Friday, July 18, 2014

A Summer of Discovery for Boston Teens


Over the course of six weeks this summer seven Boston young people are researching the history of the Dillaway-Thomas House and the Roxbury Heritage State Park and its immediate surrounding areas.   Sponsored by MYTOWN (Multicultural Youth Tour of What’s Now) and the Commonwealth’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), the students are also investigating the archives of the city’s great institutions to explore the original documents that tell the story of Roxbury and Boston.  Last week, they visited the 1630 Eliot Burying Ground next door to HBI in Roxbury, examining the early grave markers as primary sources for research about this neighborhood. Two of the seven students shared some very thoughtful impressions of this unique place.


Keiana Cox, 17, is a student at Boston Latin Academy and lives in Roxbury
Visiting the John Eliot Burial Ground was a unique experience because not many people are able to go there or are even aware of where it is. The John Eliot Burial ground is located on Washington Street close to Dudley Station. It is a weird place to have a cemetery, in my opinion, because there is so much going on in that area. The John Eliot Burial Ground, unlike other cemeteries, is actually raised above the street level. All the headstones in the cemetery are also very close together, and obviously very old to the point where it is difficult to read the engravings on the headstones. Something I noticed upon reading the headstones was that many people buried there didn’t live very long. There was a family in which four children were buried a year or two after each other.  They also shared a linked headstone. Many people buried in the site were important historical figures, and they also died before independence was gained from Britain. John Eliot was known as the "Apostle to the Indians" and is who the cemetery is named after. Getting to visit the John Eliot Burial Ground was a great experience because it taught me a little bit about the people from that time period (the 1600's and 1700's), and it showed me where an important historical figure was buried.

Yussuf Haji, 19, is a student at Bunker Hill Community College, and lives in Dorchester:
I enjoyed the activities of the day: walking to Dudley Square and trying to figure out why people call it Dudley Square even though it isn't.  I enjoyed learning about the old street name of Washington Street. It was originally called Orange Street, and the Orange Line once ran through there. When we went to the Cemetery it was really interesting. As we walked through the gates, it was right above our heads. We came to the conclusion that, the place may have been a hill before it was made a cemetery. What really interested me were the quotes left on the grave stones. I wrote down two quotes. One was from a Mrs. Eunice Brooks, wife of Mr. Kendall Brooks, who died Nov. 12th 1817. She was 21, and it said, "As those we love decay, we die in part, And string by string, is severed from the heart." And the other quote is from a Mr. John Martin, who died Sept. 24, 1809, and read, "Friend, Physician could not save, my mortal body from the grave; nor can the grave confine me here, when Christ shall call me to appear." For reasons I don't understand, those quotes stood out to me from among others.  From my personal view as a Muslim, God commands us Muslims to visit the graves to remind us where we will end up. Once upon a time, we were in a womb, then end up in the tomb.  I kept chanting, "Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un", which is a part of a verse from the Qur'an which loosely translates to "Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return". Muslims say this when a person dies, particularly another Muslim, especially if they’re a relative, to ease the pain of the lost one. It was a wonderful experience for me, doing one of my obligations as a Muslim, visiting the graves.

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