Tag Archives: boston common

Festival Illuminates Japanese Culture

This past weekend, despite the dreary and cloudy weather, thousands of Boston locals flocked to Boston Common on Sunday for the annual Japanese Festival. It was free to anyone interested.

Visitors, some dressed as anime characters, overtook the usual calm of the park as they bounced among the hundreds of booths that the festival boasted. Two stages on either side of the festival featured Japanese music, contests, and auctions.

Now in its sixth year, the Japanese Festival in Boston began in 2012 in response to the 100th anniversary of Seattle’s Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival. Previously held in Copley Square, the location of the festival moved to Boston Common last year when the festival attracted over 60,000 attendees—almost double than it had the year before.

In Boston, many different local Japanese societies organize the festival. Starting in October, these societies get together to begin the foundational work for the festival in April.

“The operation of the festival is both unique and challenging because it is put on by a 100 percent volunteer effort, using no professional advertising or marketing companies either,” explained Keiko Isomura, one of the volunteers who deals mainly with the public relations aspects of the festival and also helps to coordinate the vendor booths.

A central group of 30 volunteers is devoted to the planning and execution of the event, and also double as the individuals who handle the bigger logistics of the festival. The total volunteer pool has increased from 200 to 400 people in the last year alone.

But operating on a volunteer-only basis does have its challenges, Isomura explained. Since most volunteers have jobs, no one solely focuses on the festival, and planning takes a backseat to daily life. Getting all the volunteers in the same place at the same time is no easy feat.

Those visiting the festival had the chance to interact with various aspects of Japanese culture by not only seeing, but also by touching, feeling, and tasting the culture. Booths featured Japanese arts and crafts, businesses, education, culture and life, food, and sports—providing an opportunity for visitors to immerse themselves in a little bit of everything. Various workshops offered a more hands-on approach where attendees had the opportunity learn art forms like origami paper folding.

According to Isomura, the festival’s ability to share these unique qualities is what makes it essential to the Boston community.

“The goal of the festival is to share Japanese culture with our local community and to give back our appreciation to them,” Isomura said. “It is a continuous process of the sharing of ideas and culture.”



The festival’s importance, however, does not mean that organizers are exempt from challenges. This year, challenges took the form of the number of food vendors.

“Last year there was a lot of backlash with the food booths because people were waiting in ridiculously long lines for food or in some cases were not able to eat at all,” Isomura said. “We hoped that the increased number of food vendors this year will help fix the problem.”

Another option available to those attendees who hoped to avoid long food lines, was the availability of a “fast-pass” that allowed people to skip lines if they donated $30 or more to the festival.

One of the biggest attractions of the festival was the Omikoshi, a portable Shinto shrine for thankfulness and celebration of the community. In the afternoon, the shrine was carried around the park in its demonstration of thankfulness. Isomura shared that in the near future, the festival committee is working closely with Harvard and MIT to upgrade the shrine to feature some technological aspects.

When visitors got tired and wanted to take a break, many chose to sit on the lawn in front of the stages to catch a glimpse of what was going on there. The first stage featured live Japanese musical performances, dances, and samurai demonstration. The second stage displayed “family-friendly” acts such as kid’s dance, cartoon music, and anime contests where prizes were distributed to the best dressed. No matter which stage you were viewing, both attempted to blend old and new Japanese culture, so that the community could show how smoothly they melded.

An entire year’s worth of work and effort on the volunteers’ part culminates into this one day, as they create innovative ways to share Japanese culture. While the festival continues to grow and gain more traction in the community, Isomura shared that organizers hope to attract more locals in the New England area outside of the Japanese population already involved.

“It is all about the continuous sharing of culture and creating a more connected community in the end,” Isomura said.

Featured Image by Simran Brar / Heights Staff

Shining a Light on a New Christmas Spirit

As I stood alone in Boston Common, waiting for the annual tree lighting to commence, I looked around me.

Hundreds of families gathered together to formally welcome the holiday season. They huddled around each other for warmth on the crisp December night.

As the tree lit up, mothers and sons embraced while fathers carried their daughters on their shoulders. Together, families sang along to Christmas carols, and took photos commemorating the special moment.

