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Yawu Miller

Stories by Yawu

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Charter school question suffers defeat at polls

All but wealthiest Boston precincts reject measure

Students, parent activists and teachers took the stage to celebrate the defeat of Ballot Question 2, which called for a lift to the statewide cap on charter school expansion — a victory that Massachusetts Teachers Association President Barbara Madeloni said quashed efforts to privatize public education.

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RARE Moving Company looking to expand statewide and nationally

Making it through the first year of a start-up business is never a sure thing, but by September 1, 2008 Kamaul Reid knew he was on his way to success. That’s when his aunt, sitting in the living room of his Dorchester home, was fielding calls from customers on what typically is the busiest day for movers. The scene outside provided confirmation that RARE Moving & Trucking was ready to meet the demand.

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Students, activists call for free MBTA passes

Students within 2 mi. of schools are now exempt

While the school department provides Boston students — those attending BPS schools, charter schools and private schools — with an M7 bus pass, middle and high school students who live less than two miles from their schools are not eligible. Those students qualify instead for a reduced-cost S pass, which enables them to board a bus or train for $1.10 per ride, rather than the $2.25 it costs to ride with a pre-paid Charlie Card or the $2.75 without. But the $30 monthly cost for the pass is out of reach of many of the 7,000 BPS students who qualify for it, advocates say.

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Bankruptcy court rules against Charles St. AME

After a heated court battle, last week OneUnited Bank won its claim in federal bankruptcy court for repayment of a $3.6 billion loan to Charles Street AME Church. OneUnited sued Charles Street in 2010 after the church defaulted on the loan. Charles Street then filed a counterclaim to that suit, alleging that OneUnited knew the church could not complete its construction project with the funds provided and therefore would not be able to repay the loan.

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Latino activists discuss growth in political power in Massachusetts

Although Latinos make up 17 percent of the U.S. population, they represent only 1 percent of the nation’s elected officials. Latinos have fared only slightly better in Massachusetts, where they occupy 3.5 percent of the seats in the state Legislature, despite making up 9.5 percent of the state’s population. While the numbers of Latino elected officials has been increasing since Nelson Merced was first voted into the 5th Suffolk District in 1988, activists say they want to see better representation for a community many see as a key player in local and national politics.

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For sale: Roxbury ‘estate,’ $2.9m

Listing is Fort Hill’s most expensive

A $2.9 million listing is Roxbury’s highest for a single-family property, but it’s not the only million-dollar property in Roxbury.

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Chinatown residents fighting for building ownership

Mass Pike Towers residents fighting Trinity Financial over 200-unit building

Back when Trinity Financial acquired the Mass Pike Towers housing development in 2000, the deal seemed like a win-win, tenants say. The developers secured $16 million in public funds to purchase and renovate the nearly 30-year-old building complex. They promised to keep the units affordable and to give tenants the right to purchase the development after 15 years. The tenants remembered that option, spelled out in a memorandum of understanding, when things began to go sour in 2003.

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Money key in Question 2 charter school expansion debate

Supporters, opponents dispute costs

Across Massachusetts supporters of Ballot Question 2, which would lift the statewide cap on charter school expansion, are squaring off against measure opponents in school committee meetings, public forums and on the airwaves in what will likely be the most expensive ballot question in state history.

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Money Talk financial literacy conference focuses on wealth building

Entrepreneurs make connections at event

Last weekend, a collection of business leaders, financial professionals, activists and entrepreneurs set about the work of closing that gap during the Banner’s financial literacy conference on, “Money Talk: Building Black Wealth,” held at the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center.

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Boston’s building boom coming to Roxbury area

Locals seeking share of jobs and contracts

Although there are few luxury housing buildings planned between Dudley Square and Mattapan Square, $110 million in city- and state-funded projects in the pipeline for the Roxbury area promises to bring the construction boom to Boston’s black community.

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MBTA to begin construction on Mattapan station in spring

The MBTA will begin construction on the Mattapan station of the Fairmount Line in early spring of next year, working weekends and evenings to avoid disruptions in service on the commuter rail line, which runs through Hyde Park, Mattapan, Dorchester and Roxbury. At the end of the two-year construction project, riders from Mattapan Square will be able cut their travel time to downtown Boston in half, according to Desiree Patrice, a project manager with the MBTA.

