As we gear up for our Our Convention, Jessicah Pierre the President & CEO of Queens Company reflects on her F.U.N. 2019 experience and her vision for #MyBoston.
As a Boston native and lifetime resident, I’ve grown up very fond of the fact there are two different sides of Boston. The side I grew up on was very rich in culture, diversity, and art. I grew up in Hyde Park and often visited family and friends in Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury where walking down the street you could hear a variety of music from Bachata, Kompa or reggae blasting from different houses on the same block. You could also smell the different foods coming from the Jamaican restaurant around the corner, to the soul food spot across the street.
Almost everyone and everything looked familiar whether I was headed to the bodega to grab some snacks or riding in my dad’s car to the gas station. I just always remember feeling the culture. This feeling filled me with a sense of pride that I was in a place that occupied so many different types of ethnicities and yet it always felt like love. I believe that the Boston I grew up in paved the way for me to truly value community – a state where everyone’s differences are recognized and yet still honored with love and respect.
This sense of community was often lost as I would make my way towards what many outsiders believe is the real Boston. I’m talking about the parts where tourists frequented with cameras in hand to visit what they were taught are the only historical parts of Boston – Downtown Crossing, Boston Common, Faneuil Hall, Beacon Hill, and/or Newbury Street. While I too, have always appreciated having the privilege of being able to access the Freedom Trail in my city and walk the nostalgic areas of where the Boston Tea Party occurred. These parts of the city never really felt like home as there were few people who looked like me and acknowledged my presence with the same warmth and love I was welcomed with in the neighborhoods I grew up in.
As a young working professional and entrepreneur in Boston, having to occupy both of those spaces can be tricky. In my neighborhood, I felt like I could always be my authentic self, however when I stepped into what is deemed as the more “professional” areas of Boston, I’m forced to put on a façade to interact in a space that not only lacks representation of my identity and culture but a lack of understanding of who I actually am.
Navigating these two roles can be exhausting and make you feel like you’re never enough but it’s a sad truth that many millennials of color in Boston face. This is among the reasons why a 2017 City Awake report confirmed the ongoing narrative of Greater Boston as an unwelcoming destination for young professionals of color.
However, City Awake is taking the initiative to change this narrative with their second annual Fierce Urgency of Now (F.U.N.) Festival which seeks to create a welcoming and inspiring experience for millennials of color in Greater Boston. The festival, organized in partnership with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, features more than 30 unique events that will highlight the experiences of, challenges, and possibilities for young professionals of color in Boston. I had the pleasure of attending a number of these events that are intentionally hosted by millennials of color in the city but in spaces that we tend not to voluntarily occupy.
(Jessicah Pierre pictured left at One Day Only Fest)
For example, I attended a networking event at the Boston Public Library specifically intended to welcome artists of color and musicians in the city. We were greeted with warm words from the Boston Public Library President, David Leonard, who was not shy about addressing our city’s lack of engagement with talented millennials of color. He assured us at our presence will always be welcome in this space. I also had the opportunity to be present at the One Day Only Festival hosted by Kickback Boston at Dewey Square, a location in which I often walk past when heading over to South Station to take the commuter rail back to my resident neighborhood of Dorchester.
The festival featured a diverse line up of Boston talent ranging from spoken word artists, rappers, singers, DJs, and more. The millennials of color present at Dewey Square that day brought an energy that attracted not only those walking by but those who were interested in joining in on the fun, lively music and eclectic crowd.
"For the first time in a long time, the FUN festival events allowed a cross cultural phenomenon of both Boston’s coming together and created an unforgettable experience for many millennials like me."
For the first time in a long time, the F.U.N. festival events allowed a cross cultural phenomenon of both Boston’s coming together and created an unforgettable experience for many millennials like me. As the founder and CEO of the organization, Queens Company, where we work to empower women of color in the greater Boston area, our motto is building community over competition. This motto was perfectly captured at the FUN festival where both sides of Boston collided to, at last, create a welcoming city for all of us.
I’m looking forward to partnering with many of the organizations that made this festival possible to ensure that we continue to do the necessary work to build the bridge that provides a community and home for everyone, no matter what part of the city they’re in.
This is my vision for #MyBoston.
Jessicah Pierre is a Public Relations Professional, Political Blogger, and Social Entrepreneur. She is the President & CEO of The Queens Company, an organization that works to empower women of color in the Greater Boston area.