As beautiful as the ceremony was, it made me sad. There I was alone, attempting to enjoy a famous Boston tradition that I had heard so much about.

Instead of admiring the glowing tree, I was fixated on all the families around me—wishing I had mine there with me.

Growing up, I loved the holiday season because it always had a way of bringing my family closer together. I am a homebody. Nothing makes me happier than spending time with my family. The holidays were ideal time for bringing us together.

This year is my first holiday season in college. My first holiday season away from home, and away from my family.

My dorm room doesn’t have a sparkling tree surrounded by presents, or any Christmas decorations whatsoever. It’s safe to say that to me, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas.

I blame my despondent attitude on my inability to fully embrace change. As a creature of habit, I find myself overwhelmed and distracted by all the new things forced into my life. Recently, I’ve found myself reminiscing about life before college.

At home, the Christmas festivities begin way before the 25th. Little-by-little, small touches of Christmas would be sprinkled throughout my home. By now, a fresh spruce tree would be towering over my living room. The comforting aroma would waft through the entire house. Day after day, the gifts from family and friends would begin to pile in under the tree. Every now and then when no one was looking, I’d go through the presents looking to see if any of the big ones were for me.  

It brought me joy seeing my mums satisfaction as she went through what seemed to be a tedious task of sending elegant gifts and Christmas cards to our nearest and dearest. However, in recent years our have cards no longer featured a photo of me and my brother posing in matching navy blue polos.

On the weekends, my family would wind down by watching our favorite Christmas movies, Elf and Love Actually.

I foolishly tried to recreate this moment last Saturday night but only got through 30 minutes of another favorite: Home Alone 2. It just wasn’t the same.

I miss fighting my dad over our favorite chewy gingerbread cookies gifted to us by friends that we wait a year to enjoy, attending Christmas parties surrounded by the childhood friends I’ve known longer than I can remember, while the holiday classic Christmas with the Rat Pack plays on repeat in the background.

For the next four years—and probably longer—the lead up to Christmas will be different. Instead of spending it with family I get to enjoy it with the new friends I’ve made and create new memories I will look back on one day with nostalgia.

For the first time in my life, I get to wake up, look out the window, and see snow falling from the sky, dusting the top of bare tree branches. Just like in the movies.

Looking back, I realize I took all these moments for granted. It’s only now that I really can appreciate how lucky I was for the last 18 years. When I do get home—just four days before Christmas—I know to savor each moment.

Featured Image by William Batchelor / Heights Editor

To Protest Trump, Students Walk Out of Class

While the outcome of the 2016 presidential election may seem like a distant memory to some, Bostonians are striving to keep the election results at the forefront of the public memory. Many of those joining protests are students.

On Monday afternoon, hundreds of students—ranging from middle school age to college—walked out of their 1 p.m. classes to attend the Boston Student Walkout and protest the election of Donald Trump. Organized by a wide-range of ethnically and socioeconomically diverse students in the Boston area, the rally officially began at 2 p.m. as protesters gathered in front of the Boston Common gazebo.

With the crowd standing below them, the organizers positioned themselves inside the gazebo, using megaphones to lead the crowd in chants ranging from ‘No Trump, no KKK, no fascist, racist USA’ to ‘Street-by-street, block-by-block, we stand with Standing Rock.’


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As participants flooded in, highlighted by an impressive contingent of students from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design carrying brightly colored signs, the organizers gained fire, and began to list off the demands for Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. These five demands—that Baker protect public education; protect vulnerable populations of students and their families; declare Massachusetts and Boston sanctuaries for immigrants; and denounce Trump’s connections to racist and white supremacist movements—served as the foundation for the Walkout.

The Walkout organizers, specifically 20-year-old Michael Jones from Boston Day and Evening Academy, also stressed the importance of the power in the youth’s voice through this form of protest. He believes that young people must stand in solidarity for nonviolent demonstrations to get themselves heard.

“The reason that [we are] standing up [with our demands] is that a lot of the things that Donald Trump will be putting policy towards … will affect the future, and the youth are the future,” Jones said. “It correlates all with that.”

And this voice was certainly heard throughout the afternoon.

