Since the first time he stepped foot into the Josh Kraft Mattapan Teen Center, New England Patriots defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr. felt a deep connection to the kids and that community.
The visit gave him a deeper perspective of Mattapan, beyond negative headlines and reputations, and he knew he wanted to highlight what he saw to a greater audience.
From there, the Deatrich Wise Annual Block Party was born, getting bigger and better every year.
"I was so fascinated with the kids down there in Mattapan at the Boys & Girls Club, and I realized, nobody goes there to show love to those kids or that community," Wise Jr. said.
"The more time I spent there, I wanted to do just that. I know there is a lot of bad news coming out of Mattapan, but I wanted the Block Party to be a light and a way to spread positive messages and positive news about what's happening in that community, and at the same time, give those kids a platform to express themselves because they're phenomenal."
The fourth annual block party will take place on Saturday, Oct. 21, transforming Hazelton Street in Mattapan into a lively community celebration from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.
A local DJ and performances by teen artists Ethereal Visions and King David will ensure great music sets the tone for the day, with a pop-up barbershop and other local vendors all participating.
"Some of the main things that bring people together are food, sports, and music. I'm bringing at least two of those things to the block party, and the kids provide the music," Wise Jr. said.
"They're so musically talented, from singing to playing instruments. Beyond that, the kids do great things and this Block Party ties it all in to bring everyone together. I believe unity builds a stronger community, and I want to inspire people to achieve something great in their lives."
The block party will feature plenty of food options, with Fresh Food Generation, Gourmet Kreyol, and Rhythm & Wraps serving free food. At the top of the street, a free Farmer's Market filled with fresh produce and juices will bring nutritious options to the neighborhood, which otherwise, is considered a food desert.
For Wise Jr., who eats a plant-based diet, stressed the importance of bringing fresh produce to the event to encourage healthy eating habits, cooking meals, and thus, making better connections.
"I believe what we eat causes a lot of diseases that people end up having, and I believe that real food is medicine," Wise Jr. said.
"Cooking food is an act of love. If you're able to eat real food that came from the ground and is local, you're not just supporting local businesses and farmers but you're also setting yourself and your family up to have better health."
You are what you eat, and as Wise Jr. also pointed out, people are a product of their environments. That's why so much thought goes into the Block Party every single year.
"I knew that however long I was in New England, and even if I'm not, I want this event to be a staple in the community," Wise Jr. said.
"I feel like people are products of their environment, and I believe this event can be that spark in the community to inspire people to want to do great things."