Guest Op-Ed: Much More is Involved

By Alison Barnet

How things have changed and not for the better! I recently picked up a 2004 Access guide book and read an entry on the Harriet Tubman House. “This iconoclastic complex greets the street with a sense of spirit and purposefulness. It’s home to United South End Settlements, a social service organization responsible for vital community programs.” Vital!

A building that used to house a myriad of social services, arts and educational programs important to the community is now empty and awaiting demolition to make way for “luxury” condos. Funny that no photos are included in those long articles about Landmarks and the new building.

While United South End Settlements claims the sale of the Tubman is necessary to save the agency, now on Rutland Street, is it likely all those vital former programs—GED, ESL, Senior Home Repair, technology, the elderly program, etc.—will come back? We know they are still needed. And what happened to the money “saved” after shutting down programs and laying off employees? This question should be asked.

Back in spring 2017, USES’s elderly program was suddenly closed. It served lunch every weekday—courtesy of an outside agency—and provided social, educational and exercise programs. (I used to take Tai-chi). The closing prompted a number of us to form a picket line outside the agency’s annual “gala,” holding signs that said: Save Our Seniors, Seniors Lives Matter, Stand Up for Seniors, and Seniors are the Roots to the Community of Harriet Tubman Center. We weren’t convinced that the cost of the program was a reason for closing.

Last  but not least is the dilemma of Jameel Parker’s Honor Roll mural, which tells the story of the Hi-Hat, the jazz club that was on the site from the late 1940s-to late 1950s.  We wonder how his mural, painted on the Tubman House’s front and side, can possibly be saved.  However, as we know, some histories don’t count. Much more is involved.

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