Shamaiah Turner, Dorchester
Growing up, Shamaiah Turner knew: Boston was never where her mother wanted to be. She moved away years ago, along with Shamaiah's brothers—all living in other cities they call home.
But this is where Shamaiah found her trade, as a sheet metal worker. And this is where she likes to wander, from the green “forest” of the Rose Kennedy Greenway to the thicket of tall buildings downtown. And this is where, in a co-op in Fields Corner, Shamaiah found another kind of family to call her home.
Here, in her own words, is how it happened.
“My mother has twelve brothers and sisters, and all she knew—she wanted to leave. That’s one reason why she joined the Army.
When she came back to Boston, I think it was because she needed the family support—my father died when I was really young, died when I was four—but she still kept us pretty isolated from the area she grew up in. She moved us to Adams Village, which is not too far away from here, and it’s more of an Irish neighborhood. She had us in private schools, and then I ended up going to Boston Latin Academy.
She wanted us to have a very—like, a safe life. That’s how she raised us.
After I graduated high school, I did some traveling down South, and then I came back up to Boston after I was like, “I don’t know what I’m doing with my life, so I’ll just come up to some place I know.” And eventually I came to the conclusion that actually I can choose this place. I don’t have to be wandering. I can choose this as my home.
I honestly think that that horrible winter we had in 2014 had a lot to do with it. So dramatic! It was like, “Where is all this snow coming from?” But the response of the city was just so unified.
They didn’t really do a good job of shoveling out the sidewalks where I was living at the time, and there was actually a whole troop of us—we didn’t know each other—and we were just all marching to the store, just kind of watching out for each other where it wasn’t shoveled. We were in a single file line, like, “We’re on a mission, gonna go get some food! Um, watch out for that snow bank over there!”
I was living in Mattapan that winter, and I lived on the third floor of a triple decker, and I definitely had the thought of, “Oh, I could just jump out (onto the snow banks), and nothing will happen.” But then the mayor was on TV, and he was just like, “Stop jumpin’ out the windows!” to grown adults. “You might get hurt!”
And I was like, “Yeah, I like this place. I’ll stay.”
And the marathon bombing, too. Just the response of the city was just like, “You can’t do this here! Are you kidding? We’re gonna find you!” The way the city comes together on certain things and the attitude that we have around certain things, I think it makes me want to claim this as home.
I love Boston because it’s pretty progressive, but it still does have a conservative underbelly in some spots. So the only times that I’ve ever been called the N-word, if we can go there, has been in Dorchester, has been in Boston. And the first time, it was by little kids when I was also a little kid, you know?
And every once in a while, things like that will pop up and it’s just like: Oh, that still exists. And I think there’s a lot of people doing work to make that type of thing not exist anymore. But it’s still there a little bit.
When I came across (this co-op), I was searching for cheaper options so I could save up for a house. I came across it on craigslist, and when I came to interview, it just felt like home.
There’s about 12 people who live in this house and two kids and two cats (laughs). And everybody who lives here does something really cool out in the world. It just feels like an investment in my community, you know?
We have somebody who is an environmental activist. And I have somebody in school to make robots. I could go down the list. I have an actor who is also a writer. We have a couple people who just graduated college—one works in education justice, food justice. One wants to be a neurosurgeon, or not a neurosurgeon— a neuroscientist.
We call it an “intentional community.” We want to make sure that it’s representative of the world that we live in. So it’s diverse. It’s inclusive.
And we all really care! I mean, about people in general. So that’s the kind of people you want to live with—people who care.”
Shamaiah was interviewed and photographed by story ambassador Theresa Okokon. The interview was then transcribed by Adrienne Shih, an Everyday Boston supporter, and edited for length, clarity and flow by Cara Solomon, founder of EB, in partnership with Theresa. Cara wrote the intro text.