Pride Month begins, a COVID ambassador program, and Union United hosts a walking tour relating to displacement
Welcome to the Somerville Wire’s June 8 Weekly Roundup—a fast look at local news published every Tuesday at somervillewire.news. Readers with Somerville-focused news tips or press releases or calendar items or letter and opinion submissions can send them to Wire staff at email@example.com. Or call us at (617) 209-9511.
A newly formed group aims to identify what it means to be Asian in Somerville.
The newly renovated space just opened for curbside service.
“Expanding the role and number of police officers inherently contradicts the mayor’s stated goal of eliminating systemic racism.”
Kensington Connector Project installed, Finance Committee reflects on Somerville police reforms
Somerville Live Wire: Episode 4
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Somerville celebrates Pride Month
Mayor Joe Curtatone and the Somerville High School Gender and Sexuality Awareness Alliance will raise a pride flag in honor of LGBTQ+ Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Youth Pride on June 9, at 3 p.m. The ceremony will take place on the City Hall concourse at 93 Highland Avenue. Curtatone, Somerville LGBTQ+ Liaison Jack Treanor, Somerville High School teacher and GSA Advisor Julia Post, and a GSA student representative will all be speakers.
On June 11, from 6:30-9 p.m., the City will host a Big Gay Dance Party at 90 Union Square. The theme this year will be “Coming Out … from Quarantine!” The event is free and open to all LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies. The outdoor dance party will feature music by DJ Frenchy, drag performances by Amanda Playwith and JP, an art installation by Nate Devarie, and more. This will be the City’s fifth annual LGBTQ+ dance party, and it will have a rain date of June 18.
“I consider Pride Month a celebration, a protest, and a memorial. It is a celebration of our identities, our differences, and all of the work that has been done to advance the rights of the LGBTQ+ community,” wrote Treanor, in a statement. “It is a protest of a society that still fails to grant LGBTQ+ people, especially queer people of color and trans individuals, full rights, safety, and prosperity. And it is a memorial for all those that have fought in the past and those lost to violence and the AIDS epidemic. The Pride Flag Raising is a symbol of Somerville’s commitment to being a place where all people can feel welcome and appreciated.”
The City launches COVID ambassadors program
This June, the city of Somerville is launching a COVID Ambassador program to deliver information about vaccines, safety protocols, and support services directly to residents and businesses within their neighborhoods. The initiative was developed with Block By Block, an organization that sends ambassador teams to meet people’s needs in a variety of cities around the country.
There will be eight ambassadors who will walk through Somerville’s local neighborhoods and city squares, who will be present at public events, ready to answer questions and connect people with resources. If anyone needs a facemask, the ambassadors will be able to hand them out. They will also be able to speak the languages Spanish, Haitian Creole, and French. The ambassadors will be available seven days a week and wear orange polos that say “COVID Ambassador,” making them easy to identify.
“I want to welcome our ambassadors and thank them for providing this critical service. This initiative is one more way we can continue to engage and support our residents,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone, in a press release. “We’ve seen time and time again in this pandemic how important it is to bring resources directly to our neighborhoods and meet folks where they are. As we shift out of crisis response and into recovery mode, our ambassadors will be key to ensuring we’re rebuilding effectively and equitably.”
“We are excited to partner on this important initiative of the City of Somerville by having ambassadors provide guidance, information, and resources to Somerville residents during the recovery,” said Blair McBride, president of Block by Block, in a press release.
“We are glad to be able to offer more support services and more vaccination opportunities than ever before, but we know it’s a lot to keep track of,” said Kristen Stelljes, Somerville’s COVID-19 incident commander, in a press release. “This new outreach strategy will build on our ongoing engagement efforts to make it as easy as possible for people to get the information they need in a way that’s convenient, accessible, and culturally competent. I’m confident our ambassadors will do just that, and I can’t wait to see them in action around town.”
Union United holds walking tour, “Development without Displacement”
Union United, a seven-year-old coalition that organized to get an initial Community Benefits Agreement with the Union Square master developer in 2019, will hold a walking tour on June 13. The tour is intended to update neighbors on four large commercial Union Square Life Sciences developments that are scheduled for the City to approve: USQ, Boynton Gateway, Boynton Yards, and Gateway Innovation Center. The development could seriously displace small businesses and residents, as rents and property values will be escalating. Union United stands by the position that adding new jobs in the life sciences industry should not displace people.
“Union United will call on the developers of these projects to take responsibility for the project’s negative impacts by agreeing to contribute to efforts to stop displacement,” reads a press release. “The CBA contract that USQ signed with the Union Square Neighborhood Council commits the developer to build more affordable housing sooner in the buildout of its 15-acre development in the heart of Union Square. In this CBA, USQ also agreed to fund job readiness training and small business assistance, to pay increased wages to workers it employs directly and to maintain and keep safe its properties. DLJ in Boynton Yards has signed an agreement with the USNC to contribute beyond that required by Somerville zoning and Mayor’s Covenant, to offset negative impacts. The USQ and Boynton Yards projects are already under construction.”
The event will be held from 1-3 p.m., and it will start at Union Square Plaza, with tour stops at all four development sites.
The Somerville Community Growing Center and Groundwork Somerville are holding a Solstice Celebration in the garden at the Somerville Community Growing Center. It will be held on June 19, from 2-4 p.m. Guests will be able to learn about organizations active in climate justice, solar energy options, making compost tea to help street trees thrive to counter heat island effects, and more. If you are interested in participating, contact Lisa: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Councilor Will Mbah’s campaign for mayor of Somerville announced that his campaign had been awarded the “Pressley Policy Pledge” by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. The distinction is awarded to progressive candidates who are supportive of the progressive legislation Congresswoman Pressley is advocating for in Congress.
Councilor Katjana Ballantyne, who is also campaigning for the position of mayor of Somerville, announced that she has been awarded the Pressley Policy Pledge.
The Eviction Response Network will be holding a protest on June 15, from 5:30 – 7 p.m. in Davis Square. At the protest, there will be tenants who will speak about their experiences, and participants will demand that the City extend the eviction moratorium for at least 12 months beyond the end of the State of Emergency.
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Shira Laucharoen is assistant director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and assistant editor and staff reporter of the Somerville Wire.