February 12, 2021 Nathaniel Hakim Askia’s Legacy of Healing at the Dudley House
In responding to the Request for Proposals by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to redevelop the historic Dudley House at 167 Centre Street, Historic Boston has compiled a history of the site and its many uses of the building. One of the building’s most memorable functions is attributed to Nathaniel Askia, a Boston resident who helped tens of thousands of men and women recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
During a substance-abuse sentence at the Deer Island House of Correction, Askia and six other ex-addicts began their own support group, helping each other to plan a substance-abuse-free future. When Askia completed his sentence in 1970, he founded FIRST INC.(For Individuals Returning to Sound Thinking) in the 19th-century mansion. The residential recovery and education center Askia founded in Roxbury helped tens of thousands of residents overcome substance abuse.
(Watch a video interview with Mr. Askia here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zo2bJXxmnl0).
In 1986 FIRST, Inc. changed its name to the Nathaniel Hakim Askia Academy, in honor of its founder. Mr. Askia’s legacy remembers his efforts to address addictions that were community-supported as compared to recovery and treatment that were anonymous. The road along the side of the Dudley House site also bears his name.
Today, the Askia Academy has three residential facilities, one for Spanish-speaking males, one for women, and one primarily for African Americans. For the last four years the Academy has also been running the Moses Saunders Center, which offers education, counseling, and support to people with HIV or AIDS. The organization also merged with the Harvard Street Neighborhood Health Center and serves a maximum of 24 men in ongoing recovery for up to one year. “Askia Academy is a healing community providing comprehensive support to people to prepare for self-sufficiency and ongoing recovery.”