During the first hour of the protest, organizers led chants with brief speeches from student speakers regarding the importance of each demand. Immediately following, organizers led the ever-growing group of protesters to the Massachusetts State House. As the large group slowly moved down the Common pathways, they continued to loudly chant and wave their signs. Cameras of various media outlets swarmed around them. Passersby looked on with curiosity, often joining from afar with shouts of encouragement.  

Once there, the protesters continued loudly chanting and sharing stories centering on the organizers’ demands before sending a large delegation of students into the State House to present Baker with the demands. For many students, like Mike Wilkins, a sophomore at Northeastern University, this opportunity was ultimately the reason for skipping their afternoon classes and attending this walkout.


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“Students need to stand in unity against Trump and against bigotry. We need to show in numbers how we don’t stand for all this horror, and we need the government to denounce Bannon,” Wilkins said in reference to Trump chief strategist Stephen Bannon. “We just want to talk to the governor and tell him our demands.”

In an interview with the Boston Herald, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, took exception to student walkouts during school hours. Although Walsh expressed full support of the students’ rights to make their voices and concerns heard, he questioned the timing of their demonstration.

“I think they can do it after school,” Walsh said.  

Wilkins, however, believes that walkouts exemplify just how much students are willing to sacrifice in order to make their own voices heard and stand up for those who are unable to.

Jones provides a different perspective on the issue. He explained that, that although the students in attendance value their educations, they value their futures as well and refuse to separate the two.

“Our future is under attack, so we want to show that this is what’s most effective, and we also that we use our education,” Jones said. “We view this as an educational time for us.”

The youth’s concern for the future was never more apparent than when a middle school girl addressed the crowd on the steps of the State House before the group marched to the City Hall.  Although the girl wished to remain anonymous, she expressed a shaking and emotional concern for what her future might hold, speaking on behalf of her friends. She believes that Trump does not represent the American people.

“[Trump] appeals to the dark side of people and brings that side out, and then we’re all going to become savages like the boys in Lord of the Flies,” she said.

Featured Image by Madeleine D’Angelo / Heights Editor

Thousands Welcome the Holiday Season at the Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony

On Thursday night, Boston’s sky was illuminated with holiday lights and a spectacular fireworks display at the 70th annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in Boston Common. The event, which featured the official lighting of Boston’s towering 47-foot Christmas tree, marked the start of the holiday season in the city.

The festivities began at 6 p.m. when thousands of spectators gathered to watch the Holiday Lights Concert. The lively audience was treated to music by Town Heroes, Country singer Timmy Brown, and the cast of A Christmas Carol. This year’s headliner, R&B group Bell Biv Devoe, entertained the exuberant concertgoers, performing unique renditions of traditional Christmas songs.

Just minutes before 8 p.m., Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, WCAS ’09, was joined on stage by Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil and Santa Claus—who made a surprise appearance—to signal the start of the lighting ceremony.

As spectators watched in anticipation, the smaller trees around Boston Common were simultaneously lit with festive decorations and white lights that filled the Common with a warm glow. The lighting of the giant, white-spruce Christmas Tree followed, as Walsh pulled a large candy cane-shaped switch that turned on the tree’s multicolored lights. To the delight of the audience, the display was not over yet. It concluded with a thrilling display of pyrotechnics—a series of large red and green sparklers shot off into the Boston night sky.


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As explained in a statement from the city of Boston, in keeping with long-standing tradition, this year’s Christmas tree was donated by Nova Scotia. For the past 45 years, the Canadian province has given Boston a Christmas tree in return for its relief efforts after the Dec. 6, 1917 explosion in Halifax Harbor.

This year, the ceremony attracted an eclectic mix of students and Boston locals who all came together to take a break from their hectic weeks to celebrate the holidays. Kie Watanabe, a student at Harvard Business School, expressed her desire to attend the event.

“It’s my last year here in Boston and I’ve always wanted to watch the tree lighting,” Watanabe said. “I think it’s a great tradition.”

Not letting the icy December winds deter them from having a good time, spectators flocked to all corners of Boston Common to soak up the holiday spirit. Friends and family gathered together singing Christmas carols and snapping pictures. Those patient enough to wait in the long lines enjoyed classic American hot dogs and freshly made donuts.


