Dominicans Respond to Community Meeting about Relocation of Festival

An article by Patrick Rosso for the Globe entitled “Residents in Roxbury raise concerns about relocation of Dominican Festival to Clifford Park”  covers a meeting between the  BPD, the Latino Liason to the mayor, and the residents and business owners of the neighborhood surrounding Clifford Park where the annual Dominican festival is set to take place due to construction at Franklin park, the festivals usual venue. The article opens summing up the meeting in these words:

“Residents in Roxbury are not happy with the relocation of the annual Dominican Festival.”

However, some Dominican residents are not happy for a different reason: “ridiculous, racist, and baseless comments” made at the meeting by Sheree Theall, owner of Victoria’s Diner and The Hen House and other people present at the meeting. In a response posted by a community member who would prefer to remain anonymous, a call is put out to attend the festival and to boycott Vicorias Diner:

“I’m concerned for the safety of my customers and my employees,” said Sheree Theall, the owner of Victoria’s Diner on Massachusetts Avenue. “There will be people who will be there just to start trouble.”

On August 13th, a meeting was held by the BPD and the Latino Liason to the mayor for the residents and business owners of the neighborhood surrounding Clifford Park. At this meeting, unlike what residents are quoted saying in the linked article, the concerns were not so much about the amount of people that will be attending the festival. Instead, the meeting was filled with with discriminatory and stereotypical comments. Residents and business owners, such as Sheree Theall, owner of Victoria’s Diner, do not want the Dominican festival to be held at Clifford Park NOT because there will be “too many people for the dense urban neighborhood to handle”, but because “THOSE PEOPLE”, as they constantly referred to Dominicans, will bring unnecessary violence to the area. They are worried that Dominicans will bring drugs, guns, knives, and other weapons and fill the neighborhood with mayhem.

After the police tried to calm the residents’ worries by explaining that there would be sufficient police and emergency personnel present, the residents and business owners went as far as to say that “if the event was so safe, why is there a need for so much personnel?” Great logic there.

Sheree Theall even demanded that the Dominican Festival committee pay for a cop to guard her restaurant against people who want to come in and use her bathroom, as if a a sign stating “NO PUBLIC RESTROOMS” is not enough. Residents even complained about how it is not fair that their tax dollars are being used to fund such an event, not realizing that this event is completely paid for by the Dominican Festival comittee. Residents even expressed concerns about Puerto Ricans being invited to the event.

The residents and business owners of this Roxbury neighborhood do not want the Dominican Festival to be held in Clifford Park, but not because there will be too many people in an already densely populated area. They do not want the festival to be held in a PUBLIC PARK because they do not want Hispanics in their neighborhood.

Please show support by attending the Dominican festival and parade on Sunday, August 18th to show the residents and business owners in this neighborhood that Hispanics are not savages they think we are. The days where only whites were allowed to have parades and festivals in Boston, are long gone. Also, please BOYCOTT VICTORIA’S DINER for the ridiculous, racist, and baseless comments expressed by owner Sheree Theall.

In a comment posted in the comments section below Sheree Theall responds:

I am responding to the accusations being made against me & the business I run, Victoria’s Diner. We run a family business here at the intersection of three great Boston neighborhoods, Roxbury, Dorchester and South Boston. We consider our employees part of our family, and they come from all types of ethnic backgrounds, many from those same three communities. My family, through love and marriage is made up of many ethnicities, one of them being Dominican. I have nieces and nephews of Dominican descent. My concerns were never about the group’s ethnicity – but about the short notice given to us and about the logistics of having such a large crowd – any large crowd – of people in such a small area, i.e.; traffic, parking, public facilities. Whatever the event to be held across the street – any that would draw such large crowds – would give us the same concerns. Imagine yourself the operator of a diner on a Sunday and because the Parks Department hasn’t informed us of public bathroom facilities that will be available, the concern of maintaining order with a mostly female staff. I myself have been pushed past because of our policy of “no public bathrooms”. We continue to welcome and are grateful to all of our customers for choosing Victoria’s Diner. We are proud to be part of such a diverse neighborhood. We wouldn’t have chosen another Diner/Restaurant in another area – because we wanted to be involved with this community in particular. It is disturbing our concerns were taken out of context and are being used to slander us when we have said and done nothing to deserve this backlash. State Representative Carlos Henriquez, echoed the same concerns and we have spoken many times since. I would be happy to sit with Representative Henriquez and concerned parties that may have been offended by my request for safety assurances for my patrons and employees.

