Posted by Allison O'Shea on November 14, 2014

Nubian NotionsA jolly old man donning a fluffy, white beard; a beautiful, green pine tree adorned with multi-colored lights; carolers strolling the streets, singing to the tune of “Jingle Bells.” For some, images such as these have come to define Boston during the month of December. In fact, the City of Boston held over 20 tree lighting ceremonies last year alone. These Christmas traditions, while fun, also serve a very practical purpose: they bring the community together, attract consumers to the area, and spur economic activity. But how do you fulfill this same purpose in a place where not everyone celebrates Christmas? It can certainly be a challenge, but I have spent much of my summer internship at Dudley Square Main Streets finding a way to do just that.

dudley square main street logoDudley Square Main Streets is one of twenty Main Streets organizations in the city of Boston. Each Main Streets organization throughout the city works closely with local business owners to create viable business districts. In Dudley Square, the demographics of the local business owners are especially unique. Nationalities represented in the square include Somali, Ethiopian, Cape Verdean, Sierra Leonean, Caribbean, Vietnamese, Korean, and Russian. Because Dudley Square is so racially and ethnically diverse, not everyone celebrates Christmas; consequently, coordinating special activities during the month of December is particularly challenging. In order to bring the same economic benefits to Dudley Square that traditional Christmas activities bring to other neighborhoods throughout Boston, I have been working on plans for an International Festival in Dudley Square.

The International Festival is scheduled to begin November 14, 2014 and run through January 2, 2015. The goal of the International Festival is to celebrate the diversity of Dudley Square, bring the community together, and attract consumers to the area. Setennah Wright, who is part of the Abdal-Khallaq family that founded A Nubian Notion, Inc. in 1962, explains: “I’m excited to participate [in the International Festival] and meet other merchants that I never get to see. I see us getting the chance to gain new customers and to show the public that we like to be involved with the community.” A Nubian Notion, Inc., a convenience store and gift shop that features Afrocentric items, is just one of many businesses in Dudley Square already planning for the festival.

A Nubian Notion, Inc. will be moderating a meet and greet with the author Dr. Earle Williams II during the festival. In addition to this event, I have helped plan several other public events for the festival, including, but not limited to: an arts and crafts day for children, weekly wine and cheese tastings at Giant Liquors, a spoken word event featuring local youth, a fashion show, and promotional gift giveaways. These diverse events, in addition to the more traditional tree lighting and visit from Santa Claus, will help make Dudley Square a destination during the 2014 holiday season and spur economic activity in the business district, which has so much to offer.

Even though my internship will end long before the International Festival begins, I am looking forward to returning to Dudley Square this holiday season for what will surely be one of the best celebrations in Boston.

For updates on the International Festival, please visit the Dudley Square Main Streets home page.

Photo above: A Nubian Notion, Inc., a convenience store and gift shop located in Dudley Square, has been selling foreign and domestic Afrocentric products for over 50 years.

IMG_1601ALLISON O’SHEA, a TACC Summer Intern, spent 12 weeks this summer working with Dudley Square Main Streets on a range of projects. Dudley Square Main Streets Revitalization Corporation is a commercial revitalization organization located in Boston’s historic Dudley Square Commercial District, “the Heart and Soul of Roxbury.” Since 1995, Main Streets has worked to recruit new businesses, assist businesses with storefront renovations; provide technical assistance to business owners; work with developers on large anchor parcels, and celebrate the rich cultural diversity and history of the district. Allison is a senior in the Carroll School of Management Honors Program at Boston College concentrating in Economics and minoring in International Studies. She is passionate about social justice issues and hopes to use her economics and business degree to incite positive change in the world.