major Black middle class but were looking to develop individuals who could then manage the rest of their neighbors.

Angela: They said they were going to name it Harbor Point, keep the Point in there, you know because we can always call it “The Point.” I remember that big campaign- calling it “The Point.” And a lot of people thought it was going to be better. But after they finished, they said, well, this section here is for the people to come back, and this section here near the waterfront, not one community person could live in.

Donna Haskins: That’s when they changed it–

Dorothy Haskins: That place, the name should have never changed.

Donna: I don’t think I should have changed either.

Dorothy: It should have never changed.

Donna: ‘Cause to this very day, anybody who grew up in The Point–

Dorothy: That’s right.

Donna: –we all was signified as C.P., C.P., Columbia– Columbia– Columbia Point. Where was you from, Columbia Point, C.P.

Sister Joyce McMullin: When it became Harbor Point, it was all under CMJ. The Task Force is paid by CMJ. The security is paid by CMJ. The Housing Opportunities Unlimited Resident Services—CMJ. So, everything in my opinion is controlled. There’s no way that the people can have any way of organizing any kind of real voice.

Sister Joyce: …Not being able to stay there. We were gentrified out.

Leon Rock: There was essentially a long term plan for Columbia Point anyway. Something that the residents weren’t involved in, anyway. So if you’re going to say a 50-year plan or a 30-year plan you can look at it now and it’s come to fruition.

Leon: I would say that, looking backwards, we did the right thing at the right time trying to realize some real outcomes for the residents. But from what I understand the numbers are less than 100 current residents still living at Columbia Point 20, 25, 30 years later.

Leon: Unfortunately, the power brokers in City Hall, the power brokers at the BRA, the power brokers with the developers were able to develop that property and they essentially gentrified Columbia Point, and poor people are now not well-represented in Columbia Point anymore. The learning curve on this is that unfortunately we became the unwitting participants of a gentrification of Columbia Point.



From Jacobin magazine, a new audio documentary about struggles in the United States.

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