Youths rally for Jackson Square Rec Center

On Valentine’s Day, Jamaica Plain youth rallied for love—love in terms of community resources, that is.

Members of the Hyde Square Task Force (HSTF) and local elected officials rallied at the Hyde Square Task Force Youth Development Center on Feb. 14 to advocate for the long-awaited Jackson Square Recreation Center to be built and the resources to make that happen be provided. HSTF is a youth-oriented nonprofit.

Youth at the rally said that the communities of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain were promised a new recreational facility as part of the $250 million Jackson Square redevelopment. Urban Edge, a local community development organization, is planning on developing a $21 million facility across from Jackson Square T-station at 1542 Columbus Ave. Thirteen million dollars has been raised to foot the bill for the facility, and there is a fundraising drive for the remaining money needed.

Many youths at the rally argued that the absence of this facility is a symptom of neglect and a result of a social justice problem.

William Morales, the commissioner of the Boston Centers for Youth & Families, commended the effort that Hyde Square Task Force was exerting.

“Young people need not only a place to go, but a place to grow,” Morales said. “This is long overdue, and we need it now.”

Jamaica Plain City Councilor Matt O’Malley said that the recreational facility could be a “wellspring of hope.”

“This is an endeavor that is almost two years in the making, a labor of love, and thanks to the efforts of so many stakeholders, we’re getting close. Urban Edge has been diligent stewards of this project, and I want to thank them for that,” said O’Malley.

Laurie Pearson, one of the youths who spoke at the event, explained that she was active in supporting the project for the generations to come.

“Even though I’ll be in college by the time this recreation center is built, I’m happy that youths will be able to enjoy it after I’m gone,” Pearson said.

City Councilor Tito Jackson, who is running for mayor, said the recreational center was an imperative and that the root of the issue was raising funds.

“We need to ensure that our neighborhood has these centers like they do around the city of Boston. Wellness is real, and we know that in many of our neighborhoods we hear sirens on a regular basis. We need yoga, too! We need to relax, to work out, and this recreation center is a critical component for people in our community,” said Jackson.

The councilor cited the discrepancies around the city in terms of life expectancy, and said that the recreational center could play a role in equalizing those differences.

“This is not only advocating for love, not only advocating for money, but absolutely advocating for life in our community,” Jackson said.

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