Jamaica Plain

Murals send messages of change in a community staggered by a violent past
By Diana Schoberg

Click on the red dots to take a trip along Centre St.

Seven murals decorate buildings along a three-quarter-mile stretch of Centre Street in Jamaica Plain’s Hyde/Jackson square neighborhood. To a passerby, they’re a colorful sight. But to residents of the community, the murals are more than just public works of art: They tell stories.

They tell children to stay in school in a neighborhood known in the late 1980s as the cocaine capital of Boston. They tell stories of community members working to reclaim a neighborhood where gangs and violence were once so commonplace that in 1991 a mother of four children was shot and paralyzed by two 14-year-olds as the mayor and police commissioner stood across the street. They tell stories of small business owners and community activists laboring to make Boston’s “Latin quarter” a vibrant community.

Crime in Hyde Square dropped 50 percent between 1990 and 1999, according to the Heritage Foundation. Boston Police aggressively went after the drug dealers. Individuals in the community participated in crime watches and kept up their property. Businesses flourished. Today, one of the biggest worries is that those who worked so hard to make this a functioning community will soon be priced out and forced to move.

The neighborhood has come a long way. But drugs are still a problem today, as are in turn bag snatchings and car thefts. The community is on edge after a 14-year-old girl was stabbed outside of the Jackson Square T-stop in april.

Positive messages on murals, sincere as they may be, can only go so far. But they are still important and so are the people conveying them, working together for the community’s future.


Memories of Changes

One police officer's memories of changes in Hyde Square over the past 30 years.

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