What’s Happening on Main Streets

By Courtney Wright

Special to the Gazette

Happy Fourth of July!

I hope that everyone had an enjoyable holiday and found time to relax and wind down after what was a very eventful June. After all the Celtics hype and celebrations culminating in the parade that saw millions of people out in the streets just a couple of weeks ago, it is almost eerie how quiet the neighborhood and City feel in comparison as we kick off the holiday week and people begin to take their summer vacations.

To make sure that July wasn’t devoid of more good basketball news, on Monday (July 1) Jaylen Harrell of Cambridge Arts, Technology and Science (CATS) Academy in Boston used the Tobin Community Center to officially announce his commitment to the Providence College Friars Basketball program. Harrell was the 2023-2024 Gatorade Massachusetts Boys Basketball Player of the Year and currently is ranked the 89th prospect nationally and 1st in Massachusetts. The 6’6 small forward received offers from Rutgers, Xavier, Kansas, Alabama and Virginia Tech but ultimately chose Providence. Congratulations to John Jackson and the rest of the staff and coaches at the Tobin Community Center on what must be a very proud moment. It is reflective of the positive and meaningful impact that you all have in the lives of the youth you mentor, coach and provide space for that they choose to come back to the Tobin, back to Mission Hill, to announce and share their biggest news about their achievements- thank you and congratulations!

While celebrating those who come back to Mission Hill- it is necessary to also celebrate what stays in Mission Hill- this case being the Post Office. Thanks to the outcry and organizing of concerned residents regarding the closure of the MH Post Office- the issue was elevated by District 8 City Councilor Sharon Durkhan to Senator Ed Markey which helped lay the groundwork for the new, current 6 year lease that was just put in place. Thank you Councilor for your advocacy on this issue and helping residents bring awareness to those necessary to preserve a vital service for so many.

June kicked off with the Legacy Business Awards Ceremony on June 4th put on by the City of Boston’s Office of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion at the Boston Center for the Arts in the South End. Along with several Mission Hill residents and Main Streets Board members, Maria and Bruce were joined by their sons and their families as they were given their Legacy Business Award by Mayor Wu. My favorite moment of the night was hearing Maria’s grandson yell “YIA YIA!” to her as she beamed on stage. It was such a great way to spend an evening honoring the Weinograds’ and Mike’s Donuts.

On Juneteenth, the MFA honored the Holiday by hosting an open house with drop-in activities and performances, free admission from 10 a.m.-5p.m. Mission Hill Main Streets and the MH Artists Collective were lucky enough to be included in this programming by showcasing and promoting the work of four local artists. These artists; LeShonda Zene, Aminata Dakowa, Zahira Nurtruth, and Michelle Zene impressed us all with their array of paintings, fabric creations, fluid art of handcrafted paper items, resin and more. It was exciting to be a part of and made me feel very proud of the talented people that live within our community. This event would not have been possible without Lydia Pena and the MH Artists Collective, Ellen Walker who donated her time to help us get it off the ground and Imani Vieira at the MFA who stewarded us through the process. To the brilliant artists, Lydia, Ellen and Imani- thank you!

On June 22nd, Mission Hill Neighborhood Housing Services held its Annual Meeting and 50thAnniversary celebration. In addition to celebrating their 50th anniversary, they celebrated the ribbon-cutting of their new Parcel 25 Phase 2 project at One Halleck Street in Roxbury Crossing, which has expanded affordable housing access to the neighborhood. It is exciting to see so many new residents coming into the neighborhood and business district. More residents mean more business patrons and at Main Streets, we like that very much. Congratulations to MHNHS on this great achievement.

It is always fun and invigorating when we get the opportunity to come together as a community and celebrate. In a time when no one seems to “have time” due to the demands of work and life, it is important that we do take these opportunities to come together and honor the successes/milestones of those people and organizations who make up Mission Hill. In that vein, I tend to think communities most often show their strength and resilience when times are not celebratory-but rather, challenging. Last week was one of those times. Many of awoke  Wednesday morning to the terrible news of the Squealing Pig catching fire and witnessing the aftermath throughout the day as the remaining structure was boarded up.

By now the cause and subsequent arrest has been reported so rather than belabor what has already been circulated- I want to reflect on how quickly people mobilized to offer support to Diarmuid O’Neill, his family and his staff of the Pig. I received a call before 8 a.m. Wednesday morning from the City’s Office of Small Business and Boston Main Streets, letting me know that they were available to the owners to assist however they could in connecting resources. Bureaucracy not being known for its speed; I was impressed with how quickly the City was on the phone to offer assistance. An hour later, some of the Squealing Pig’s kitchen staff, Diarmuid, his daughter Beza and Michel Soltani were all sitting in Mike’s brainstorming how to help the staff find new jobs to avoid disruption to their livelihoods. Michel through his network was able to help place people almost immediately and our local businesses were all quick to offer their support in helping place others that may have need down the road. Just about every person who walked through the door at Mike’s was quick to offer condolences, recommendations, advice, a contact, etc. While I could go on with more examples of Mission Hill as a resilient community and wax poetic about how moving it was, I will close with the statement put out by the O’Neills, for they said it best (as the Irish always seem to do):

To our beloved Mission Hill community and loyal patrons,

It is with heavy hearts that the O’Neill family confirms the devastating fire that has destroyed our cherished Squealing Pig. For 26 years, this establishment has been our pride and joy, serving as a gathering place for countless memories and celebrations.

The loss is immeasurable for our family and the community that has embraced us so warmly. We are heartbroken, but our spirits remain strong.

We sincerely thank the Boston Fire Department for their swift response and unwavering bravery. Their expertise and courage prevented the fire from spreading further, saving countless neighboring businesses and homes. We are forever indebted to these heroes.

We also wish to express our sincere thanks to Mayor Michelle Wu and the Boston Police Department for their early and steadfast support during this difficult time. Their leadership and guidance have been invaluable.

We are overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support from our neighbors, friends, and loyal customers. Your kind words, hugs, and offers of assistance have lifted our spirits during this difficult time. The Mission Hill community is truly a family, and we are grateful to be a part of it.

Though the Squealing Pig, as we know it, may be gone, we remain committed to our beloved Mission Hill. We promise to rebuild and create a new gathering place where cherished memories can once again be made.

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you.

Go raibh mile maith agat!

The O’Neill Family

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