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Sandra Larson

Stories by Sandra

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Dorchester pop-up market features community vendors

The Ujamaa Bazaar, a pop-up market organized by the Black Economic Justice Institute, Inc., will be open every Saturday this month from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the large hall at 61 Columbia Road in Dorchester. BEJI recently moved its headquarters into the lower floor of the building, which is home to the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers, Inc. (MAMLEO).

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The Partnership marks 30 years

Organization helps people of color rise through corporate ranks

The Partnership, a nonprofit with a mission of diversifying Boston’s corporate leadership pipeline, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Since 1987, the Boston-based organization has offered leadership development programs to nurture the talent of African Americans and, increasingly, other people of color traditionally underrepresented at the highest levels of business and industry. Over the years, the organization has worked with some 300 partner organizations and now has a network of more than 4,000 alumni.

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Outside the Box Agency's marketing business built around storytelling

Outside the Box Agency President Justin Springer’s path has always been nontraditional, and his entry into entrepreneurship is no exception. A few years ago, when he was frustrated by a string of unfulfilling jobs and job searches, a friend mentioned Future Boston Alliance, the organization known for championing innovative ideas for Boston, but less known at the time for its new business accelerator program. To his surprise, he received word that he’d been selected for Future Boston’s accelerator cohort.

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Proposals are in for city’s Roxbury housing competition

A jury of design experts, city officials and residents of Roxbury’s Garrison Trotter sub-neighborhood is evaluating six development proposals submitted as part of a city of Boston pilot Housing Innovation Competition launched last November.

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Office of Economic Development aims to grow Boston’s small businesses

Boston has 40,000 small businesses that provide some 170,000 jobs, nearly half of all employment in the city, according to the city’s Small Business Plan released last May. And the vast majority of the city’s small businesses — both downtown and in Boston’s many neighborhoods — are “micro-businesses” with fewer than 10 employees and less than $500,000 in revenue. The Mayor's Office of Economic Development (OED), formed in 2014 by the incoming Walsh administration, has been ramping up its efforts to support existing and new small businesses, providing a range of services to help them get a foothold, survive and thrive.

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‘Memory cafe’ takes aim at elder isolation, dementia concerns

Memory cafes are new to Boston, but the model was developed in the 1990s in Holland, and over the past decade has spread across the U.S. In some areas they are called “Alzheimer’s cafes,” but memory cafes are not Alzheimer’s education sessions or support groups. A 2005 evaluation of memory cafes in the United Kingdom observed that the cafe setting provides “a safe space in which to ‘re-story’ the experience of dementia.” Organizers say cafe participation can open a path to starting difficult conversations about dementia.

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In Boston, who will bear climate change burden?

Increase in extreme heat days poses threat to already-vulnerable residents

Boston is in for more severe storms, damaging floods and dangerously hot days in the coming years, experts say. While all Bostonians will feel the impacts of extreme weather and increased flooding, the impacts may be felt hardest in the city’s communities of color and lower-income neighborhoods. These residents already face a slate of challenges and inequities that will make it harder to withstand heat waves and bounce back after disasters.

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Panel, report decry push for privatization in Massachusetts

From the MBTA’s recent outsourcing of its cash-counting operations to the heavily-funded campaign to lift the cap on charter schools, Massachusetts is witness to a push for greater privatization of services that traditionally have been public, or government-provided.

Forging economic connections on the Fairmount Corridor

Opportunities seen for local job seekers

A strategy for boosting economic development along the Fairmount Corridor by attracting and retaining businesses and jobs — and particularly, connecting corridor residents to those jobs — appears to be gaining traction.

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City seeks innovative housing proposals for Roxbury

The city is offering several Roxbury land parcels for sale to developers as part of a pilot competition to encourage the creation of “compact” multifamily rental or ownership housing with a range of affordability.

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City studies changing Boston demographics

Population increases present challenges

Hosted by Imagine Boston 2030 and the Boston Planning and Development Agency’s research division, the Boston by the Numbers series is an opportunity for Bostonians to see and discuss the data and trends that help guide long-range city planning.

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BPS open house highlights 10-year-plan process

Parents, students turn out for weekend sessions at Bolling Bldg.

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang last weekend shared some of his department’s efforts to acknowledge and address systemic racism.

