When the Commonwealth of Massachusetts shut down most retail businesses on March 23d as “non-essential” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, local business owners in Roxbury’s Nubian Square were immediately at risk of losing more than several months of revenue. Already faced with a weak market and a series of store closings before the pandemic, local business owners had to brace for the worst. They stood to lose their life savings if they had to close up shop for good. And if this worst case occurred, the community stood to lose important ethnic businesses which embody Roxbury’s Black and Latinx cultures.

In response to this threat of business shutdown and cultural displacement, Nuestra pivoted its cultural economic development program to aid at-risk businesses in Nubian Square.
To date, Nuestra has created $88,500 in opportunity for Black-and Latinx-owned businesses in the district. This support took several forms. Nuestra sponsored Dr. Lesa Denis-Mohamad’s Gallery Eye Care, an optometry shop incorporating local art displays, for a sustainability grant from Boston Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Within Nuestra’s own commercial properties, we granted targeted rent concessions to Black-owned Frugal Bookstore.
As described in a Bay State Banner article, this assistance was a key ingredient in their sustainability success story, along with the owners’ creativity, marketing strategy and hard work.
Artists are an important part of the cultural economy in Roxbury. Nuestra designed a 2020 Black Lives Matters arts initiative and raised funds to support local artists with commissions. On August 30, Ricardo “Deme5” Gomez unveiled his street mural, “Rules of Engagement”, with a multi-layered text of racial justice, at Bartlett Station. You can see a very cool “making of” video showing the installation start to finish.
 

Another commission went to Radiant Jasmin to fabricate art-infused street furniture for use in COVID-safe outdoor events and dining at Bartlett Station. Local entrepreneurs Jamal Abdal-Khallaq and Isiah Gray and their Ten Grand production company held COVID-safe “@Nubian Drive-In Movie” nights at Bartlett Station featuring films such as ‘Do the Right Thing’ in order to continue community conversation around racial justice. Ten Grand hired local members of the Male Engagement Network sponsored by Boston LISC to staff their events. (Ricardo Gomez is also a Nubian Square MEN member.)

To support local ethnic food businesses, Nuestra contracted with Soleil Restaurant to help provide emergency food relief to low-income households in Roxbury. Nuestra secured a Boston Resilience Fund grant from the city, with the majority of funds paid to Soleil to make and deliver 1,800 prepared meals to apartment buildings along Blue Hill Avenue and Dudley Street. Using this grant, Nuestra also purchased grocery cards from Tropical Foods to help over 250 families supplement the non-perishable foods available at food pantries.

Want to help promote Roxbury’s cultural businesses and fight cultural gentrification? Donate to Nuestra Comunidad today by clicking this link here!