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  Thursday, March 5, 2015
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Vandalism in No Man's Land
By Michael Dowling

     "People form their day-to-day opinions of life through their kitchen window.”

     "It is never a crime to speak up for the poor, the helpless or the ill; it is never a crime to tell the truth; it is never a crime to demand justice; it is never a crime to teach people their rights; it is never a crime to struggle for a just peace. It is never a crime. It is always a duty."- John Joseph Moakley


     It is with deep and heartfelt sadness that I write this.    As many of you know, Medicine Wheel has had a youth employment program in South Boston for the past eight years.   Our goal has been to offer our young people a safe place with meaningful work in the form of powerful and evocative works of public art.  

     Inspired by the words of the late Joe Moakley, I have tried to instill in our young people the concept of respect for themselves and for their fellows.  I have tried to teach them that their neighbors were not just the people who lived next door, but people from all over the neighborhood, the city, the state, and the world.

     In doing this, I have been committed to putting together a diverse team of young people to help me build bridges between young people from different racial, ethnic and economic circles. To do this, we hire half of our young people from students who attend South Boston High and half from those who reside in South Boston itself.  This summer, that translated into one Asian, six whites, four blacks and three Latinos, a true mirror of the demographics of our city.

     On our first day of work at No Man’s Land, directly behind South Boston High School, we were greeted with some of the most hurtful and hateful graffiti I have ever seen - for example, “Keep Southie White”, “KKK”, and swastikas all over the granite furniture in our outdoor classroom.

     How do I tell young people of color and other minorities that this is their welcome mat to South Boston?  How do I tell them to make a gift of their work to the community?  How do these cycles of fanaticism and trash end?   We decided that we were above the racism and would reclaim the site, making it as one young woman said, “Too beautiful for others to want to destroy”. 

     Last Thursday, when it was too beautiful in our minds to want to destroy, three granite benches were smashed and destroyed by our so-called “welcoming committee”.   

     How do I tell these courageous young people not to give up their struggle for social justice? And how do we break the code of silence around a new generation of racism, when we thought we had moved on?

     Please join us in supporting the members of the Medicine Wheel Youth Program as they present their new work an evocative performance of poetry and dance they have entitled “Breaking Benches-Building Bridges” on Wednesday evening, August 23, at 6 p.m.   They and I really need your support on Wednesday.

     These are our young people - all of them!     

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The granite benches, which

were donated as part of the recovery and landscaping of

No Man's Land between Dor-chester Heights Park and the

High School.  Last Thursday, vandals dropped rocks on them causing an estimated damage

of $4000.  The identities of the suspected vandals have been determined; they are thought

to be a group of teenagers from South Boston.  The Boston police are taking appropriate actions at this moment.

The Medicine Wheel Youth

Program members hard at

work last Monday.

Some of the No Man's Land 

walls and walkways created

by members of the Medicine Wheel.