Guest blog by MARK SCHAFER
Sunday, July 1, was one more example of how important the St. James African Orthodox Church is to this community: On a sweltering Sunday afternoon, 30–40 neighbors showed up at HYCC to support neighborhood and City efforts to preserve this building. We're talking about a church that represents, illustrates, and embodies 100+ years of Roxbury/U.S. history.
In attendance were State Representative Chynah Tyler and her daughter – both of whom made signs to hang up outside the church – and Joshua McFadden, Roxbury/Dorchester liaison for Mayor Walsh.
Fueled by hamburgers and hot dogs and ice-cold lemonade, we heard the rich history of this church as told by neighbor and architectural historian Curtis Maxwell Perrin. We also heard an explanation of how the neighborhood can gain some control over development in Highland Park by creating an Architectural Conservation District to stop the wanton destruction of our history by unchecked developers. With enough neighborhood support, Highland Park can establish an ACD (not the same as a Historic District) that we would tailor to the needs and desires of our neighborhood.
Oppressed by the heat but lifted up by the company and the energy, children were hard at work making signs while adults were outside painting banners. Just before dusk, we marched with our banners to the church.
We hung the banners – with the children's signs in between – around the building.
This morning, the banners and signs were fluttering in the breeze: A neighborhood necklace of love and respect around the church.
But by mid-afternoon, they were gone without a trace – and no one had seen them taken them down. We are filing a report with the police to recover our banners and signs. But the people – united with a range of City and other officials who support our cause – will not be defeated. More blank canvas banners, paint, brushes, and a laminating machine are being delivered to HYCC tomorrow. Our new plan is to make new signs and banners and to get permission from abutters to hang them on private property all around the church. If you have children, have them draw "Protect Our Church" signs and deliver them to HYCC for lamination:
Stay tuned and help out. We can win this fight!