‘Mattapan United’ seeking a vision

Fifty residents and local activists came together Tuesday at the Mattapan public library branch to brainstorm and advance ideas they hope will lead to a consensus about how to make their neighborhood a better place.

The meeting was part of a coalition of neighborhood groups coming together under the banner of “Mattapan United.” The effort has been underway since 2010, brought about in part by violence in the area, including the quadruple murder on Woolson St. Activists are focusing on a five-year mission.
“We want to see peace on our streets,” said Rodney Bender, a longtime Mattapan activist. The library session comes as the Mattapan Community Development Corporation (CDC) finds itself in disarray and a key state-led project in the neighborhood, the Neponset Greenway, remains incomplete.

After about 40 minutes, the groups relayed their suggestions for improving Mattapan, including a community center for the arts, more trees and better use of the parks, the completion of the greenway, a Mattapan restaurant week and bringing back an anti-litter campaign in public schools.

Getting neighbors and friends politically involved was another suggestion as was holding elected officials accountable was another.

“We let them slide,” said Myrtle Huggins, an outspoken former teacher.

“We will have a new and functioning CDC,” Cassandra Cato-Louis said, describing one of her group’s requests. The suggestion drew laughter and applause from the crowd.

The Boston Globe reported this week that the CDC has not paid its property taxes or filed a non-profit tax form with state Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office. The website of the CDC currently is a white space containing the words “This site is under construction….. Please check back soon.”

Participants focused on the “united” portion of the umbrella group’s name. Kara Wells, a 37-year-old resident, said she noticed that African-Americans and Haitians in Mattapan sometimes appear to occupy “two separate worlds. We never merged well,” she said. “Where’s that cultural exchange?”

Bender said he remembers a mother once asking him to mentor two young Haitian boys. The three bonded over a “shared value of having a strong neighborhood,” he said.

More meetings lie ahead. Rep. Holmes urged Mattapan United members to attend a breakfast of local stakeholders on Tues., June 5, at 7:30 a.m. in the Mattapan library that is being sponsored by state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry (D-Dorchester).

A community meeting will be held tonight at 6 o’clock at the Foley Senior Residences on River Street to discuss locations of green space along the Fairmount commuter rail line, which runs through Mattapan to Readville and is expanding by four stations.

The next gathering of the Mattapan United coalition is expected to occur in late June when results of a survey of Mattapan residents are expected to be available for discussion.

“We’re coming out with a unified vision of what we want to see in Mattapan,” Wells said.