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Tiny homes coming to Roxbury?

City seeking affordable options

The Urban Housing Unit landed in Roxbury last week, occupying a vacant lot on the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Gaston Street, the rectangular white unit’s front door facing the street. Visitors could proceed through the glass entryway into the bedroom of the 380-square-foot dwelling, past a small bathroom and into the kitchen/dining/living room area — and be done with the tour in mere seconds.

Competing visions for future of academics at UMass Boston

Amid what many see as uncertain times, UMass Boston Provost Winston Langley removed the chairman of the Africana Studies Department, Robert Johnson, an action that sparked controversy. In an interview with the Banner last week, Langley said he removed Johnson after standard academic quality and development review, during which academics from outside the UMass system evaluated the quality of instruction in the Africana Studies department.

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Affordable housing activists, re-branded BRA at odds over vision for Boston

Complaints of displacement amid building boom

Both the name change and demonstration come as the city is in the midst of a construction boom that has generated luxury high-rises claiming space on the city’s skyline, heightened levels of real estate speculation and displaced working-class renters from gentrifying neighborhoods like South Boston and Jamaica Plain.

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Activists, city officials square off during JP planning meeting

While the city officials have been preoccupied with transportation corridors, activated streetscapes and incremental increases in the required 13 percent affordability for new housing construction, the activists have expressed alarm at the pace of displacement of low-income renters along the Washington Street corridor and fears that the BRA will do little to stem the rising tide of gentrification.

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Mass. SJC ruling takes aim at racial profiling

Justice cites ‘indignity’ of repeated stops

Supreme Judicial Court Justice Geraldine Hines authored a ruling in defense of blacks fleeing the police. The unanimous SJC ruling stated that people fleeing the police may be motivated by a desire to “avoid the recurring indignity of being racially profiled,” and that their flight should not be automatically interpreted as evidence of “criminal activity.”

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Chinatown residents seek say on city-owned parcels

Several dozen Chinatown activists met with city officials at the Quincy School last week to discuss strategies to stem the ongoing displacement residents are facing as pressure from for-profit developers continues to build. The activists want the Boston Redevelopment Authority to adhere to the Chinatown Master Plan, a document neighborhood residents created in 1990 and have amended as recently as 2010, to outline their goals for affordable housing and open space.

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Stopped, frisked and searched

Man says Walpole cops violated his rights

Jean-Paul Wahnon has never run afoul of the law. So when a Walpole police officer rifled through his Toyota Prius on an August afternoon and repeatedly asked whether the car was his and whether he had a gun in his possession, Wahnon was concerned.

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UMass students, profs. protest education funding

Demonstrators call for increased public investment

Massachusetts Education Secretary James Peyser elicited boos from faculty and student activists at UMass Boston’s convocation last Thursday, when he called for the state’s public colleges and universities to operate on a “new business model” and quoted industrialist Henry Ford.

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Storm brewing at UMass Boston

Is univ. shutting down Africana Studies?

A shakeup that sidelined the longstanding chairman of the Africana Studies department at UMass Boston has a group of professors there charging that the administration is seeking to dismantle the department. After nearly two decades at its helm, Professor Robert Johnson was relieved of his duties and replaced by Susan Tomlinson, an associate professor of English, whom Johnson’s backers say has little experience with Africana Studies.

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A new legislator for Roxbury’s 7th Suffolk

Chynah Tyler wins three-way race by narrow margin

In what was the most hotly-contested legislative race in Boston’s low-turnout state primary, political newcomer Chynah Tyler eked out a narrow victory, with 901 of the 2,061 votes cast in the three-way race. Monica Cannon trailed by 105 votes with 794, and Marydith Tuitt garnered 364 votes.

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Teens get taste of T jobs during internship program

Each of the 30 students who participated in this year’s Transportation Training Immersion Program spoke glowingly about their hands-on experiences working in MBTA service yards, Internet Technology centers and in the Real Estate/Safety/Security office. The students, most of whom attend Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, spoke during a graduation celebration held last month at the state Transportation Building. They spoke about how the program helped them better understand subject matter they studied in high school.