State Representative Carlos Henriquez, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, said he heard the remarks by those in attendance who spoke and could understand why some people took offense at some of the comments made at the meeting.  “There were comments  that rubbed me the wrong way” he said, but added  that his concerns about the comments were addressed in the meeting immediately by himself and several others and that it was clarified at the time that the speakers were concerned about any large group of people, not who those people were. While he acknowledged that comments made by many people in the meeting were not well received, he was impressed with some of the other business owners present, like the owner of Liquor Land (located next to the Hen House, across the street from 1010 Mass Ave.) who was primarily concerned with curbing underage drinking and public drinking and drunkenness.

Rep. Henriquez said his primary concerns about the relocation go back to the initial decision to move it from Franklin Park, which he feels is a better location and had other areas in the park where the festival could be held even with the construction. “In terms of infrastructure, public safety and crowd and traffic control, Franklin Park is an easier location” he said, noting Clifford Park’s lack of parking, proximity to homes and access to the highway. In a letter sent to  the office of Mayor Menino, City Councilor Tito Jackson, Inspectional Services, Public Works and the B2 Police Department, he outlines his concerns:

August 8, 2013

Dear (Parks Department),

I write to you today regarding the annual Dominican Festival which this year has been permitted to be held at Clifford Park on Shirley Street in the district I represent. I have been in contact with your department, members of the Boston Police Department and most importantly my neighbors and constituents. Several concerns have been voiced and I want to share them with you in advance of the event so that all stake holders can work together to address and mitigate these concerns.

• Parking is a concern. This event will draw thousands of people from different parts of Boston and Massachusetts. To date a 200 car parking lot has been made available. I and other residents feel this will be inadequate and that steps should be taken to protect the integrity of the abutting neighbors (driveways) as well as businesses like Victoria’s Diner, Liquor Land and the South Bay Mall who will be impacted by traffic and parking.

• Currently, the event is permitted until 10pm on a Sunday night. This is a late end for an event that will effect residents on a work night whom may be impacted by the sounds from the park itself or the cars and foot traffic leaving the event. Residents have been vocal about an earlier end time. Suggestions for 9pm were made.

• Traffic enforcement is another issue due to the large volume of people this event will attract, residents, businesses and traffic flow will be impacted and I would like to know what steps will be taken to minimize the inconvenience to abutters.

• Public safety was another issue raised. I believe the Captain of B2 and his staff are well equipped to handle this event. However, I ask that specific detail be paid to the quality of life issues around the park that day. Issues that have been mentioned range from: public drinking and intoxication, public urination, litter and vandalism, destruction of public and private property, loitering and violence

• Securing 130 and 136 Shirley street. Currently these houses stand as abandoned, forclosed, unsecured structures. They are currently reported as houses used for illegal drug use and this problem could be further exacerbated by the event in close proximity.

It is a dangerous place daily but even more so near a family event with thousands of people that may encounter these addresses. I would like inspectional services to properly secure these locations prior to the festival.

• As I previously stated, Clifford Park sits close to several residential areas who will no doubt be impacted by the increase traffic in the community Sunday August 18 know, even though the organizers are providing clean up crews for the park that litter will take place across the neighborhood hopefully not ending up on private property or even public streets. I would like a commitment that public works will be on site the day before, the day of and the day after to provide affected streets (which may be as many as 15-20 depending on parking and traffic patterns) with a thorough cleaning. I am asking for men and women with gloves, brooms and shovels because these streets are narrow, dense and a street sweeper alone may not be sufficient

• Lastly, Clifford Park is a community assest and home to the Boston Bengals pop warner football team who practice and play their daily. With the heavy traffic this event will bring to the park, I would like to make sure that the field surface is repaired, reseeded, redrawn to its best shape for the community shortly afterwards.

I will close by stating that I believe that the city and residents should be holding cultural and enriching events in our public parks. I am not opposed to the Dominican Festival or other events. I am responsible for representing the concerns of the abbutters who again are not only my constituents but also neighbors and friends. I hope to receive a response to these concerns in short time so that I may have the time to communicate them to all concerned parties.

Thank you for your time, effort and service in our community.

In service,

Carlos Henriquez

Cc: Office of Mayor Menino
Office of City Councilor Tito Jackson
Office of Inspectional Services
Office of Public Works
Office of B2 Police Department

While Rep. Henriequez has not yet received a response from any of the offices he sent the letter to, he “stands ready to hold them accountable.”

District 7 City Councilor Tito Jackson who represents the district which contains both the former and current location of the festival had no comment to offer but a member of his staff said ” the event has been moved because Franklin park is under construction, that is what everybody knows. We were at the meeting Wednesday. We have no comment at this time”

More Coverage of the Meeting on the Boston Globe

About The Author

Jake is an artist / graphic and web designer.

Related posts

  • BostonISMyHome

    ALL Bostonians who are proud of the rich diversity our City boasts should BOYCOTT this and ALL establishments that subscribe to these baseless and ignorant views!

  • BostonISMyHome

    THANK YOU BLACKSTONIAN for publishing the truth!

