June 18, 2021

Celebrating Juneteenth with Kelley Chunn            and a conversation on the Roxbury Cultural District

Last year, the Denterlein team deepened our longstanding partnership with Kelley Chunn and she joined our team as a Senior Advisor (while maintaining her independent communications consulting practice as well).  In celebration of our partnership, Denterlein made a contribution to the Roxbury Cultural District.  Kelley is the current vice-president of its board and was instrumental in earning the Cultural District designation for the corridor, which includes both Nubian and  John Eliot Square.  In the spirit of Juneteenth’s celebration of Black community, freedom, culture and history, we asked Kelley to share her thoughts on the importance of this designation. 

(PS… the Roxbury Cultural District website has an amazing map with key arts/culture sites, businesses, civic spaces, historic places and more.  Find it HERE and spend a day – or four! – wandering this amazing community.)

How did you get involved with the formation of the Roxbury Cultural District?  Why was getting the designation important to you?

The designation was an ongoing goal for Roxbury for several decades. Artist and administrator, Barry Gaither, and Rep. Byron Rushing had been trying to form the cultural district for years, but it never came to fruition. There were several precursors, including the Roxbury Cultural Network, which was used as a way to convene artists in the community.  I came into the picture about 4 years ago, when there were collaborators who were all based in Nubian Square (at the time it was still Dudley Sq. ).  Madison Park Development Corporation, Haley House and The American City Coalition, came together and were able to secure funding for a consultant to manage the designation process through The Boston Foundation.  I was the consultant hired to develop the process and to convene the community – both residents and arts/culture workers – to capture their vision for the RCD. It's important to change the narrative of Roxbury and include the arts and cultural assets of the community. The RCD is a vehicle through which to tell that story.

What’s one great thing to come out of the Roxbury Cultural District?

Aside from the creation of the district itself, which encompasses Nubian Square and the historic John Eliot Square, a major highlight for me was the sustainable infrastructure put in place: a board of directors, another consultant, and a 501c3. 

Tell us about Nubian Nights?

In terms of programming, the highlight has been Nubian Nights which is an incredible celebration in arts and culture.  The event has done a terrific job of elevating jazz musicians, particularly during the pandemic when artists of all kinds were struggling to find outlets for work and income.  Nubian Nights became the vehicle to activate Nubian Square during the pandemic, showcasing jazz musicians and production crews.  It began in March and April as a series of weekend performances where jazz artists were able to play music remotely and have their performance projected (visually and audibly) onto the large picture windows of the Bolling Building for audiences to enjoy.  It turned the experience into an interactive performance during a time of isolation and brought together a community of limited capacity.  Bill Banfield and his group, Jazz Urbane, were the masterminds behind Nubian Nights and there is much excitement around how it will evolve now that folks can enjoy live performances once again. Now the RCD has collaborated with King Boston to present "Nubian Nights Encore" to mark Juneteenth and Black Music month on June 18th through June 20th.

What’s on the horizon for Roxbury Cultural District?

Wrapping up a long strategic planning process that was spearheaded by Empower Success Corps., a group of strategic planners who help non-profits. The first half of the year was very focused on the planning, programming, and implementation of Nubian Nights – the rest of the year will be focused on pushing out our strategic plan, recruiting and on-boarding new board members.

Favorite purchase from the Black Market?

Bought a t-shirt that said “Black Fathers Matter” for a friend for Father’s Day

Place on the Roxbury Cultural District Map you are most excited to visit now that Boston is open for business again?

Newly revitalized Dudley Library