Legislature stalls on foreclosure

Bill giving cities tools to stop foreclosures assigned to study

Activists working to fight a recent sharp uptick in foreclosures year suffered a setback at the end of this year’s legislative session in July, when the House declined to vote on a bill that would make give cities and towns the power to mandate mediation between banks and homeowners in default.

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Elizabeth Warren’s recipe for change

Senator advocates progressive policies

Now, after more than four years in the Senate, Warren is tying together her life story, her analysis of what’s wrong with the economy and her prescription for fixing it into a speech, versions of which she has delivered at the Democratic National Convention and in other Massachusetts cities and towns.

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A Cape Verdean-English dictionary

Dorchester man captures evolving language

Dorchester resident Manuel Da Luz Goncalves has compiled a 40,000-word Cape Verdean Creole-to-English dictionary, working over the last 10 years with the literature, folklore and music of the West African archipelago to determine standard spelling and meaning for the words.

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Restaurateur commits to $15 wage

Says move will help attract, retain workers

If all goes according to plan, by 2018 all of the workers in Bon Me’s six trucks, five restaurant locations and central kitchen facility will earn $15 an hour, according to co-founder Ali Fong.

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Controversial project raises abutters’ ire

Neighbors question developer’s ties to Inspectional Services Dept.

Last week, City Realty Group proposed a total of 39 units at 50 and 56 Cedar Street — zoned for nine and three units of housing, respectively — sparking concern among neighborhood residents. Adding fuel to the neighbors’ worries is the architectural firm the developers brought into the deal: Roache Christopher Architects LLC, a firm co-founded by Inspectional Services Division Commissioner William “Buddy” Christopher and now managed by his son James Christopher.

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Councilor explores housing, small business issues in Rox.

Meets with homeless students, Madison Park staff

Anissa Essaibi-George toured Roxbury two weeks ago, looking into issue of homelessness and small business development. Although the Dorchester native hasn’t spent much of her career working in Roxbury, she became familiar with the issue of homeless students during her 12 years at East Boston High.

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Somerville mayor confronts racism

‘Black Lives Matter’ banner is part of year-long conversation on bias

A “Black Lives Matter” banner has hung from Somerville’s City Hall building throughout the last 12 months, a provocative statement at a time when people around the country are debating the role of race in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. The controversy heated up two weeks ago when police officers from across the state gathered in front of the building to protest the sign, with a contingent displaying a blue and white “cops’ lives matter” banner. Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone, who had the banner installed, said he was heartened by the counter-demonstration of Somerville residents who outnumbered the officers.

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Closing the food loop: A compost firm grows

CERO helps local farms produce healthy vegetables

Every day as tons of Boston’s food waste gets hauled off to landfills, two garbage haulers with the acronym CERO divert a small portion to a farm in South Hamilton. There, microbes do the hard work of breaking down orange peels, onion skins and wilted lettuce into compost. After a year of microbial digestion, the CERO trucks return, load up and bring that compost to Boston farms, which in turn supply local consumers with fresh vegetables.

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Effort underway to rein in sober homes

Legislation paves way for certification

State officials hope a voluntary certification system governing the operation of sober homes in Massachusetts will help increase safety and curtail abuse in the unregulated market for the group homes. But a group of Roxbury neighbors who turned out for an information session on the new standards for the homes were less optimistic.

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Dorchester man puts neighbors to work

Sheet metal worker teaches locals how to perform restoration work

Like many blacks in the building trades, T. Michael Thomas struggled to balance his love for his work and his antipathy for his union. As one of a handful of non-white members of the Sheet Metal Workers Local 17, Thomas found that he was often passed over for jobs in favor of less-qualified whites.

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Freedom House marks progress on new bldg.

Renovations to be completed by early next year

Long housed in a building directly across Crawford Street from the old Grove Hall Library building, Freedom House moved in three years ago. It now is operating out of a set of trailers while the 8,400 square foot library building undergoes a $1.5 million renovation.

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Thousands march in Roxbury against police brutality

Protesters numbering in the thousands took over the streets of Roxbury yesterday demonstrating against police violence against blacks in the United States.

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Program offers small businesses legal help

The Lawyer’s Committee For Civil Rights and Economic Justice’s Belin Economic Justice Project, can help businesses through legal dilemmas including protecting intellectual property, determining which legal entity a business should select and drawing up catering contracts.