  • Sheree

    I am responding to the accusations being made against me & the business I run, Victoria’s Diner. We run a family business here at the intersection of three great Boston neighborhoods, Roxbury, Dorchester and South Boston. We consider our employees part of our family, and they come from all types of ethnic backgrounds, many from those same three communities. My family, through love and marriage is made up of many ethnicities, one of them being Dominican. I have nieces and nephews of Dominican descent. My concerns were never about the group’s ethnicity – but about the short notice given to us and about the logistics of having such a large crowd – any large crowd – of people in such a small area, i.e.; traffic, parking, public facilities. Whatever the event to be held across the street – any that would draw such large crowds – would give us the same concerns. Imagine yourself the operator of a diner on a Sunday and because the Parks Department hasn’t informed us of public bathroom facilities that will be available, the concern of maintaining order with a mostly female staff. I myself have been pushed past because of our policy of “no public bathrooms”. We continue to welcome and are grateful to all of our customers for choosing Victoria’s Diner. We are proud to be part of such a diverse neighborhood. We wouldn’t have chosen another Diner/Restaurant in another area – because we wanted to be involved with this community in particular. It is disturbing our concerns were taken out of context and are being used to slander us when we have said and done nothing to deserve this backlash. State Representative Carlos Henriquez, echoed the same concerns and we have spoken many times since. I would be happy to sit with Representative Henriquez and concerned parties that may have been offended by my request for safety assurances for my patrons and employees.

    • Damage done.

      Just so you know (and I assume that’s how you found out about it) this article is being circulated around Facebook, Twitter and WordPress–the last one thanks to me. I had no idea you were the owner of both Victoria’s Diner and The Hen House. Now that I know you’re the owner of The Hen House I would not feel comfortable eating at either of your establishments based on your “views”.

      How many people do you think will actually read this (your statement) before and/or after the Dominican Festival? Before I go further I would like to ask you to kindly ask Alyssa Llenas, who identifies herself as your niece to STOP responding to people who are commenting on your response to the article. It’ll only make you look bad and make the PR nightmare YOUR WORDS put you in worse.

      Unlike the nameless internet people commenting who are talking trash behind their computer screens I don’t mind putting myself out there. My email is btboston1@gmail.com and my pen name is Brendan Aurabolt. I am not Dominican or Hispanic and yet I was still troubled by your remarks and honestly how can you not expect the almost everyone who heard or read it to not be bothered by it?

      I’m not saying you don’t have a right your own opinion but as a business owner, I know you’re aware you can expect your reputation to be shot to hell now. All of the concerns raised was addressed by someone else at the meeting based on the transcript I just finished reading. And NONE of it is being paid for by tax dollars. Every cent including the police detail is paid for by the Festival Committee. ALL PRIVATE MONEY.

      Even if you didn’t mean to make a political statement, I’d be VERY surprised if the Globe, the Herald or a TV Station doesn’t pick this up tomorrow.

      Short notice or not, you do have the option of just not opening on Sunday. Some business owners on Blue Hill Ave. close shop for the Carribbean Parade every year so they don’t have to deal with the hassle. They view the day of lost profits insignificant weighed against peace of mind.

      I would reccommend meeting with the festival organizers and making a statement before Sunday. Regardless, don’t be surprised if you see folks picketing in front of both of your businesses. Your brought it on yourself and considering the BPD is very good at keeping knuckleheads in line at public events. They do it every year. Your concerns were heard and answered, end of story.

    • Peter

      Even if it’s true that your words were taken out of context, your actions proved otherwise. You demanded that you have two guards at your restaurant  in preparation of the arrival of the Dominican festival – a request that has NEVER been made by any other business owner in Boston. How can you possibly justify your hostile attitude based on a prior unrelated incident to a community that supports your business year round? Your logic is that “these people” will physically assault you in order to use your “customers only” restroom? That’s a stretch.

      By the way, a public announcement will be made to the 12,000+ festival attendees to boycott Victoria’s Diner and The Hen House.

  • Disappointed Dominican

    Interesting how racist attitudes change so quickly when minorities use their buying power as a method of protest against business owners who make unfair assumptions about us. Thank you Sheree for taking the time to respond, but with all due respect, a public apology is in order. Take personal responsibility for your unfair assumptions instead of pointing the finger at others. This is not the first time your business has had problems with race relations.

    Your words were NOT taken out of context as you claim. Rep. Carlos Henriquez said that your comments rubbed him that wrong way and that they had to be addressed by him and others. Your words were so outrageous that a police officer, state Rep. Henriquez, representatives from the mayor’s office, and Ramon Soto were compelled to respond to your unfair allegations. Do not say that your words were taken out of context as a way to separate yourself from the problems that your very own words have caused.