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Boston native Daniel Brown noted the significance of the event, and explained why he returns every year. 

“It’s a great way to kick off the holiday season,” he said. “I love coming together with my family and friends to admire the decorations around Boston Common.”

Featured Image by William Batchelor / Heights Editor

In Boston Common, a Peaceful Rally for Love

Beginning at 2 p.m. on Friday afternoon, Boston Common filled with people desperate to give and receive love after the election of Donald Trump led many in the community to feel stricken. After attendees met in front of the Park Street T station, which was covered in colorful chalk graffiti bearing messages of love and hope for America’s future in the post-election era, the participants of the Love Rally in the Common moved to a patch of the park. There, organizers began leading an afternoon dedicated to peacefully expressing love and unity with those who felt that their voices were silenced following the election of Donald Trump.

According to Mari Golden, an event organizer, the rally was inspired by the feelings of isolation that arose following the 2016 election results. She emphasized that although many of the rallies that have occurred following the election were anti-Trump, the Love Rally in the Common was not. Like the sister rallies being held in cities, New York included, at the same time, the Love Rally in the Common was a peace rally.

“Our goal is to simply provide love and support to those who need it,” Golden said.

Despite lacking an official permit, which prevented the rally from obstructing traffic and using any form of loud music or megaphone, organizers planned an afternoon of chants and group reflection. Participants were also encouraged to bring chants and signs of their own.  


“Hate will never stop me.”

—Brandy Benton


By 3:30 p.m, just an hour and a half into a rally that continued until 7 p.m, the back area of the Common was packed with Bostonians forming a tight-knit circle around those who had organized the rally.

Although many of those in attendance were young adults, the crowd was comprised of people from a diverse range of ages and other walks of life. Many of the participants were older, and some parents, like Roshni Isacc, brought their young children.

“I decided to attend this morning … so I took the kids, got them in the car, and drove from Acton,” Isacc said. “I’m so glad I came. I love the crowd and love the turnout, and it’s just so great to be around people who share your values and beliefs and making our voice heard together.”

Ralliers carried handmade signs with messages ranging from ‘Love Trumps Hate’ and ‘We Shall Overcome,’ to ‘The System Isn’t Broken, It was Built This Way.’ Others were simple: a giant circular peace sign made from a hula-hoop and duct tape, and a heart cut-out mounted on a stick.

Then there were the chants, many of which alluded to Trump. Ralliers shouted, in unison, “make America kind again, “build bridges not walls,” “we are the change,” and “stronger together.

As the chants continued, many Bostonians in attendance milled around the large circle of ralliers and began speaking with those around them. The conversations were largely ones of support and camaraderie, and many ended with spontaneous hugs.

Some participants, like Janet Scudder, who carried a giant paper bag filled with brightly-colored origami cranes, passed around heartwarming mementos. Scudder, who expects rallies like this one to continue regularly until at least the midterm elections—if not 2020—has 52 bags of these cranes prepared, and plans to continue distributing them as the weeks go on.


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Laura Chivers, a Bostonian who was drawn to this rally because of its peaceful nature, was determined to express her status as ally for anyone who needs her help. Throughout the afternoon, she distributed silver and gold safety pins to those around her—a reference to a movement in the United Kingdom after the Brexit where those who identified as allies wore safety pins. Instead of aligning herself as an ally for only one group, Chivers hoped the pins would universalize the ideas of allies and safe spaces and unite those groups who felt isolated.

“For a very long time, I’ve felt that it was important to stand up and protect people that were being treated unfairly in all sorts of ways,” Chivers said. “While I’m dismayed with the outcome of the election, I do believe in our process and think that we have to move forward.

Others used the rally to make a different kind of statement, one less exacting. One man, who sat on the outskirts of the circle, had a blindfold covering his eyes and a large notebook opened on his lap. Scattered around his feet were piles of brightly-colored markers and a sign asking those around him, ‘What are you most afraid of?’ Throughout the afternoon and night, participants partook in this act of ultimate trust, writing in his notebook while he sat, unable to see who approached him, or what they wrote down.

