Donning a blue surgical mask, a man poses for a photograph near the corner of Roxbury St. and Washington St. Roxbury on June 5.

Highs and lows neighbor one another where two Boston neighborhoods meet

In Roxbury and the South End social inequality and the opioid epidemic have a long history. The community takes action.

Demographics shift suddenly at the intersection of Roxbury and the South End and the racial boundaries in Boston become clear. In Roxbury, Black Bostonians still live within the redlined boundaries set by the Home Owner's Loan Corporation established in the 1930s which codified racist policies and de facto segregation.Financially, this set Black Bostonian's back generations. The Boston Globe reported in 2017 the household median net worth of Black Bostonians was $8. White households had a median net worth of $247,500.

Today, where many Black Bostonians chose to live may not be up to them. The South End is rapidly gentrifying and will continue to do so. Northeastern University causes anxiety in Lower Roxbury with each expansion and influx of students.That's why community engagement and reinvestment is the core mission of many groups found in both neighborhoods.

Roxbury and the South End are two different, changing neighborhoods with fascinating stories. What's better are the people.

Rehab and Relapse

The opioid epidemic has converged most notably around Boston Medical Center. Here people seeks both treatment and the highs that are the cause of the opioid epidemic.

Tucked away against the Massachusetts Ave. connector to I-93 is the Suffolk County House of Correction . Heroin, meth, and other drug abuse now take place on the same street wherein the Summer of 2019 the assault of a corrections officer led to the city's crackdown. The police appeared to target low-level crimes and persons with substance use disorder forcing many out of the South End. 'Where do we go?' became a common question.

Atkinson St., where the summer assault took place and the location of the county jail, is also home to part of Mayor Walsh's Mass/Cass 2.0 plan. There, a fenced-in, open-faced tent that has no permanent running water or electricity provides coffee and snacks from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. everyday. The Engagement Center has centralized where people go to meet. Across the connector bridge, there is a community. The City has tried to force it out of the South End and into Boston's no man's land.

Technically, this is South Boston. I-93 and the rail yard buffer the neighborhood. One block west is Roxbury. North is the South End.Like the neighborhoods, three City Council districts come together at Boston Medical Center. It's a part of Boston where representation is mixed and a responsibility few want to claim.

Lloyd, after asking for an image with the blue lights of the police car behind him prepares to walk into the engagement center on Atkinson St. on Friday, Oct. 30 2020. He is among the youngest people I've see in this part of Boston.
Lloyd, joyfully posing for an image with on Atkinson St. on Friday, Oct. 30 2020. Lloyd asked if I would be back the next day for copies. I said yes. After several attempts I've yet to encounter him again.
Bobby, who did not give his last name, pauses for an image after finishing the airplane bottle of Fireball before walking toward the engagement center on Atkinson St. on Oct. 31. Narcotic use is often allowed to go unchecked here but an open container adds an extra reason for arrests.
The following image contains disturbing content. Click to view.
Bobby shows off the damage he suffered to his right hand when previously intoxicated. He said he wasn't going to the tent for its services, but to see who was there, illustrating the communal aspects of this location.
Arthur Miles poses for a portrait after walking out of the engagement center during the first snow of the year on Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. Miles, who is homeless and in recovery uses the engagement center for and additional services surrounding Boston Medical Center for support.

Protesting injustice

After George Floyd died under then-Officer Derek Chauvin's knee in Minneapolis, continuous marches for social equality and police reform began in Boston and across the nation. Almost all of these marches within city limits began or ended in Roxbury, at Nubian Square. Nearly all march east or west through the South End.

Police attempting to separate protesters after the first violent clash outside Boston Police Department District D-4 on May 29, 2020. George Floyd died four days earlier and this was the first large protest in Boston.
A family emerges from their South End home to cheer on protestors as head toward the Boston Common on Columbus Ave. on after starting from Roxbury's Nubian Square on Saturday on July 4, 2020 for the "Say her Name" march. With over 1,000 people in attendance the the demonstration is one of the largest and recently seen and celebrated Black Women on the nation's 244th anniversary.
Employees of a liquor store on Tremont St. watch protesters march against Police Brutality from behind a security grille on June 7.
Top: Boston Police Department officers push break established lines around Boston Police Department District D-4 and push protesters across Harrison Ave. into the neighboring apartment complexes on May 29. BPD officers used pepper spray and batons while protesters threw bottles of water and cans. Above: A woman lying on the street is tended to by other protesters after suffering the effects of peppers spray. The protesters were originally part of the Boston's first large protest following George Floyd's death but split from the march to continue protesting outside the station.
A man with a face shield attends the "Trans Resistance Vigil and March" at Franklin Park on June 13, 2020. Held in lieu of and on the 50th anniversary of Boston Pride March supporters gather to celebrate lives and rights of transgender people.
Two women dance with each other as they lead a march from downtown Boston City Hall through the South End and to Lower Roxbury on June 7.

A community coming together

Despite battling both the opioid epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic at at once, non-profits and communitiy organizations help to ease some of the burdens the South End and Roxbury face.

Nathaniel Playoute, Lotaya William from Mattapan, and their family friend pose together along side their vehicle on Southampton St. on Oct. 24. The couple weekly drives to the Southampton St. and Atkinson St. intersection to provide food and drinks to passerby.
Mark Roble, the catering assistant at the Haley House in Roxbury, prepares meals for Boston Housing Authority on Nov. 23 to be delivered to residents of the Boston Housing Authority during the week of Thanksgiving.
A baker with the Haley House for 13 years, Sokly Touch, rolls pies crust in at their Roxbury location at Dade St.
Mark Roble toward the end of the two-day rush.
Sokly Touch in the Haley House kitchen.
Tony Norman, the catering superviser at Haley House, handles cooking the last batch of food on Nov. 23. Over a two-day stretch before Thanksgiving, they made 500 meals for residents of the Boston Housing Authority. As they wrap up their work in the kitchen, Tony Norman shows off the finished dish that he made for the crew.

The power of faith

Faith is found and practiced in a diverse multitude of ways in the South End and Roxbury, representing the people who live there.

The Say Her Name March and Rally, with eventually more than 1,000 people in attendance, begins it's departure from Nubian Square in Roxbury toward the Boston Common on July 4. Members of the Sistahs of Calabash
Members of the Sistahs of Calabash honor Harriet Tubman near her memorial in Boston's South End on Saturday, July 4.
A man's dancing silhouette is caught against the former Tremont Street Methodist Episcopal Church as the Say Her Name March and Rally continues toward the Boston Common and into the evening0.

Data Visualizations

INNOVATI20N20 showcases the master's projects of the 2020 Media Innovation program at the Northeastern University School of Journalism. © 2020