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Black and Latino officials call for criminal justice reforms

Members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus drafted a letter outlining the urgency of passing criminal justice reforms at the state and local level, many of which were prompted by the nationwide movement to counter police abuse of blacks.

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A week of violence and renewed calls for reform

Boston activists hold rally, march in Roxbury

As demonstrators in Boston and other U.S. cities rallied for peace, legislation aimed at increasing protections against police abuse is stalled in the Massachusetts legislature.

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Growing a home business

Roxbury woman launches custom embroidery venture

Lisa Martin had been operating an embroidery business as a sideline for six years, working out of the kitchen of her Roxbury condo to produce customized baseball caps, jackets and other items. Then, last year when she was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant at a local nonprofit, Martin went all in. She purchased an engraving machine and began marketing her skills to wedding planners, funeral homes, sports teams — anyone who needs a custom touch.

Charter advertising war ramps up

Ballot question proponents, foes to spend millions

Come November 1, Massachusetts voters will decide whether to lift the state’s current cap on the number of charter schools operating here by voting up or down on a ballot question backed by a record-breaking $18 million in contributions. With Massachusetts teachers unions pledging another $12 million to defeat the question, the race will draw significantly more resources than any race in Massachusetts history.

BPS budget vote comes after months of protests, activism

The city council’s vote on the school budget — scheduled for Wednesday this week — will be the latest development in what has been one of the most contentious budgeting processes in recent history. The year began with a picket line outside the mayor’s January State of the City address and included two student walk-outs, demonstrations and packed budget hearings.

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Boosting Mass. businesses

Business Development sec. seeks to broaden opportunity

While the Greater Boston area has long been a hotbed of business innovation — from the biotech boom in Kendall Square to the tech start-ups growing on the Boston waterfront — it’s Nam Pham’s job to make sure the job creation is shared throughout the state.

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Caribbean extravaganza at the Bolling Building

Roxbury fête is highlight of Boston’s Caribbean Heritage Month observance

Caribbean Americans gathered in Dudley Square to celebrate Caribbean Heritage Month with music, poetry and other cultural expressions.

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Education chief says no secrets in BPS planning

Says emails were not indicative of planning on future needs for Boston school buildings

In the wake of the release of Walsh administration emails in which BPS officials discuss school closures, city officials say that there are no concrete plans to close schools.

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Gentrification concerns dominate Dudley plan

Officials seek to balance development, displacement

The several dozen community activists gathered Monday at the Bruce Bolling Municipal Building to discuss the future of Dudley Square confronted a conundrum that has been vexing city planners across the United States: How to facilitate development in a neighborhood without displacing those already living there.

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Growing a yarn business

Jamaica Plain woman finds niche with younger knitters

Diane Ivy’s is banking on her vibrant, street art-inspired yarn colors’ appeal to the looming legions of younger, more diverse knitters and crocheters.

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Baking business success

Family-owned Haitian bakery a pillar in Mattapan community

Edna Etienne's bakery, now in a building she owns at the corner of Blue Hill Avenue and Babcock streets, is a gathering spot for the Haitian and Mattapan community. Many are drawn by the bakery’s specialty — traditional Haitian flakey puff pastries filled with beef, chicken or salted fish.

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Jamaica Plain activists press Walsh on affordability

Mayor Martin Walsh’s Jamaica Plain coffee hour, held on the lawn of the Hunnewell Visitor Center at the Arnold Aboretum, began like any other of the regularly-scheduled meet-and-greets held throughout the city. But after Walsh’s opening remarks, the two dozen or so affordable housing activists who surrounded the mayor gave the event a distinctly Jamaica Plain flavor.

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Boston shows support for Orlando shooting victims

Hundreds fill City Hall Plaza, pray for peace

City and state officials gathered with Bostonians on City Hall Plaza in solidarity with victims and survivors of the worst mass-shooting in recent U.S. history.

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City’s demographics dashboard tracks diversity of its workforce

The City of Boston has launched a demographics dashboard, an online tool that allows users to track information about the race, gender and pay of city employees.

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Facilities plan seen as part of charter strategy

Hub enrolled in plan for ‘school autonomy’

Boston’s involvement in a nation-wide campaign for charter school expansion has parent activists worried.