Our Best Stories of 2017

Photo collage by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

From mass protests that kicked off the beginning of the year to the bitter cold ushering December to a close, 2017 has been a wild ride. As we look back on the year, we want to highlight some of our favorite stories about the people, places, and movements that make Cambridge, Cambridge. So we hope you curl up with a blanket, pretend temperatures aren’t in the single digits, and enjoy our best storytelling of 2017.

transition house

Photo: Fine Art Photography by Maria Verrier

Volunteers and Visitors Commemorate 40 Years at Transition House

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Transition House—the first domestic violence shelter in New England and the only one in Cambridge—debuted “40 Stories,” a multimedia project that shares the experiences of staffers and survivors who have been impacted by the shelter over the years.

Read the full story here.

gather here

Photo by Emily Cassel.

With Quilts and Crafts, This Inman Square Shop Says, ‘You Belong Here’

Hoping to spread a message of welcoming and understanding after the 2016 presidential election, Virginia Johnson asked friends and customers of her Inman Square craft store Gather Here to lend a hand by embroidering, knitting, or sewing the phrase “You Belong Here” for a window display in her Cambridge Street storefront.

She had no idea how much it would catch on.

Read the full story here.


Start Me Up: Cambridge’s Tech Innovators On How They Did It

Whether they make solar-powered benches or develop applications that help you organize your inbox, Cambridge’s emerging entrepreneurs seem to agree on one thing: The key word in “startup” is just plain “start.”

We enlisted the help of the people behind 10 already flourishing local startups, who told us what they built and why they’ve been successful. Come for the certifiably cool products. Stay for the advice.

Read part I and part II of the story.

graham and parks school

Photo by Tina Picz-Devoe.

The Cambridge Public School Where Families Speak 33 Different Languages

For our “Know Your Neighborhood” issue, a local photographer shared what makes her daughter’s classes so special. “In the three years my daughter has been learning here, we’ve met families from more than 20 countries and have shared traditions and cultural meals from around the globe,” she writes.

Read her full account here.

hiphop archive and research institute

Photo courtesy of HARI.

From Kool Herc to Kendrick, Hip-Hop History Has a Home at Harvard

Harvard University—that old, stuffy, Ivy League institution—might not seem like the most hip-hop-friendly place. After all, hip-hop grew from Bronx block parties in the 1970s, where Black and Latino kids created a new culture in the shadows of abandoned buildings, rubble and project housing, not some quad full of old-money kids.

But considering that recent grad Obasi Shaw submitted a rap album for his thesis, maybe Harvard and hip-hop go together much better than expected.

Read the full story here.

cambridge health alliance

Photo by Jess Benjamin.

Addressing Food Insecurity at the Doctor’s Office

Cambridge Health Alliance physician Amy Smith wanted to do something about local food insecurity. Coming at it as a clinician rather than from a public health perspective, she considered what existing medical infrastructure could help—what could be fixed in one clinic visit to be as effective as possible?

What came out of that question was a revolutionary new collaboration between the Cambridge Health Alliance and Project Bread that could help ensure that families are fed.

Read the full story here.

innercity weightlifting

Photo by Chrissy Bulakites.

Weightlifting, Perception Shifting

Innercity Weightlifting stands apart from the boutique gyms that are popping up around town. It’s a nonprofit, offers low-cost personal training sessions, and keeps its location secret. But what’s really special is that the gym’s trainers are primarily young men from areas of the city most traumatized by violence.

Read the full story here.

city council

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz.

Are Publicly Funded Elections Viable in Cambridge?

City Councilor Nadeem Mazen can still remember representatives of special interest groups approaching him on the street to offer him funding during his 2013 campaign.

“These people seek you out,” Mazen says. “They want to keep the relationship lines open, and they want to keep the conversation very productive, and in many cases, very profitable.”

One way to limit the influence of special interest money is publicly financed elections, Mazen argues. The Cambridge Residents for Responsible Elections group is now waiting on a report from the city manager on the viability of such a plan in Cambridge.

Read the full story here.

Nadya Okamoto

Photo courtesy of Nadya Okamoto.

Nadya Okamoto on Her City Council Campaign and Upcoming Book

Nadya Okamoto is a sophomore at Harvard, works full-time running two non-profits, recently wrapped up a City Council bid, and has two months to write her first book.

In high school, Okamoto co-founded PERIOD, a nonprofit that provides period products to women in need. The organization has helped people with over 190,000 periods since its founding in late 2014, with over 120 campus chapters across the globe. Okamoto started a second nonprofit, E Pluribus, on the night of the 2016 presidential election to empower young people to get engaged in politics.

Okamoto spoke to Scout about her life up to Harvard, her experience running for City Council, and her upcoming book.

Read the Q&A here.

The Loop Lab

Photo courtesy of Moise Michel.

The Loop Lab to Open Doors for Port Neighborhood

A music and podcast recording studio is set to open in the city next fall that will be a space for underserved young people in the Port neighborhood to learn about sound engineering, music production, and workforce development.

“We’re trying to really change the narrative of the way that we connect with urban youths by operating at the intersection of sound and technology, by providing young people from underrepresented backgrounds with the tools to express themselves creatively while providing them with an on-ramp to the digital economy,” Co-founder Christopher Hope says.

Read the full story here.

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