I have spent half of this month panicking about what stories I’m going to tell you about Boston. I feared that I wasn’t connecting to the city, that something was off. In DC, it took only minutes to fall in love with the city. Walking down the streets and seeing offices of UN agencies, visiting Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King’s memorials all made D.C feel like I was in the world’s capital.
But Boston just felt…there. Until a dear friend visited and we took a walk past the Harvard Kennedy School where I take most of my classes, and voila! I stumbled on the beautiful JFK Park right around the block. It was literally a few feet away but I’d never noticed! Right then I made the decision to walk around more, at least in the Cambridge area, instead of taking the subway all the time. The Massachusetts Bay subway, which locals fondly call the ‘T’, is a quirky and fast way to get around, but taking it all the time means you lose out on the city’s sights and sounds. Now, I’m noticing the beautiful colonial-style buildings and revelling in the aching beauty of autumn which turns the parks into dazzling displays of oranges, reds and browns.
Ditching The T helped me realize just how many students are in the area. Boston is a vibrant college town. Where else could you have a Harvard and an MIT so closely situated? But then there’s also Simmons, Emerson, Northeastern, Tufts. The list goes on. There are about 50 colleges in the Greater Boston Area alone. It reminds me of my own hometown, Kwara, in Nigeria’s central region, which boasts of some of the best higher education institutions in the country including the University of Ilorin. Harvard is particularly beautiful with its gigantic libraries and imposing cathedrals.
I had the privilege of visiting one of the colleges outside MIT and Harvard. I was at Simmons with Nadine Hoffman, IWMF deputy director, for an interesting panel discussion on race, media, and democracy in America, held in honour of the late journalist, Gwen Ifill. The panellists included Judy Woodruff, a veteran broadcaster and one of the founders of the IWMF. It also featured Asma Khalid, NPR political correspondent, Maya Valentine, U.S House of Reps Press Assistant, Yamiche Alcindor, White House Correspondent for PBS NewsHour and Rachel Gans-Boriskin, Assistant Professor of Practice, The Ifill College.
Away from colleges and Ts, I’ve been working with migrants and those who are supporting migrant communities. I published an opinion piece on The Globe about African migrants stuck in Mexico. I recently met with a Zen priestess using meditation to calm the minds of migrants detained under President Trump’s increasingly brutal anti-immigrant policies. Joan works extensively in Latino and African communities in Massachusetts, connecting detainees with their families, lawyers and organisations that can help free them. She’s succeeded in getting a few people out. One of them told me that she calmed his mind when he was in despair even though he was sceptical about meditation at first, but he had faith and persisted. He is now processing his asylum case. I will put up a link to that story in my next post.
For next month, I’ll be working on more immigration stories within and outside Massachusetts. I may also have to start taking The T again as the days get colder, shorter and darker. You, of course, know what that means: Winter is coming. For now, though, I’ll walk around Cambridge for as long as the light lasts.