Photo: Angela Rowlings/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald
When you don’t own and control the real estate in your community, you’re at the mercy of those who do. The Harriet Tubman House is owned by United South End Settlements (USES), a nonprofit founded 120 years ago to help Blacks migrating from the South settle in Boston. Today the organization assists low income families in need of affordable housing, child care, job training and educational services. The Tubman House was built in 1978, designed by Don Stull, a Black architect. The Tubman House has been owned by USES for decades and as the organization sells, many see it as yet another sign of the erasure of Boston’s rich Black presence and history.
The developer who is purchasing the property has agreed to include 2,300 square feet of office space for USES in its final plans for the property. Those plans, as reported by the Daily Mail, also include 66 condos, 5,000 square feet of commercial space, a cafe and an art gallery. At the root of the problem for USES is a rapid rise in property values, typical for gentrifying areas. Roxbury is a Black neighborhood in Boston, historically. In 2013 the median home price in Roxbury was $237,500. By 2018 that number was $455,000, according to the Boston Globe. As investors — particularly foreign investors — buy up historically Black communities, Black people and Black organizations are increasingly hard pressed to maintain their presence in those neighborhoods.
The new owner of the Tubman House building is in many ways being charitable — 17 percent of the units will be reserved for affordable housing and USES will still have 2,300 square feet of office space, along with cash to invest in its mission. Still, nothing trumps owning property in in your own neighborhood and remaining, as one would naturally wish to. But that only happens when a people are united in their determination to own, control and continually reinvest in their community. Black people must see this clearly or continue to lose more blocks, landmarks and legacies.
This is sad, taking profits over maintaining our legacy. Future generations of African Americans will lose out on our rich heritage. Once our communities become gentrified, what will we be left with?
Isn’t historic sites a protected entity?
I thought so too
The non profit org USES was established 120 years ago, and not the actual building which was only established in 1978. So, the Harriet Tubman House does not fall under the Historical Protection Law.
The first question I have is who owns USES?
If it is owned by African-Americans, then the whole discussion of gentrification is mute. We sold ourselves out.
If not, then this is a lesson for non-profits to get legal consult and set up future properties as a trust with the provision that the property cannot be used for any purpose other than the originally intended purpose. The very wealthy turn their estates into national parks and museums, etc., to be used by the public in perpetuity. Somewhere out there in creation, an ethical lawyer exists who can help prevent this kind of thing from happening in the future.
It is a nasty game, to be sure. But it can be won once you master the rules of the game.
They keep changing the rules
Thanks brother for the post. This is why it becomes imperative that we stay engaged on the political and civic side of operations. Particularly the city council meetings,since this is where deals are made with local officials.
How can we save the Harriet Tubman house? But out the owner of the Tubman house or buy out the company purchasing from the owner?
How can we save the Harriet Tubman house? Buy out the owner of the Tubman house or buy out the company purchasing from the owner?
This is a disgrace. This is a historic site. No respect for our history at all.There should be outrage.
Not a historic site. It was built in 1978.
How do we protest to stop Harriet Tubman home from being replaced by a large commercial bldg?
These types of articles kill me. As if buying back the block is a new concept. If yall think Tulsa happened and nothing else, you’re mistaken. The candy lady had a store. The cleaners used to be black. The bars. The real estate agency. The corner stores used to be black owned. In Brooklyn after 1978. There’s all kinds of reasons why they stopped selling to us. It hasn’t been because of our lack of motivation. Please stop writing this nonsense.
None the less, we still need to own property in order to produce products and earn income that can be funded to growing our community. If there are ways they get around selling property to us when we have the money, we need to find another way to get the property we need.
Has a crowd funding campaign been initiated to save the legacy of Harriet Tubman in this neighborhood?
I’m available to help with the crusade I know Lenders and Financial Literacy to help out people help themselves
I try not get involved in these types of discussions. But….. when are WE (blacks) going to actually learn from the PAST and start doing in the PRESENT the things that we make for a better FUTURE. Sometimes and I repeat Sometimes we are at fault for, or contribute to, the negative things that are currently happening to us. And the things we do or don’t do today will have an impact on us 20 to 30 years from now. THEY (non – blacks) are not as powerful as you make them and WE are not as weak as we make ourselves out to be. I’m tire of hearing us talk about the THEY. THEY did this , THEY did that, THEY don’t want, THEY won’t let. F–k the They. Stop giving so much energy and power to THEY. You can’t control THEY, but you can control YOU. And by extension WE can control US. Start by verbally giving some power to YOU, to WE, to US. Or how about this, start studying the THEY. THEY certainly have studied us. THEY can predict our every move and when THEY can’t predict it, WE willingly go on a march to reveal it or get on the internet to blab it all over the place.
Learn what THEY learn. What is it that the THEY are doing and WE aren’t. Are WE incapable of it or are WE CHOOSING Not to? This is a chess game and we’re still playing checkers. The board looks the same, the board is the same but the game is not. The rules are not. The pieces are not. The strategy is not. A lot of us aren’t even playing checkers, we’re playing par cheesy or spin the bottle so some other bull sh– that serves no positive purpose.
It only takes 3 or 4 capable people in key positions to start a change or create a serious enterprise. If you are discontent and you have a vision or solution surround yourself with those 2 or 3 other likeminded people, not the complainers, not the marchers, not the let’s pray on it-ers. Those are the support, not the leadership. We live in a capitalist world. Learn the rules and then learn how to bend or break them for your benefit. One of the unspoken rules is Learn how to bend and/or break the Rules for your benefit.
I see and hear about these types of things all the time. If we stop the charades and deal with the naked truth as it exists, perhaps we can save our sinking ship. If do not collectively support an buy from black businesses and black businesses do not invest in black communities, we will never have what it takes to control what happens in situations like this. The key is not jobs, opportunity, housing, nonprofit organizations or pretty buildings in our neighborhoods, it’s ownership and control of capital and assets. These things cannot be obtained in a capitalist economy unless we plug in at the right place and capture the virtuous cycle of business and money. This can easily be done with a concept so simple that it seems too good to be true. The solution to our problem is hidden in plain site. #unitedsharedsavingsnetwork
It boggles my mind that all theses educated NEGROES can’t seem to put together a simple concept in self helping each other. Poor immigrants coming to this country can do it, Jews, Italians, & Irish been doing it. Its seems like it’s just us “BLaCKS!” that refuse to invest with each other. .SAAD! It is so simple to do. Here’s 1 simple concept.. How about we get 20,000+ people to invest $5 a month towards a goal for 5yrs. Example: buying real estate in lucrative white areas & either rent or flip properties. This way, we can see a wealth movement while ea. investor receive a yearly profit on their investment. The concept here is to empower self reliance with the hope of spinning off different business opportunities & investment as the organization grows. This is just 1 idea.