As a transplant to the Boston area, it’s been interesting to familiarize myself with the city through the lens of current politics and social movements.  Unlike my years growing up in a small New Hampshire town and my time at university in upstate New York, Boston is positively bursting with events.

That said, event spaces are not always conventional.  Here, a friend’s apartment is the scene for a “Women’s Brunch;” there, breweries become writing labs, bouldering gyms host “postcard parties,” and a tattoo parlor converts into a local artist marketplace.  In the past few months, my eyes have been on community engagement and the spaces that crop up as hosts.

Women's Brunch

While being in Boston has opened my eyes to new people and diverse perspectives, it’s also made me realize how little time I have spent sharing and discussing with those close to me.

The event title was simple (“Let’s Celebrate Women!”) and the invitation read, “Politics aside! We would like to come together, not out of spite, but to create positive energy!”  

About 20 friends and friends-of-friends, both male and female, gathered in a cozy living room to consume bagels and share stories. The light prompt was to talk about an inspirational woman.  A few responses:

One friend discussed his sister who inspires him and others to “push the boundaries of what love can mean and what support can mean.”  His sister is an activist warrior on the streets of Atlanta.

One friend shared, “My mom is an absolute boss. She inspires me to work hard, be independent, and be confident that I can accomplish my goals. That’s all her.”

One friend read an excerpt from Warsan Shire’s poem ‘for women who are "difficult" to love’.

One friend shared her experience growing up in a feminist household, raised by a mother who pioneered the Women’s Studies program at Denison University.  It was not until later that she realized her call to action in her community: “I didn’t know I was a feminist until I realized that the people around me needed feminism.”

Another friend shared coming into her own as a minority: “The one thing my parents could not give me was confidence.  Growing up in a predominately white town it was nearly impossible to tell a woman of color that you were worth something, you are valuable.  So seeing and meeting Michelle Obama helped me grow more than anything else.  She is giving every woman and especially woman of color confidence and inspiration.  It’s not something I thought I would see in my lifetime.”

This event showed me two things: 1) Inspiration can derive from a place as familiar as a living room and from close ties that you have not yet tapped into; and 2) We should be just as ready to take to the streets and celebrate the women who empower us as we are to resist the current state. It is surely what will unite us and make us a stronger force for good.

Postcards in the climbing community

My next investigation led me to a local gym called Brooklyn Boulders. This facility aims to unite and inspire people through climbing, fitness, art, and events. On this particular week, one of the members was hosting a “Postcard Party.”  The event was formulated in conjunction with the 10 Actions, 100 Days movement and the prompt was to write a postcard to a local Senator about what matters most to you - and how you’re going to continue to fight for it in the days, weeks and months ahead. They even had the postcards and stamps available.  

This event made me further realize the demand for gatherings of expression. Each individual wants their voice heard; sometimes they simply need the platform and materials to make it happen.

Letters and craft beer

In early March, the local brewery was the scene for an activist event called “Three Letters and a Beer.”  It’s exactly what it sounds like: attendees grabbed one of the beers on tap and sat down at long tables, laden with paper and envelopes, at the back of the taproom.  

This was the second time that the event occurred and again it began with a short presentation regarding current issues and stakeholders, both locally and nationally.  On this occasion, there was a heavy focus on President Trump’s immigration order and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s actions to designate Massachusetts a “sanctuary state.” The prompt instilled confidence among the crowd to choose a cause, grasp pencils a bit tighter, and get to work.

According to event facilitators, “Three Letters and a Beer” will become a normality and occur every other month or so in order to hone in on the most recent issues and to follow up accordingly with political stakeholders.

Tattoos and Activist Art

How do you make a grassroots activist fundraising art sale even more unique? You hold the sale in a tattoo parlor.

I found the event as I was scanning the Boston Calendar for the weekend happenings.  Advertised as “Art to Action,” what was most intriguing to me was not just the donation and fundraising aspects, but the location: Brilliance Tattoo.  I simply had to see this.

I entered through a door off Commonwealth Ave and followed the stairs that sunk below street level.  A small sign posted on the glass of the parlor highlighted the event and, once inside, the parlor itself was barely recognizable: there was a raffle at the door for gift certificates to places like the Brattle Theater, The Comedy Scene, and Israeli Stage; photos, prints, and postcards  covered long tables along the wall; and the actual parlor desk offered options for donations, including Greater Boston Legal Services and Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center.

Event organizer Léonie Little-Lex said that there were about 41 local artisans represented, and she even had her own collection of prints available.  Similar to the “Three Letters and a Beer” event, Léonie said that she hoped for enough momentum to host similar events in the future and to try out different unconventional venues.  

As a transplant to the Boston area, I am impressed by the novelty that constantly arises from such a historic place.  On one hand, it’s easy to fall into the same rhythm of one’s day-to-day activities and routines; on the other hand, Boston can illuminate a world of social and political engagement.  That said, my one bit of advice for anyone new to a city, or simply trying to rediscover their current city, would be to investigate, attend, and get involved with the sprouting events, especially those occurring in unconventional venues.  

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