A Yard is coming to the banks of the Malden River from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, June 12. The event is free and open to all. The Yard, which will bring the voices of the African diaspora to the banks of the river, will feature Zili Misik in conversation with poet Letta Neely, Haitian master drummer & choreographer Peniel Guerrier, steel pannist Becky Bass and DJ Lady Ly aka AfroPean, for interactive workshops & performances. Led by Zili Misik, the Yard will build on continuing efforts of Malden River Works (MRW), a new coalition of community leaders of color, environmental advocates and government stakeholders in action to achieve a common goal: to create a climate-resilient waterfront park on the Malden River for all.
“Public spaces are becoming increasingly important areas of recreation as the typical indoor recreational spaces (e.g. malls, movie theaters, libraries) are closed or have limited access because of the COVID pandemic. This becomes ever more important during the hot summer months, particularly for environmental justice communities, who often lack economic stability and resources to help them mitigate the impacts of climate change,” said MRW Steering Committee Member Marcia Manong.
Through this interactive event, Project Misik will help demonstrate how this park can serve as an inclusive cultural hub for Malden and plant the seed for a tradition of multicultural celebrations to enliven and activate the waterfront park when complete. This partnership is natural, as Zili Misik and MRW are both led by “BIPOC folkx” (Black, Indigenous and people of color) seeking to make our public spaces more accessible, inclusive and lively.
“The Malden community has created the marvelous design concept of the Malden River Works Waterfront Park utilizing public meetings, conversations, and local events. Now is the time for us to celebrate the union of Malden and the Malden River. This bond will help forge the connection between public health and a rejuvenated ecosystem to support our urban environment,” said Friends of the Malden River President Karen Buck, who is also a member of the MRW Steering Committee and MRW Project Team.
The proposed waterfront park is at the site of Malden’s Department of Public Works (DPW). The 1.25 acre park will include a new boathouse and public dock, a flexible lawn area, rain gardens and a shared-use path that is part of the Malden River Greenway. This is part of the larger Malden River Vision Plan being led by the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) that will result in 3.5 miles of continuous paths around the river.
“For nearly 150 years, the Malden River has been walled off to the public, because commercial and industrial users found it a cheap and convenient place to locate their facilities,” said MyRWA Greenways Director Amber Christoffersen. “With this new park, we will be one step closer to 3.5 miles of connected paths. The public health benefit will be long-lasting as greenways and access to nature have been shown to improve overall health of area residents.”
For the past three years, communities of color, as part of the MRW Steering Committee, have been leading the design of this site. Residents that participated in the public process between 2019 and 2021 emphasized the importance of celebrating diverse, local cultures of Malden, and the MRW Steering Committee has opted to focus on the arts as one effective method. Through this interactive event, Project Misik will help demonstrate how this park, and the Malden River, can serve as a cultural “yard” for Malden.
“For 50 years, the Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA) has been working to restore access, protect water quality and engage community members in the 21 municipalities in our watershed,” said MyRWA Executive Director Patrick Herron. “The community leadership, engagement and equity focus of Malden River Works and Project Misik has been tremendous to see and be a part of; and is an example for future efforts of expanding access along the Malden and Mystic Rivers.”
More event details
Using the lens of African diasporic arts, MRW and Zili Misik will invite participants to connect within and across racial lines, focusing on the ways black lives and cultures matter in Malden, and how this park can center black voices.
What: music, workshops and free food by “The Island,” a Malden Haitian restaurant.
Where: 195 Canal St., Malden (CHA Parking Lot).
Sponsors for Project Misik include the Malden Cultural Council and Mass Cultural Council, Eastern Bank and the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA).
More about Malden River Works
In 2019, MRW was awarded the first-ever Leventhal City Prize from MIT’s Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism – focused on supporting innovative urban design and planning approaches for equitable resilience. The project and its process, led by residents of color, is intended to serve as a model for equitable and resilient waterfront development in Malden.
More about Zili Misik
Zili Misik is a Boston-based multi-ethnic, all-female band celebrating African diasporic music. They use the power of interactive musical experiences to break down divisions and residual impacts of segregation within a community. Centering Black Lives Matter, Zili Misik aims to create positive visibility of black folx in these spaces.
More about the Mystic River Watershed Association
MyRWA was founded in 1972 with a mission to protect and restore the Mystic River, its tributaries and watershed lands for the benefit of present and future generations and to celebrate the value, importance and great beauty of these natural resources. Its vision is a vibrant, healthy and resilient Mystic River watershed for the benefit of all watershed community members. To achieve this, MyRWA is protecting water quality, restoring important habitat, building climate resilience, transforming parks and paths and inspiring youngsters and other community members.