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‘Inclusive innovation’ the topic of Rox HubWeek panel

The Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square was transformed Monday evening into a marketplace for local entrepreneurs and a site for thoughtful discussions on creating an inclusive innovation ecosystem and supporting local entrepreneurs who have already taken the leap.

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City teachers try to make do with fewer staff, supplies

BPS teachers say budget shortfalls are cutting critical services in their schools and causing them to dig deeper into their own pockets for classroom supplies.

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Rev. Barber, in Boston, urges a moral lens on policy issues

North Carolina minister and political leader Rev. Dr. William Barber II electrified an overflow crowd in Boston last week as he hammered out an agenda for a “moral revolution of values” in times of pain, injustice and outrage.

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A creative business plan

Optometrist combines art with eye care in Dudley shop

When optometrist Lesa Dennis-Mahamed opened her new full-service eye care shop in Dudley Square’s Bolling Building last fall, she chose a name infused with multiple layers of meaning.

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Report shows Jobs Trust impact

Hundreds served by training programs

Developer “linkage” fees on large-scale commercial developments in Boston have led to job training and higher incomes for city residents in need, according to a new report from the city’s Office of Workforce Development.

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Batter up! The BASE launches girls’ baseball program

A Boston nonprofit known for combining baseball training and competition with academic and life skills support for boys has launched a new girls’ baseball program. The BASE, headquartered in Roxbury, started with a focus on boys. Founded in 2013 by Robert Lewis Jr. as an evolution of the longstanding Boston Astros team, The BASE’s vision statement includes “combining sports and academic opportunities to transform the lives of black and Latino boys.” In late 2014, a girls’ softball program was added, growing quickly to 200 participants. But The BASE’s core program remains baseball — and now baseball is for girls, too.

City-funded housing vouchers proposed

Affordable housing and homelessness advocates, along with a majority of Boston city councilors, are calling for the next city budget to allocate $5 million for a new “housing first” voucher program. The city-funded vouchers would provide rental assistance for homeless families and individuals in Boston in the face of continued funding cuts and long wait lists for federal and state voucher programs.

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Entrepreneur Joel Edwards is Fit to Succeed

Seeking like-minded gym partners? He has an app for that!

“Gyms don’t keep people. They’re just not good at it,” says Joel Edwards, founder and CEO of Boston-based Fittus. “I’ve quit gym memberships myself — it’s hard to stay motivated.” To tackle the problem, the 32-year-old Dorchester native created the Fittus mobile application to connect gym members and link personal trainers with clients.

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Verizon bringing fiber optic service to Boston

Dudley Sq, Dorchester to be among first service areas

Over the next six years, Boston business and residential consumers will gain a new option for high-speed broadband internet access. Mayor Martin Walsh and Verizon announced last week that Verizon is launching a $300 million effort to replace its copper-based Boston infrastructure with a new fiber optic network.

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Latinas Think Big forum tackles wealth gap

Summit covers prosperity barriers and solutions

Latinas Think Big, a global network and online platform aiming to advance Latinas’ ventures and careers, held a national summit last week in Cambridge. The event centered on the topic of racial and ethnic wealth disparities and potential pathways to economic prosperity for Latina women in light of the wealth gap.

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State Senate candidates speak at Chinatown forum

Affordable housing, immigrant issues take center stage in coalition-run forum

A new coalition of Boston Asian-American organizations hosted a forum March 16 to introduce candidates in the First Suffolk and Middlesex State Senate race to a Chinatown audience. Less than a month remains before the April 12 primary election that will determine which one of seven Democratic hopefuls will advance to the May 8 special election necessitated by the recent resignation of Sen. Anthony Petruccelli.

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BRA JP/Rox plan raises questions

Infrastructure seen lacking in planning area

The BRA’s Plan: JP/Rox process has involved an unprecedented degree of community participation and inter-agency cooperation, by many accounts, yet has left some JP/Rox community members, including those on the appointed advisory group for the plan, feeling nervous and not fully heard or empowered. Worries abound, from loss of JP’s neighborhood character, to lack of affordability and displacement of existing residents, to a feeling of the processed being rushed or not fully thought out.

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Daren Bascome and Proverb

A design and branding leader that talks truth by design

How do you rebrand a religion? Daren Bascome, 46-year-old founder of Proverb branding agency, says shepherding the Universalist Unitarian Association toward a new image to engage the Millennial generation counts among the more unusual projects tackled by Proverb, recently ranked as one of the “Inner City 100” fastest-growing firms.