By 4 p.m., most of the crowd had sat in a circle on the grass, forming a giant fishbowl. Participants could stand in the middle of the circle and share their emotions with those around them and speak their mind.

The first was an older man dressed in a long navy overcoat and red baseball hat. After a brief introduction, his husky voice led those around him in a series of Motown songs, like “Wake Up Everybody,” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes.

“Wake up everybody, no more sleeping in bed, no more backward thinking, time for thinking ahead,” he sang.


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Other speakers, such as Brandy Benton, expressed her pride in being a Bostonian, an American, and a woman, and her love for those around her.

“Hate will never stop me,” Benton said. “Hate will never stop you … I am here today because of my friends who cannot stand for themselves, we are very lucky to be able to stand here today together and rally—this is action.”

But, there were also dissenters. One small group of young Trump supporters in began an intense conversation with those who attended the rally to protest Trump’s election. The young men clarified that they voted for Trump because of their political beliefs rather than protesting the election of Hillary Clinton, and they attempted to answer the questions of the attendee. After a few minutes, event organizers intervened and reminded those involved about the discussion of the rally’s peaceful nature.

But by the end of the night, this sentiment many speakers expressed about coming together had been actualized. When one man stood in the center of the circle—between signs that declared “Love Trumps Hate” and in front of thousands disappointed in Tuesday’s outcome—and said he had voted for Trump, he was met with sentiments of compassion and love.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Staff

Gallery: A Closer Look at Boston’s Post-Election, Anti-Trump Rally

Several thousand individuals marched and chanted on the Boston Common to protest the victory of Donald Trump. As helicopters hovered overhead and police silently watched on, the masses went around a several-mile course that took them around the common, through Copley Square, and back into the park after making a stop in front of the Mass. State House. The crowd cheered, shouted, and cried, all while upholding one clear message for the country: “not our president.” This is what our editors saw Wednesday night.


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Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

‘Not My President:’ Thousands Protest Trump’s Victory at the Boston Common

On Boston Common on Wednesday evening, the crowd hurried toward the Parkman Bandstand. There, one of the organizers of the protest grabbed a microphone, stood on the top step of the rotunda, and led the chant that would come to represent the mood of the night: “not my president.” The crowd, thousands deep, was protesting Tuesday night’s presidential election of Donald Trump.

The discontent among the audience was palpable, with many still struggling to comprehend the events of the past 24 hours. Protesters arrived armed with signs of all shapes and sizes that expressed support for minorities and resentment toward Trump. The messages emblazoned on the signs ranged from “Love Trumps Hate” and “One Day at a Time” to “Soon the Poor Will Have Nothing to Eat But the Rich.”

Boston Socialist Students, Movement for the 99 percent, and Socialist Alternative organized the event, with more than 4,000 present, according to a spokesperson from the Boston Police Department. The protest mirrored many more taking place around the country, including a march in New York City that ended in front of the Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

The protest began with three speakers: a student with the Student Immigrant Movement, a woman with Fight for Fifteen, and a worker with Boston Socialist Alternative. Sabrina, the daughter of immigrants, was the first student speaker, and she spoke of the fear that many of Trump’s racist comments have incited within the immigrant community.


 


“I was afraid to get out of my house today [as] I didn’t know what was waiting outside the door,” she said. “You can’t take my mother away from me, and you can’t take my father … [he] is not a rapist, [he] is not a criminal.”

With helicopters flying overhead and police within sight in every discernible direction, the crowd moved through the Boston Common towards the State House. One of the protesters was a young woman with a broken ankle, struggling along the uneven terrain using a knee scooter but still determinedly moving forward.

Young individuals made up a large proportion of the crowd, with universities in the area well-represented, judging by the number of hats and sweatshirts from Boston University, Northeastern University, Boston College, and Emerson College. Alex Rougeau, MCAS ’18, was one of many showing his discontent with the result and expressing his fear for the future of the nation.

“What just happened posses a lot of threats to a lot of different groups of people, and the country,” he said. “Many are worriedLGBTQ, women, minorities are worried that a Trump presidency and a red Congress poses a threat to their rights … a lot of people are angry, and I’m definitely one of those people.”

