Land Acknowledgement

for the about page ... Please take the time to acknowledge the land and history of the spaces VLA DANCE operates in here.

"We do not dance to escape, nor to retreat, we dance to integrate these truths and acknowledge our complicity and our power in making change." - Lion's Jaw Festival

Land Acknowledgement: VLA DANCE operates out of Dorchester: ​traditional territory of Neponset Band of the Indigenous Massachusett Tribe and Rehearses in Roxbury/South End: ​traditional territory of the Massachusett Nation. From ethnic cleansing to forced displacement, Indigenous communities have and still experience some of the severest examples of cultural erasure. This is why we must continually acknowledge our histories as we also see, uplift, and support those who are currently living and thriving here in MA. Donate to organizations and tribes like The Massachusetts Center for Native American Awareness and more herehereherehere, here, here, here and here.

Massachusetts is derivative of the Algonquin word Massachusett the name of the Massachusett Nation which means 'near the great hill' referring to The Blue Hills Reservation that overlooks Boston Harbor. Here is a small portion of background on forced displacement in Massachusetts (sources: mental floss, history of MA, & state symbols, USA).

historytoday

VLA DANCE believes in the importance of land acknowledgments as an essential step towards highlighting the Native American communities that live in MA now while also acknowledging the complex, and often dark, history of Massachusetts. For context here is a brief overview of Native American displacement.

 

In 1630, King George I, granted Gov. john Winthrop and a group of Puritans to create a colony in Massachusetts which was then named, Massachusetts Bay Colony (source: thoughtco). Under the guise of christian missionary - these settlers pushed out Native communities in Massachusetts

Dawes act 1887 and 1933: In practice, this meant requiring them to become as much like white Americans as possible: converting to Christianity, speaking English, wearing western clothes and hair styles, and living as self sufficient, independent Americans.

Indians were denied the vote in many Western states by much the same methods as African-Americans were disenfranchised in the South. The Meriam Report, published in 1928, showed that most Indians lived in extreme poverty, suffering from a poor diet, inadequate housing and limited health care. Schools were overcrowded and badly resourced. 

The centrepiece of his new policy was the 1934 Indian Reorganisation Act (IRA) which ended the policy of allotment, banned the further sale of Indian land and decreed that any unallotted land not yet sold should be returned to tribal control.

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Systemic Inequality: Displacement, Exclusion, and Segregation

what President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830, authorizing the federal government to forcibly relocate Native Americans in the southeast in order to make room for white settlement.4 For the next two decades, thousands of Native Americans died of hunger, disease, and exhaustion on a forced march west of the Mississippi River—a march now known as the “Trail of Tears. Between 1945 and 1968, federal laws terminated more than 100 tribal nations’ recognition and placed them under state jurisdiction, contributing to the loss of millions of additional acres of tribal land.

Between 1945 and 1968, federal laws terminated more than 100 tribal nations’ recognition and placed them under state jurisdiction, contributing to the loss of millions of additional acres of tribal land.

To those who come to VLA DANCE to support a Black-owned organization, we hope all understand that the plight of Native Americans is unequivocally tied to the suppression and oppression of all BIPOC communities. 

Black & Brown Displacement

Let's take a look at history of displacement for black communities in Boston and how it impacts the spaces we rehearse out of including Roxbury and the South End.

Systemic Inequality: Displacement, Exclusion, and Segregation

This process, known as redlining, denied people of color—especially Black people—access to mortgage refinancing and federal underwriting opportunities while perpetuating the notion that residents of color were financially risky and a threat to local property value

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my words: A quick google search and you will find hundreds of articles, protests, facebook groups and more discussing the gentrification and displacement of Brown and more specifically Black communities within Boston. Why? Because this displacement has been a historical pattern since freed blacks moved to Beacon Hill in the late 18th century. (source: bay state banner)

Boston blacks made exedus to south boston 

Since the black community first coalesced on Beacon Hill in the late 18th century, blacks began a pattern of moving into neighborhoods abandoned by the white gentry. At the time, wealthy whites who had employed blacks as servants on Beacon Hill began moving off the Boston peninsula to outlying communities in the town of Roxbury, where they built country estates. The African Meeting House stands as a monument to the city’s small but active 19th-century black population (BSP). By the early 1900s, Boston’s black community had begun its move from Beacon Hill to the South End/Lower Roxbury, then a mixed-race, largely immigrant community (BSP). By 1970, blacks seeking opportunity and relief from Jim Crow in Boston had swelled to 104,685, comprising 16 percent of the city’s population (BSP). Several factors served to accelerate the expansion of the black community south into Dorchester and Mattapan in the late ’60s and ’70s. First, aggressive block-busting real estate agents persuaded many blacks to purchase homes in the area using low-interest Federal Housing Authority loans (BSP). In the ’70s and early ’80s, many blacks were displaced from the South End as that neighborhood went through a period of gentrification. The black population there declined from 11,000 in 1970 to just under 9,000 in 1980 (BSP). 

 

According to a study by the Boston Federal Reserve Bank, the median income for Black and Brown families living in the Greater Roxbury area is $30,000. The median net worth of white households in Boston stands at $247,000. And the median net worth for Black households is just $8.00–yes, eight dollars–and $28.60 for Latino households (black perspectives/AAIHS).

Beginning in the 1900s, African Americans began migrating toward the current-day heart of the Black community, first to The South End, and later to the neighborhoods Southwest of Beacon Hill, a mere six miles away (black perspectives/AAIHS).

outh End was 22.8% Black, which was high in comparison to surrounding areas like Back Bay (2.5%) or Downtown (2.5%.) (WBUR)

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In addition to these historical realities of gentrification, displacement, and erasure of BIPOC communities continues to persist now. In 2020, one of the last pillars of Black and Brown community that remained in the South End, The Harriet Tubman House, was demolished Through this context, it only makes strides such as the renaming of Dudley Square to Nubian Square and Nubian Ascends spearheaded by Black Market Nubian more imperative. 

While VLA DANCE cannot and should not speak on every social justice issue for all BIPOC communities, we aim to create space where underrepresented voices are heard. In pursuit of that mission it is imperative that we do not shy away from histories and current realities that paint the way we all interact day to day. You should donate, support and interact with organizations that continually shift historical systems and dynamics that undermine BIPOC communities. 

 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” - MLK jr. Letter from a Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963.