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Advocates debate millionaire tax

Funds would go to transportation, education

Supporters and opponents testified at the State House last week on a proposed constitutional amendment that would impose an extra 4 percent state tax on annual income over $1 million in order to generate funds for public education and transportation projects.

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Local organizer shifts focus to transit equity

Hakim Cunningham, a Dorchester native who cut his organizing teeth as an economic justice and jobs advocate, has taken on the newly-created role of social justice policy coordinator at Transportation for Massachusetts, a coalition formed in 2010 to advocate for safe, reliable, equitable transportation systems, adequate revenue, and transparency and accountability in transportation decision-making.

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Foundations seeking solutions to high cost of new affordable housing

A Boston-based private funder collaborative has launched a competition for innovative strategies to increase the supply of permanent affordable housing for the lowest-income Massachusetts families. In the competition, announced at the Massachusetts State House Nov. 19, Home Funders plans to offer cash awards of $10,000 to $25,000 to organizations or teams that propose “well-crafted, innovative, feasible and sustainable” solutions to build or preserve housing for Extremely Low Income families.

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BPS hires social-emotional learning expert

Boston Public Schools has hired an Assistant Superintendent of Social Emotional Learning and Wellness, a new position intended to enhance offerings in non-academic skills such as collaboration, self-advocacy, anger management and conflict resolution.

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Photographer and jazz artist strives to give ‘moment of joy’

“Eyes With Wings,” the title of Arni Cheatham’s photography exhibit at the Piano Craft Gallery, is a metaphor for birds and their superior visual acuity — and it also reflects the artist’s approach. Out in nature with a camera, he lets his own eyes “take wing” and then works to share the joyous experience through photographs.

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City seeking transportation solutions

How will Bostonians get to work and move around the city in the future? Looking ahead to 2030, how might transportation improvements address challenges already evident today — a growing, diversifying and aging city population, increasing income inequality, congested streets and an overburdened public transit system? The City of Boston has been pondering these questions, with the help of an advisory group and public input from thousands of Hub residents and workers, for much of 2015. Last week, its “Go Boston 2030” initiative reached an interim milestone as Mayor Martin Walsh and the Boston Transportation Department released a report outlining a vision and goals.

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Bus Rapid Transit studied anew for Hub

Dudley to Mattapan, Harvard seen as feasible routes

The addition of “Gold Standard” Bus Rapid Transit lanes could cut travel time by nearly half between Dudley and Haymarket or Harvard, and by more than one-third between Dudley and Mattapan, according to a report on BRT by the Barr Foundation, a Boston-based private foundation that focuses on education, climate, and arts and culture.

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Legislators advance profiling bills

Bills would require police to report data on pedestrian stops

The proposed legislation, introduced by Rep. Byron Rushing and senators Sonia Chang-Diaz and Linda Dorcena Forry, aims to prohibit racial profiling during motor vehicle and pedestrian stops, and to require increased data collection and review to identify racial disparities in policing practices. The law would apply to all state, municipal, college and university law enforcement officers.

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Legislators, activists advocate for increase in early education

Massachusetts may be a national leader in K–12 education, but it is falling behind in pre-kindergarten education, according to many of the education and children’s advocates, parents, officials, and legislators who testified at a State House hearing last week.

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Getting a jump on financial literacy

Bank Day educates teen workers to take charge of their money

Hundreds of Boston area young people streamed into the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center on July 27 for the city’s first-ever Youth Bank Day, an event that brought teens face-to-face with representatives from financial institutions and organizations that help navigate the hurdles of getting into and financing college.

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Design standards set for new Garrison Trotter housing

The city of Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development and community members from Roxbury’s Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association have forged a set of design principles to guide residential development on some city-owned vacant land parcels. As part of a new Neighborhood Homes Initiative, the DND plans to offer reduced land pricing and subsidy funding to spur the creation of home ownership opportunities affordable to a range of income levels.

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Shopping while black?

J.P. liquor store staff finger UMass prof. as perp in cognac heist

Robert Johnson, chairman of Africana Studies at UMass Boston, was falsely identified as the thief who made off with 20 bottles of cognac from a Jamaica Plain liquor store earlier this year and taken to the Area E police station for questioning. Johnson says he bears little resemblance to the suspect depicted in grainy stills from a surveillance video and says he is considered filing a complaint with the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination.

