At this block party in Dorchester, politics is on the menu
COVID put the party on ice for a couple of years. But on Saturday, it was sunny and warm and back to normal.
Abdullah Beckett’s family moved onto the street two years ago, so Saturday marked their first genuine block party, and he savored every moment, while in an ankle cast and on crutches after getting hurt playing basketball.
“To say I was looking forward to this would be an understatement,” said Beckett, who just graduated from UMass Boston. “This is the real deal.”
On the Erie Street end of Hewins, reggae beats seeped from speakers set up outside Sharon Worrell’s house. Halfway up Hewins, another set of speakers pumped out R&B, while the sweet, salty smell of barbecue put a comforting arm around every shoulder on the block.
Cecil and Sharon Worrell came here from Jamaica and Barbados, respectively, worked two or three jobs at a time, and raised their kids in the loving bosom of Hewins. One of their sons, Brian, is a first-term city councilor. Brian’s younger brother, Christopher, is running for the state rep’s seat in the Fifth Suffolk District.
Politics is as much a staple at the Hewins Street block party as good music and even better food.
Rev. Miniard Culpepper, senior pastor of the Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church, who’s running for state Senate in the Second Suffolk District, was looking for votes, too. But he was also there, he said, “because these are good people.”
Other pols, including Diana DiZoglio, who is running for state auditor, and Kim Driscoll, who is running for lieutenant governor, pressed the flesh on Hewins.
Hewins Street is full of people often working more than one job to keep pace in a city that gets more expensive to live in every year.
If “Hey, good to see you,” was the most commonly heard phrase along Hewins Street on Saturday, “affordable housing” was a close second. Gentrification is more than a word there.
Brian Worrell has made affordable housing one of his focuses on the City Council. His brother Chris said that, if elected, he expects to spend a lot of time on the issueKeeping streets like Hewins with mostly Black residents affordable is increasingly a challenge, as it is in most city neighborhoods.
When the Worrell brothers walk up and down Hewins, they’re not regarded as politicians so much as neighbors. They know everyone on the street.
Both in their 30s, the Worrell brothers had delayed callings to running for office. Brian Worrell was a real estate broker and small-business owner before he ran his first campaign and was elected District 4 councilor last year.
Chris Worrell spent more than a decade in local government, most recently as assistant director of diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Boston Planning and Development Agency, before deciding to enter elective politics. His chief competitor is Danielson Tavares, who served as chief diversity officer under Mayor Marty Walsh and has racked up union endorsements.
On Saturday afternoon, Chris Worrell kept checking the time, as if he was waiting for someone. He was.
Moments later, Mayor Michelle Wu was standing on Sharon Worrell’s porch, endorsing her son for the Legislature.
If Chris Worrell wins that seat, he and his brother might form the city’s next political family dynasty.
“I like the sound of that,” Sharon Worrell said.
That said, Sharon Worrell did not want to talk politics. It was a block party — there are more important things than politics. She gently steered me toward her backyard, where whole chickens sizzled on the grill, the aroma amazing. Every imaginable side sat on a long table.
“Now,” she said, resolutely, “you have to eat.”
Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at email@example.com.