Note: This diary is in support of an ongoing crowdfunding effort by the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB). The funding will play a crucial role in helping regenerate the building they've occupied for the last 40 years. Please help in any way you can - ideally, by Rec'ing and sharing as widely as you can, and if time and finances allow, with whatever you can provide to help with the fundraising effort. Times are tight for many of us - simply sharing news of this effort is more than appreciated. Please read on, and thank you.
A foundation is the underlying, load-bearing part of a physical structure, or it can be the core principles upon which an institution or organization is built. It defines the primary base that all other elements attach to: it creates, sometimes in both the physical and social - even spiritual - sense, a touchpoint for grounding oneself and one's history.
When that foundation weakens, it can undermine the whole structure - physical, social and spiritual. If issues arise that go unaddressed, the foundation can weaken, crumble and collapse. Even before such issues get to any extreme, any signs of weakness can impact the ability to address and resolve issues. If, for example, funds that might normally cover repairs to a building are withheld because the building needs repair, that can be a cruel Catch-22 - how can a building be repaired, its infrastructure and foundation strengthened, if the funds to do that are withheld because small issues have appeared?
In a building like the current home of NAICOB (North American Indian Center of Boston), a situation somewhat similar to that has arisen. The folks at NAICOB have organized an Indiegogo campaign to address it - they want to raise funds to fully assess and repair the building they call "home," which in turn will enable them to qualify once more for some of the funding they've lost that helped them provide programs - and infrastructure - in support of the Greater Boston area Native American population.
at the NAICOB building in Jamaica Plain, MA.
The North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB) is a non-profit organization that was formed in 1991 from what was originally the Boston Indian Council (BIC). The BIC was created by a group of Native Americans living in Boston during the late 1960s, during the height of civil rights movement. As the organization has grown, flourished, and both waxed and waned, its identification as a touchpoint and starting point for Native Americans in, or migrating to, Boston has grown stronger.
Here's an excerpt from their Indiegogo page, where they've launched a crowdfunding effort called NAICOB Regeneration Fund:
The BIC was originally just a place where native peoples could meet up and engage with one another, but it quickly became a roaring success. It started with just a handful of Indians meeting across the street from the Boston Common, progressed to larger meetings in a Funeral Parlor in Dorchester, but in 1974 - as the need for services became obvious - they acquired the building that NAICOB inhabits to this very day. In those heady days, with the U.S. recognizing the wrongs it had done to so many, there were always new programs: computer training, education services, employment assistance, cultural programs, and so much more - they even ran a halfway house (called Tecumseh House) for alcoholics. It was through organizations like BIC that genuine advances began to occur...And they now find themselves in a conundrum: in order to progress and qualify for some of the funding they've lost for programs like Head Start, they need to finance repairs to their building - their home for over 40 years.
Then the backlash against the civil rights and anti-poverty programs began, and picked up pace particularly during the eighties. The Boston Indian Council, who were by then the center for the Indian Health Service in Boston, suddenly found itself with a continued need for all the programs but a drastically reduced budget. Furthermore, the federal recognition process was initiated; this has been a blessing for so many, allowing tribes to acquire sovereignty and self-sufficiency. However, it did have one drawback: it drew away even more funding from urban centers like the BIC, which led to reduced opportunities to many native peoples - those whose tribes had been unable to achieve recognition, and those urban natives who were very far away from these newly available resources. To save itself from complete destruction, it reformed itself as a non-profit organization in 1991 - the North American Indian Center of Boston (NAICOB).
The space they've called "home" for so long originally included an adjoining lot where they held many of their outdoor activities; they lost that when the state, in a funding crisis, had to sell it to developers in 2006. The developers who purchased the adjoining space bought it for around $1.1 million to build luxury apartments. NAICOB had the option of which lot to keep - the empty one, or the one with their building. They opted for the building, and secured - happily - a 99 year lease on it.
But the loss of the external space for pow-wows and other community-building and strengthening activities was tangible, a paring down of the physical area that mimicked the erosion of funding available for some of the effective and necessary programs they offer to the community. The space currently sits empty while awaiting the imminent, pending changes that the developers will bring.
now sold by the state to developers.
Stepping into the building, a visitor gets an immediate sense of "home" - there is no lingering aura from the prior history of the building; the community has made it a part of themselves, and the bright colors and artwork painted directly on the walls reflects elements of history, culture and community spirit.
My wife and I have been to NAICOB; we've met some of the folks, and enjoyed the warm hospitality of the people. It's a place I'd like to visit more often, and to see continue to grow and thrive. They aren't idle - they've been building new programs and plan to expand - or re-introduce - others, and have already made some significant improvements to the building: a new heating system, a new security system, a new playground for the children...and they've got a few neat projects in development with the state that I'll write more about later.
One of the signature programs they have is Grandparents Bridging the Gap - a program (and, at the link, an online guide) that serves grandparents who, through one reason or another, have found themselves back in the role of primary caregivers for families.
This manual is dedicated to all the grandparents that have become, by circumstance, or design, caregivers to our children.There's a lot going on - and there will be even more, especially if they can reach their fundraising goal and regenerate their aging building. Resolving that catch-22 will open a lot more possibilities, including the possible (and hoped-for) return of the Head Start program.
The role of grandparents as caregivers for our children has long been a sacred part of who we are as a People. Today, more than ever, we continue to rely on the goodness and selflessness of our grandparents. They are Mother Earth and Father Sky, they are the Ancestors, and they are our relatives.
They represent warmth when it is cold, guidance when we are lost, and love always, unconditionally...
They are our grandparents.
-- Joanne Dunn, Mi'kmaq Elder
North American Indian Center of Boston, Inc.
I will post another diary containing more information and images in a day or two, and I will also follow up with appropriate credit for the artwork once I've had the chance to go back and consult my notes.
To give you a sense of the warmth that echoes from the very halls of the building, here's a small sampling of some more interior artwork:
Please help spread awareness of their crowdfunding campaign, and encourage those who can contribute to do so or to at least spread the word further.
1 The Youth Service Board - the link shows one reference to extending its funding in 1951 into 1952. An excerpt from the document:
Upon its organization the youth service board established by section sixty-four of chapter six of the General Laws, as inserted by section two of chapter three hundred and ten of the acts of the current year, hereinafter called the board, shall forthwith establish in the city of Boston for use during the limited period hereinafter specified, one or more places of custody which shall be completely separate from any lockup, police station or house of detention in said city, which shall be used solely for the temporary care, custody and study, under sections sixty-six, sixty-seven and sixty-eight of chapter one hundred and nineteen of the General Laws, of delinquent and wayward children between the time of their arrest or taking into custody and the final disposition of their case, and shall be maintained by the board until the board has developed a program for the care, custody and study of such children between the time of their arrest or taking into custody and the final disposition of their case; but in no event shall said place or places of custody be maintained longer than July first, nineteen hundred and fifty-two.