Earlier this summer, Celtics shooting guard Jaylen Brown made national headlines by shining a spotlight on an idea that has been brewing for some time — creating a Black Wall Street in Boston.
The original Black Wall Street, 35 blocks of largely Black-owned businesses and homes in the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okla., was nearly eradicated following the horrific destruction of homes, businesses, and schools, and the massacre of up to 300 Black people in 1921. Now only two blocks remain, though they serve as a reminder of all that was 100 years ago and what has yet to be replicated or rebuilt.
At the same time that Black Wall Street was thriving in Tulsa, Roxbury was the second largest commercial district in Boston, second only to Downtown Crossing.
Boston has the opportunity to create the next Black Wall Street in Nubian Square. Located in Roxbury, Nubian Square is the geographic center of Boston and the heart of its Black community, with a rich past and present of culture, education, and economic development.
PLAN: Nubian Square, led by the Roxbury Strategic Master Plan Oversight Committee, is in motion, with significant development underway, much of it led by Black real estate developers with ties to the neighborhood and a deep understanding of the community’s needs.
These new projects are bringing housing, labs, job training, and commercial spaces to Nubian Square, which already features thriving retail stores and restaurants, and businesses representing multiple high-growth industries, like the Better Together Brain Trust, a clean energy enterprise located on Warren Street. The district is home to the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, and OneUnited Bank, the largest Black-owned bank in the country, recently purchased a building on Washington Street to serve as its headquarters.
The concept of a Black Wall Street goes beyond thriving businesses and institutions. The idea is a neighborhood that serves as a new technology and cultural hub for Boston that promotes equitable and inclusive economic growth, job creation, innovation, and homeownership. Centrally located in Boston, serving as a transit hub for MBTA bus lines and in close proximity to the Orange Line, Nubian Square is an ideal location to live, learn, work, and play.
The neighborhood has 50,000 residents and is a hub of K-12 education, home to both the Boston Public Schools and METCO headquarters, as well as several BPS schools, including Madison Park Technical Vocational High School and Dearborn STEM Academy.
Pathways to postsecondary success for young people are clear in the neighborhood. Roxbury Community College and the new Benjamin Franklin Cummings Institute of Technology campus are both in the area, and each is a leading minority-serving institution in technology, health care, or other high-demand industry sectors.
The square has also received the state designation as the Roxbury Cultural District, making it eligible for state grants for budding artists, and Roxbury Main Streets is actively engaging businesses in the area, obtaining funding for building facade improvements and working to secure more local liquor licenses to increase revenue for neighborhood restaurants.
Earlier this year the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts moved our offices to the Bolling Building. As an organization committed to supporting and empowering Black-owned businesses, we knew we needed to base our operations in Nubian Square. We and our strategic partners are committed to fostering a tech hub for life sciences, climate workers, and entrepreneurs. Given the Commonwealth’s significant demand for skilled talent in these growth industries, Nubian Square’s confluence of resources is ideally suited to propel these key sectors forward.
We applaud Jaylen Brown for lifting the concept of a Black Wall Street in Boston into the public consciousness. We regard this moment as a viable opportunity to bring a broad range of stakeholders together to realize the full potential inherent in Nubian Square.
Realizing the vision for this vibrant neighborhood requires focused, collaborative, and intentional capital investment from multiple sectors. We encourage business affinity groups, city and state government, nonprofits, foundations, health care organizations, and life science and climate tech businesses to witness the promise of Nubian Square firsthand and commit to cultivating this future economic engine for our city.
Investing in Nubian Square is an investment in Boston and the state’s growth and prosperity.
Let’s unite to build Black wealth in the Commonwealth and start building Black Wall Street in Nubian Square.
Nicole Obi is president and CEO of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts. Aisha Francis is president of Franklin Cummings Tech.