    • Alyssa LLENAS

      Hi, I would like to inform you that I am Sheree’s DOMINICAN niece, who she loves. I do agree that her rather old SOUTHIE waitresses are sort of ignorant and make racist remarks or have certain attitudes to minorities and that’s what I’m sure she can take as fault, but the owner, my aunt herself is not racist to any employee and might as well be the stereotypical black or Dominican because everyone who’s related to me are the most hood ass white people ever and they are GREAT. I’m sorry that you took her remarks in a bad way but you have to understand that they are trying to find a story and are emphasizing certain words if you notice. I’m not an idiot and if they change the location of the parade and what not than I’ll be that DOMINICAN PEOPLE in her restaurant causing a ruckus.

  • Pol

    I was at that meeting. It was made perfectly clear to you by the event coordinators that they, NOT the Parks department,would provide portable bathrooms inside the park – as is done every year!

  • Pol

    So your allegations that you were solely concerned about logistics is baseless

  • Alyssa LLENAS

    Hi, I would like to inform you that I am Sheree’s DOMINICAN niece, who she loves. I do agree that her rather old SOUTHIE waitresses are sort of ignorant and make racist remarks or have certain attitudes to minorities and that’s what I’m sure she can take as fault, but the owner, my aunt herself is not racist to any employee and might as well be the stereotypical black or Dominican because everyone who’s related to me are the most hood ass white people ever and they are GREAT. I’m sorry that you took her remarks in a bad way but you have to understand that they are trying to find a story and are emphasizing certain words if you notice. I’m not an idiot and if they change the location of the parade and what not than I’ll be that DOMINICAN PEOPLE in her restaurant causing a ruckus. Stop accusing my aunt of racism, and cut the bathroom shit, nobody wants to use a fucking porter potty.

    • Valerie owen

      I am Greek and We have Ours on the common. I hope this can be resolved and everyone can walk away happy

  • Valerie owen

    If the North End can shut down every weekend for saint fest why the hell can’t Roxbury for their festivals

    • Marla Smith

      With all due respect, Ms. Owen, the city can’t shut down Mass Ave, the main street bordering the park, first it is a main thoroughfare, and second it is an emergency exit road. It’s not quite the same thing as shutting down a few blocks on Hanover Street.

      • Valerie owen

        There are back streets behind the park. That’s what they do in the North End

  • Peter

    Let me get this straight…so ShereeTheall not only makes public insensitive comments about the Dominican community but she also hires employees that in the words of her own niece Alyssa Llenas “are sort of ignorant and make racist remarks or have certain attitudes to minorities”.
    How is this woman still in business?????

  • Marla Smith

    I attended the meeting with Sgt. Silta, Mr. Bailey of the Parks Department, Counsellor Henriquez, and members of the Dominican Festival planning committee. The emphasis was on the sheer number of people in such a small park directly abutted by residents, not the more wide open space at Franklin Park with no direct abutters as has been the case in prior years. The residents of this neighborhood are very diverse and largely hispanic — hispanics from many different countries, so the issue is absolutely NOT ethnicity, unless you’re trying to say that some hispanics don’t like some other hispanics. The concern of the neighborhood residents was NOT about the national origin of people, it was about the lack of sanitary facilities, the lack of parking, the number of people in a small area, as well as clean up of the park before, during, and after the event — all issues for which there were NOT solid, finalized plans in place as of the meeting on August 7. The committee representative who spoke was emphatic in his statements that the event had largely been self-policing, that there would be no carnival rides, that drinking alcohol was strictly forbidden, and that the costs of the event would be borne by the committee — he also did concede that he could not control who came into the park as a is an open air event, but that he hoped that no one would use the event in any way but for its intended purpose which is a peaceful, fun, family event celebrating Dominican heritage and independence.

    It is very unfair to characterize concerned neighbors and businesses as racist, especially anonymously. It lacks character and courage of conviction. I live in this neighborhood and I am concerned about crowds, rubbish, 8 hours of music, and the dispersing of people at the end of the evening because the event ends at 10 pm and I have to work in the morning. I would be equally concerned if the event was a relocated North End festival or the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It isn’t who is having the event — it is the number of people expected. A number the festival’s own websites, news stories and Facebook posts put at 30,000 to 50,000 people depending on the story. That’s a full house at Fenway Park — in a much smaller venue. I sincerely hope my worries are for nothing and the day is a great success.

    • Marla Smith

      Overall, it was a great event. As an abutter to the park it was really loud all day, but as promised it ended promptly at 10pm and the crowds dispersed quickly. BPD took care of traffic, issued citations for excessive motorcycle revving, and groomed along clusters of teenagers who ventured into abandoned house lots without incident. All told, it seems like a good, fun, family-friendly event was held without any significant incidents that I am aware of. Nice job by the committee, the police department and the guests.