Calling behind the crowd, one of the organizers reminded them that this rally was peaceful, “we will be united. Our weapon is a mass movement—that is our weapon.”

Protesters’ voices echoed into the streets as they chanted about Black Lives Matter, stopping the Dakota Access Pipeline, immigrant rights, fighting sexism, and fighting for LGBTQ+ rights.


 


As many exited the Boston Commons, a young woman walked into the flow of traffic. Facing oncoming cars, with her backpack still on, she screamed: “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ‘cause the power of the people don’t stop!”

This Friday from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., another peaceful rally will be held in the Boston Commons. Around 10,000 people have indicated that they are either interested in going or are going on the Facebook event page. During the same time, another rally will be held at Washington Square Park in New York.

No protesters were arrested at the peaceful rally, according to BPD.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

Zombies, A Roof, And An Ultimate Realization About City Life

Most of my days are spent sitting on the roof of Walsh Hall, staring at the blood-red sky as a lonely guitar plays a chilling yet hopeful melody in the background. That was where I was yesterday, perched on the edge of the roof, the Prudential and Hancock Towers visible over the horizon past the reservoir.

“Boston,” the air whispered like a creepy neighbor. My hair swayed gently in the breeze, and my face glowed with the fire of the night.

It had been a hard few weeks since Halloween. I had decided not to dress up and to just stay in and study on Halloween. I spent most of the day in the lounge where I was repeatedly accused of insensitivity for dressing like a homeless person. People had taken to calling me Bologna as though that was my name for no apparent reason. My hair was growing scraggly and unruly.

“Then why don’t you get a haircut?” Ben, my personal guitar player called from behind me.

“Ben,” I said, my voice calm and cool, like Clint Eastwood, Jack Nicholson, and Richard Arlen combined to create some deformed voice-baby. “I pay you to play dramatic guitar songs while I stare at things, not to comment on my personal appearance.”

“But you were talking to yourself.”

“You know who else talked to himself? George Washington, that’s who. Do you hate America, Ben? Is that what this is? Now get back to playing the guitar.”


“I realized that I had somehow backed myself into the antithesis of what a Metro column is supposed to be. I don’t really want to live in the city. Almost definitely not after I graduate.”


 

As Ben began to strum the guitar, I squinted at the sunset and grunted in a very awesome way. I’m just too loyal to my Milwaukee barber to get a haircut here. It wouldn’t be right. But the mop of greasy, black vomit on my head was making me sweat, blurring my vision, destroying my ability to write life-illuminating columns. I knew I had to come up with something Boston-tastic for my penultimate column.

“Dark have been my dreams of late,” I said. “What is to be done?”

“I read an article that said Boston was ranked the number one city to survive a zombie apocalypse,” Ben said, from the other side of the roof.

“Really?” I said.

“Yup,” he said. “It was mostly because of all of the medical and biological scientists who’d be able to hole up and research a cure.”

“That makes sense, Benjamin,” I said. “Boston is full of specialized medical professionals because it’s a great city and only truly fantastic people are allowed to write columns about it. Thank the Lord above that you told me that must-know factoid about Boston surviving a zombie apocalypse. That’s really practical and useful in my day-to-day life.”

“New York got last place.”

“Ha,” I said, not actually laughing, but literally saying “ha” phonetically one time and then stopping.

“So,” Ben said. “My hour’s up. I can do another if you’re willing to pay me, Bologna.”

“That is not my name,” I said before climbing down the ladder I had placed on the side of the eight-story Walsh dormitory. Once I reached street level I looked around and wondered if all these cherry-faced little college students knew that they were living in the city most likely to survive a zombie apocalypse.

I also wondered if I really cared. I quickly decided that I didn’t. What did it matter? In a strange coup d’etat of my mind, I realized that, as I neared the end of my penultimate column, I no longer really wanted to live in the city.

For the past year I’ve been writing columns about how fantastic the city is. I’ve experienced many facets of what the city has to offer and then wrote completely ridiculous accounts that had very little in common with the actual experience except for maybe general sentiment. A fictionalized Archer did a lot of crazy and weird things while real Archer didn’t do very many exciting things, except for occasionally writing about himself in third person.