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ReadBoston Storymobile starts up summer program

Over the coming weeks, more than 400 Read Boston events will be held in 80 locations around the city, including neighborhood parks, community centers, summer camps and library branches.

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HUD Secretary Castro attends opening of HUD-funded Quincy Heights

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro joined Mayor Martin Walsh on July 7 to celebrate the official ribbon-cutting for Quincy Heights, an affordable housing complex made possible in part by a $20.5 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Initiative Grant awarded in 2011.

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Minority transit officials convene in Boston

US Transportation Secretary Foxx delivers keynote at conference

Hundreds of leaders in transportation from across the nation came together in Boston this week for the 44th Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) national meeting and training event.

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1852 Douglass speech still resonates

Annual public reading draws hundreds

In Boston last week, two days before July 2, a public reading of the famous speech was held on the Boston Common. Readers lined up at a microphone set up near the State House and stepped up to read a paragraph each, 53 in all.

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Dudley Street developer agrees to affordability, diversity standards

A for-profit developer planning to transform a former police station at 409 Dudley Street in Roxbury into nine residential units has agreed to a set of new voluntary guidelines for affordability, workforce diversity and neighborhood improvements.

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Transit cost relief for Boston-area youth

Youth Pass pilot program serves ages 12-21 in 4 cities

Boston area youth transit activists joined city and state officials at Dudley Station July 1 to celebrate the much-anticipated launch of the MBTA Youth Pass. The one-year pilot pass program will sharply reduce the cost of bus and subway travel for 1,500 young people ages 12 to 21 in Boston, Chelsea, Malden and Somerville.

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Elders feel effects of housing prices

Some safe, others vulnerable as gentrification progresses

For older residents in Jamaica Plain and Roxbury, experiences and feelings vary as housing prices rise and their neighborhoods change around them. Some are vulnerable to displacement, while others have found stable, affordable housing. Longtime homeowners have the luxury of contemplating whether to sell, some happy for the significant financial opportunity but hesitant to push a neighborhood shift that often results in fewer people of color.

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Boston rents put squeeze on city elderly

S. End, Chinatown, hard hit as luxury units displace affordable apartments

As buildings change hands and rents increase, elderly renters and homeowners are feeling pressue in Roxbury, the South End, Chinatown and other neighborhoods in various stages of gentrification.

When an elder loses a home

Financial abuse affects whole families

Cases of elder financial abuse often present a messy trail of poor decisions, declining cognitive ability, aggressive or unscrupulous lenders and self-serving family members. But the results can be stark: lost dreams, financial ruin and even homelessness for elders or their heirs. And the loss of a long-held home not only curtails a family’s economic rise, but can fray the cultural fabric of a neighborhood.

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For older homeowners, it’s ‘borrower beware’

Reverse mortgages, refinance schemes often put seniors at risk

Mortgage companies are aggressively marketing reverse mortgages to seniors, but advocates warn that the refinancing scheme isn’t for everyone.

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BHA readying RFP for Bunker Hill redevelopment

The Boston Housing Authority has moved a step closer to tapping private development dollars in the face of public funding gaps that make it difficult to operate and improve its aging housing stock. In a public meeting May 28 at Charlestown High School, BHA Director Bill McGonagle outlined the agency’s plan to issue a Request for Proposals to transform the nearby Bunker Hill development into an expanded, mixed-income complex.

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For senior homeowners, repair costs loom large

Aging housing stock and fixed incomes leave Boston seniors vulnerable

Traditional wisdom says home ownership provides economic security in old age, but as the senior population swells, repair costs rise and more people enter retirement saddled by debt, many elders find themselves “house-rich but cash-poor,” unable to keep up with repairs or adapt the home to be safe for frailer bodies.

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Expert describes toll of family homelessness

Mental health, brain development suffer

Homelessness-related stress and trauma plays a role in poor maternal health and poor parenting, which then affects child development, said Carmela DeCandia, who is co-author of a recent report on family homelessness. Ninety-three percent of homeless mothers have a history of trauma. Thirty-six percent are suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder — triple the incidence of PTSD in the general population of women. These conditions are often factors in substance abuse and depression.

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