Mattapan tour explains past and present

Allentza Michel led a walking tour of Mattapan on Sat., Oct. 26. Kevin Perrington-Turner photo

A dozen people attended a Mattapan Cultural & Historical Walking Tour that was led by Allentza Michel last Saturday, Oct. 26. The walk started at the Solomon Lewenberg School and included stops by the Morning Star Baptist Church, Mattapan Square, the Woolson Street Lot & Community Garden, and other landmarks.

Michel runs a group called Powerful Pathways and is a member of Mattapan Open Streets/Open Studios.

“As somebody who grew up here in Mattapan I’m very interested in helping my community learn about the deep history that Mattapan has. For me it’s about building local pride but also educating folks who are not from the community about the richness that’s here as well.”

“People tend to stigmatize the community in a negative way and it takes a toll on residents,” Michel added. “You don’t see a lot of the beauty that’s in this community. The resiliency. The local assets. We got the oldest trolley system going strong and Simco’s,” she said.

Mattapan, she explained, was largely a Jewish neighborhood up until the 1960s when redlining and blockbusting, a device to cluster black homebuyers into pre-determined neighborhoods, targeted the neighborhood.

“I vaguely knew about the red-lining that happened that pushed a lot of the earlier Jewish residents to leave,” explained Stephen Breitt, who joined the walk. “I learned more about that. I learned more about the turnover of the possible gentrification of the area.”

“For me this is a learning experience… it’s got a lot of potential in terms of the housing and seems pretty peaceful place to live,” he said.
Vernon Woodworth, another participant, said Mattapan’s location makes it special.

“It’s large, it’s relatively low density for an urban area.It’s immediately adjacent to the Neponset River, and the Blue Hills Reservation. And it has a variety of neighborhoods and natural settings,” said Woodworth.

“I hope that the commercial areas will experience some additional activity because of the new Fairmount Line. And that enough new housing will be built to ensure that there’s no displacement,” he said.

To learn more or give suggestions for a walking tour in Boston neighborhoods, contact Allentza Michel at 617-819-4783 or powerfulpathwaysinc@gmail.com.