Director of Economic Opportunity, Sheena Collier shares the story behind the Fierce Urgency of Now (F.U.N.) Festival and why she’s driven to create a more welcoming Boston for all.
After attending Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, I moved to the Boston area in 2004 to attend Harvard Graduate School of Education. Coming from an Historically Black College & University (HBCU), the first time I stepped foot on Harvard’s campus I did NOT want to attend. From what I could see, there were barely any black people or people of color there (or, from what I assumed, in the rest of Boston & Cambridge). My mother swiftly reminded me that I was privileged to be accepted into Harvard (and she had already told all of her friends) so there was no way that I wasn’t attending.
Like many professionals of color I’ve met that moved here begrudgingly for a great job or educational opportunities, I spent my first few years in Boston complaining about how hard it is to live here. I didn’t know anyone or have a network, so I had to figure out how to build one. Over time, I started and joined organizations, became civically engaged, and hosted events that connected me to lots of different worlds, including education, politics, arts, community organizing, and the business community.
It took work, and it wasn’t easy. And it’s not just hard for transplants like myself: I also hear from native Bostonians that they don't have spaces to connect with others across neighborhoods, sectors, and backgrounds. They, too, are looking for community and experiences that help them enjoy Boston. "It shouldn’t be this hard for people of color to see themselves and find community here in Boston."
So when I started in my role at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, I worked together with the team to help change that dynamic and lead in addressing the persistent perceptions and realities about what it’s like to be a person of color in Boston.
That’s what the Fierce Urgency of Now Festival is all about! Through F.U.N., City Awake and the Chamber are bringing together individuals across all communities and backgrounds to highlight the moral, civic, and business reasons for why we should all be working together to make sure that young professionals of color experience Boston as somewhere where they belong, feel supported, and want to live, work, and play.
This is how F.U.N. got its roots – it started as an idea for a few days with a handful of events hosted by Chamber members and advocacy groups with the hope of scaling up in years to come. But when we put out the RFP for event hosts, the response was unbelievable, and we ended up with 40+ events and 2,000 attendees in year one. Knowing that we have an engaged community of hosts, and that the demand for these events and conversations is high, the sky is the limit in year two and beyond.
This year, we have panels focused on the lack of diversity in the creative economy, a fireside chat with Tristan Walker of Bevel, a Red Sox game, brunches, parties on the Greenway, fitness classes, an LGBTQ Ball, and more. Come join us as we discuss, dance, eat, and learn how we all can play a role in creating a Boston that is welcoming for all.