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Monday, November 1, 2021

Southie Spotlights: Maya Smith, Save the Harbor/Save the Bay


We recently connected with Maya Smith, team member of Save the Harbor - a non-profit organization whose mission is to restore and protect Boston Harbor, Massachusetts Bay and the marine environment.

Save the Harbor/Save the Bay was started in 1986 by a group of passionate community members who knew that the neighborhoods along Boston Harbor, as well as the marine life in the harbor, deserved better. Today, their office front can be found on Fish Pier on Northern Ave in South Boston. It was there we met Maya, Partnerships & Program Development Director at Save the Harbor.

“My first day at Save the Harbor was a marine mammal safari in October 2019,” Maya told us. After a teen staff member confidently spoke of the amazing aspects of the job, Maya was intrigued. Despite her initial uneasiness surrounding boats, she knew she wanted to be part of a team that connected the community and made it a better place.

The focus of Save the Harbor is to share the harbor with the community through free programming and continued advocacy. “We are committed to making Boston Harbor, the Boston Harbor Islands, and our region’s public beaches inclusive, equitable, diverse, and accessible for everyone and anyone to enjoy,” Maya explains.

As Partnerships & Program Development Director, Maya gets to do all the fun stuff. She spends her time developing partnerships with organizations and community members who share the same values, and collaborate with them on innovative beach events and programs. They run a grant program in partnership with the Department of Conservation and Recreation called “Better Beaches” that awards over $200,000 annually to local organizations, individuals, and creatives to put on free events and programming on public beaches in Nahant, Lynn, Revere, Winthrop, East Boston, Quincy, Hull, Dorchester, and of course, South Boston.

“Managing this program has been a life-changing experience. I am constantly inspired by the ideas our community members have to make the harbor more accessible and activated.”

And speaking of South Boston, we asked Maya what her favorite part of being involved in the South Boston community is. “There are so many dedicated and committed people who are so passionate about their neighborhood in Southie. Everyone from community members, to organization leaders, to local representatives care deeply about the beaches in Southie and about their community as a whole.”

While in Southie, Maya and her coworker Joye started a series called “Harbor Healing” to address and repair the relationship between our Queer, Black, Indigenous, and POC community members and our region’s beaches. With this initiative, they partnered with “Sistahs of the Calabash” who performed a Yoruba water ritual at Carson Beach to pay homage to those who have fought for the right to have equal access to public spaces, honor ancestral deities, and express love to the harbor. “It was an intensely spiritual and beautiful demonstration to be present for and bear witness to.”

To learn about more amazing events and ways they help the community, visit the Save the Harbor/Save the Bay website!

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