Now, for my penultimate column, after reading about a zombie apocalypse in this fine city and staring at some gigantic metal towers, I realized that I had somehow backed myself into the antithesis of what a Metro column is supposed to be. I don’t really want to live in the city. Almost definitely not after I graduate. After spending over a year here, I don’t know why anybody would ever want to live in the city, not just Boston, any city. It’s expensive, unpleasant, loud, smelly, and despair-inducing. Last week I saw a man wearing a tattered pair of jeans and a grey hoodie with smeared, greasy clown paint on his face walking around the Common. It was terrifying and weird and something I don’t want to see anymore. There’s a lot of interesting stuff that’s great to visit and talk about but that’s only because I can escape back to the cloistered BC campus afterward. Maybe Boston would keep you safe in a zombie apocalypse, but why even bother thinking about something so stupid and unpleasant?

After my four years are up, I plan to return to good old Nowhere, a place where I can wear my trademark, absurdly-large pantaloons in peace and stare at things pensively for hours on end. I don’t mean to dissuade you from enjoying city life. I’ve been writing about how you should enjoy it for almost a whole year now, but I also know that it’s not right for everyone. This may be a very un-Metro moment, but just remember that an entire country exists between the two coasts, a country that might not be well equipped for a zombie apocalypse but also might be the better place to live.

Featured Image by John Wiley / Heights Editor

Frog Pond Remains Winter Destination For Skaters

For Boston residents, the onset of winter includes many things—the intensification of New England weather, strolls up and down a lit-up Newbury St. for some holiday shopping, as well as a population decrease as thousands of college students head home for the Holidays. Perhaps the most highly anticipated winter event across the city, however, is the opening of the Boston Common Frog Pond.

Although the Frog Pond is open for activities year round, its popularity surges in the winter season, as the pond is transformed into a public skating rink. Owned and operated by the Skating Club of Boston—in partnership with the Boston Parks Department and the city of Boston—the Frog Pond is located in the northern end of Boston Common, and attracts thousands of visitors each week during the winter season.

While public skating is one of the most popular attractions offered by the Frog Pond, the venue also hosts an extensive series of events and activities planned for the holiday season.

Last Thursday, the Frog Pond hosted its “Skating Spectacular,” a free figure skating show preceding the 73rd annual Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony hosted by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ‘09. Self-described as a “free world class figure skating show,” the display featured national and international figure skating champions who performed in synchronized skating and theatre ice teams.

On New Years Eve, Bostonians will have opportunity to attend another Frog Pond Spectacular as part of First Night Boston—a series of performances and events offered annually around Boston to celebrate New Years Eve. Like the tree lighting event, the New Years ceremony will feature performances by figure skaters, as well as synchronized skating and theatre-on-ice displays.

The performers are not always the same each year: the attraction has featured an extensive list of past Olympic performers, as well as certified coaches and celebrities.

“It varies year to year as far as who comes, but sometimes we’re lucky,” Schaub said. “Last year was an Olympic year, and we had a lot of figure skaters here. Nancy Kerrigan was even here talking to the audience.”

Looking to the future, the Frog Pond is set to bring international skaters to Boston Common. In 2016, Boston will host the ISU World Figure Skating Championships at TD Garden. Outside of the winter shows, the Frog Pond also functions as a skating academy for those who are not so confident in their skating technique. The pond hires certified instructors from US Figure Skating Association, and offers various types of lessons to anyone that can stand up on skates and bear the Boston winter weather for a couple of hours.

The venue also partners with local organizations across Boston, offering a series of community programs including “Skating in the Schools.” Offered through the Frog Pond by the Friends of the Public Garden and the Skating Club of Boston, the initiative seeks to engage local students in the classroom and on the ice rink, with aims of improving study habits, social skills, conduct, and grades.

“The program combines in-classroom teaching as well as on-ice learning, free of charge,” Schaub said. “It’s our hope that we can get them hooked on skating and they’ll become regular customers.”

“Skating in the Schools” was founded 20 years ago by former national skating competitor Fred Palascak, who hoped it could be a place for him to teach and coach young skaters. The caretakers of the Frog Pond have since aimed to preserve Palascak’s spirit in the ice.

