Sheena Collier Is Creating a Guide for Living in Boston While Black

When it comes to Boston's economic future, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce's Sheena Collier is betting on black.

Hair and makeup by Julie Silva/Anchor Artists. / Photo by Pat Piasecki

When I first visited Harvard, I told my mother, “I don’t see any black people; I’m not going here.” And she said, “Girl, it’s Harvard—I don’t care what it looks like.”

I’ve realized that I’m actually a creative. Where other people see lack, I see opportunity. I created the Boston that I wanted to be part of.

Chamber president and CEO Jim Rooney understands that this city will not be successful if it continues to be so exclusive. Last September, we organized a six-day festival to highlight the experiences, challenges, and possibilities for millennials of color in Boston. It was an example of how the business community is starting to understand that they need to engage new groups of people.

Collier at a Glance

Hometown: Albany, N.Y.
Graduate of: Spelman College
Moved to Boston: In 2004 to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education
Official Title: Director of Economic Growth at the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Side hustle: Founder and CEO of the Collier Connection and social broker extraordinaire

Transplants aren’t as embedded in communities of color in Boston. To help, I started a dinner club called Society 1925, influenced by the Harlem Renaissance and the idea of bringing together poets, thinkers, and elected officials.

What would have helped me when I moved here as a black person is a guide for how to navigate Boston that showed me the communities I could join, and where I could get my hair done, stuff like that. I’m in the process of building that resource. I’m calling it Boston While Black.

Now that people are more technologically oriented, more transient, and more educated, the traditional ways of building community—like going to church—aren’t happening as much. I’m starting a podcast called New Black City with a partner to discuss how black millennials are building community across the country.