“We want to give back to the community,” Schaub said, “because that’s what we’re here for.”

Featured Image courtesy of Boston Common Frog Pond 

Protesters Fill Boston Common In Response To Eric Garner Case

Upwards of 3,000 demonstrators made their way to the streets of Boston Thursday night, protesting the decision not to indict the officer involved in the alleged homicide of Eric Garner.

Didi Delgado paces from side to side, shuffling between the crowds of protestors on Thursday night. She talks to me in between breaths, gasping for air, while frantically waving her hands in a circular motion—trying to garner as much attention as possible. Delgado is wearing a neon orange construction vest, and despite her diminutive presence, her voice echoes across Boston Common, as thousands of protestors follow her lead.

“Everybody to the left,” Delgado said. “Everybody go to city plaza. They are blocking us over here, and we have to keep moving.”

Delgado directed a crowd toward Government Center, where thousands of people gathered, chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “Black lives matter” in response to the grand jury decision not to indict the New York City police officer involved in the alleged homicide of 42-year-old Eric Garner.

“We never expected this many people to come out in solidarity,” Delgado said. “Everybody here is passionate to show that black lives matter, and I’m proud to be a part of that.”

Delgado is a member of the organizational team responsible for Thursday’s event, titled “#EnoughIsEnough: We Are the Ones, Justice for Eric Garner.” The gathering was first publicized through Facebook, and more than 7,000 people “attended” the protest, according to the page.

“I saw the event was spreading like crazy across Facebook and I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Liann Ammar, a junior at Northeastern University.

At approximately 7 p.m., nearly 3,000 protestors gathered in Boston Common—according to estimates from the Boston Police Department—in midst of the city’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Guard rails and a strong police presence separated protestors from the stage of the ceremony, as chants of “We can’t breathe,” and “This is what democracy looks like,” reverberated through the Common during an a capella performance of “Jingle Bells” on stage.

“I’m really glad there is a counterpoint to the other things going on here tonight,” said Michelle Carter, a professor at Northern Essex Community College. “To me, this doesn’t seem like a night to be celebrating the holidays. I’d like to see change. I’d like to see trials for the police officers.”

By the time the tree lights went up shortly before 8 p.m., protestors marched toward the State House, many wearing t-shirts and holding signs with the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” As protesters neared the State House, a group of three individuals were arrested as they attempted to penetrate a line of Boston police officers.

“We were all in the Common and turning onto Bowdoin St. when the police separated a huge portion of the group,” said Kate Perry, a graduate student in the school of public health at Boston University. “I saw some people try and jump the fence at the State House, and they all got arrested.”

Over the next few hours, the protesters marched to various sections of Downtown Boston, closing streets near Beacon Hill, South Station, TD Garden, the Mass. Turnpike and I-93. The demonstrators also blocked traffic near the ramp toward I-93 for several minutes, as well as areas in Charlestown and Cambridge. Shortly after 10 p.m., a die-in demonstration shut down the Green Line at the Park Street Station for about an hour, according to the MBTA.

Marchers periodically stopped to sit or lie down in the street—referred to as “die-ins,”—mimicking deaths similar to Garner’s. Additionally, some smaller groups diverged form the main protest, only to rejoin later in the evening.

Throughout the protests, hundreds of police in bright yellow jackets monitored the actions of the demonstrators. Many officers closely followed the crowd on bike, while the remainder trailed the group on foot. There were very few confrontations between the protesters and the police, while many marchers carried mirrors and signs displaying their aggression toward law enforcement. Boston Police declined to comment on the event.

“We could see the lines of police officers lined up in the Common outside of our dorm room windows, while people were laying down on the ground,” said Jessica Santana, a freshman at Suffolk University. “Overall, the police seemed very cooperative throughout all the craziness tonight.”

The demonstration Thursday night came a week after 1,500 Bostonians blocked streets, protesting a similar controversial grand jury case in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury chose not to indict a policeman for the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

“The goal of tonight was to raise awareness for this issue and make something happen,” Delgado said. “I hope solidarity comes around our country, and we truly come together and realize this affects all of us.”

Featured Images by Arthur Bailin / Heights Editor