The Black history
I carry with me
A Beautiful Resistance — a special project from the Globe's culture columnist Jeneé Osterheldt — is celebrating Black History Month by amplifying local stories of change-makers and the people inspired by them.
My name is Ayanna Pressley and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring the bold Black history of Boston. It was here that the first ever chapter of the NAACP was formed, that Martin and Coretta first met, that an Afro-Caribbean community built a rich, vibrant history, and that Phyllis Wheatley, who was previously enslaved, published the first book of poetry by a Black woman. Boston is also where Mel King became the first Black person to run for mayor and Sarah-Ann Shaw became the first Black woman journalist to be televised.
Representative Ayanna Pressley is the first Black woman ever to be elected to the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Congresswoman Pressley reps the 7th district, and the people, period.
“My name is Nia Grace and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Ma Dixon, Joseph L. Walcott, Robert “Bob” Morgan, and the many other black Boston restaurant and bar owners who forged a path and set the standard on creating culturally rich spaces for all to enjoy.” “Ma Dixon’s” was among the first soul food restaurants in the South End. Robert Morgan used to work for her. She taught him how to fry chicken and supported him when he opened his own soul food diner, “Bob The Chef’s,” home of Boston’s “Glorified Chicken.” Jospeh Walcott is the first black nightclub owner in New England, Wally’s Paradise, currently known as Wally’s Jazz Club Cafe.
Nia Grace owns Darryl’s Corner Bar and Kitchen, formerly the home of Bob the Chef’s.
“My name is Herb Lozano, and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Shey Peddy. Honoring her is important because she is one of my peers who is making history in present day. She’s a 2019 WNBA Champion, a Temple University Alum, and Hall of Fame athlete. I’ve watched Shey evolve, and I admire her ability to stay committed, dedicated, and patient. Over the past few years, she’s a true testament of what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Congrats on all your achievements, Shey, you’re a part of New England Black History!”
Herb Lozano is Chief Marketing Officer at Cornerstone Marketing, and has a deep history of youth development with the NAACP and civic engagement in our community. He is a mentor and a mover of the people.
“My name is Natanja Craig-Oquendo and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Renae Gray, a beloved leader and trailblazer for women and girls of color.” Gray, a founding member of the Boston Women’s Fund, was a lifelong activist. She advocated for women and wellness, was a philanthropist, a preserver of Black history, and so much more.
Natanja Craig-Oquendo is executive director of the Boston Women’s Fund. She is committed to social, economic, and racial justice.
“My name is Daniel Oyolu and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring and acknowledging the fact that Martin Luther King met Coretta Scott while they were both studying in Boston: Martin at Boston University and Coretta at the New England Conservatory. The two were really different. Coretta came from rural Alabama and was reserved whereas Martin hailed from urban Atlanta and was quite gregarious (no surprise). At the end of the first date, Martin told Coretta she had all the qualities he wanted in a wife. Meanwhile, Coretta thought Martin was so short! But they did eventually grow close while in Boston. They were both serious individuals, politically active, and decided together to dedicate their lives and union to changing the world.” Celebrating Black love is essential.
Oyolu is a Harvard Law student with a commitment to community and culture.
“My name is Makeeba McCreary and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring my big brother Robert ‘Bob’ Turner. I call him Bobby. My earliest memories are of him riding me on the back of his bike to school. I remember him being my protector at Sparrow Park. And then I remember him selling drugs, going to jail, and getting clean a few times. Now, my brother saves lives. Not the dramatic story of pulling someone out of a burning building, but instead the heroic force of being present and making sure his clients understand taking it ‘one day at a time’ is a real, necessary thing. I believe he has found his calling. Bobby graduated into life with a Bachelor’s, then a Master’s, strong relationships with his children, and a beautiful partner who is kind. I understand that he cannot forget that he is an addict and that he must privilege his sobriety over all else, but I want the folks reading this to know that his fight, his humility, and his faith are the things that keep me afloat. My big brother Bobby is the reason many lives will be able to experience the same freedom he has found. I am grateful for him every day. On Feb. 6, 2021, Robert Turner will be 15 years clean, sober, educated, educating and saving lives.”
Makeeba McCreary is the first Chief of Learning and Community Engagement at the Museum of Fine Arts.
“My name is Marlene Boyette. As a Boston-based Black Woman and trauma-informed wellness practitioner, I want to celebrate New England Black history by honoring elders Lula “Mama Lula” Christopher and Isaura Oliveira. Their efforts have created an opening for myself and my peers to continue this work. Since 1996, Mama Lula and Isaura Oliveira have given us healing. Mama Lula pioneered healing circles and self-empowerment work in Boston. Her organization, Boston Black Women’s Health Institute, Inc., introduced countless Black women to ancestral medicine work and created access to acupuncture, massage, and reflexology, too. Isaura Oliveira teaches us what it means to embody resistance. At the Dance Complex in Cambridge, she provided new opportunities for Black people to explore ancestral and spiritual movement, using the body to tell stories of evolution and revolution. As creator of ‘Living Experience,’ she holds space for outdoor dance, movement, jogs, walks, and silent meditations within nature for Black, brown, and indigenous people in Boston.”
Marlene Boyette is a yoga and meditation instructor in Boston.
“My name is Joanne Dorgilus and I want to celebrate New England Black history by honoring Mildred Fay Jefferson, the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. To honor her, I will continue my work in improving the health and wellness of black women and children.” Jefferson was also the first woman to be a general surgeon at Boston University Medical Center.
Dorgilus is a health and wellness coach in Boston.
“My name is George Annan and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring my parents, George Sr. and Irene Annan, and the large Ghanaian community based in Worcester. The values of honor, respect, and discipline are something my family instilled in me as a child and are something I try to practice in my photography work.” Natives of Ghana are the largest group of immigrants in Worcester, and the largest group of Ghanaians in the country.
Annan was recently awarded the key to the city in Worcester for his work cultivating community and representation.
My name is Casey Baines and I want to celebrate New England Black history by honoring Donna Summer, our Queen of Disco. She gave us love that we can dance to and anthems that will never leave us. Her chart-topping hits, from “Love to Love You Baby” to “Last Dance,” are some of the examples that radiate, amplify, and embody Black joy. Thank you, Donna, for disco, joy, and love.
Casey is a Black woman who chooses joy every day. She’s an advocate for racial justice, gender equity, and economic mobility. She champions and amplifies non-profit organizations. Casey lives in Revere.
“My name is Segun and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Rev. Earl Wesley Lawson, a New Orleans native, a 1944 graduate of Morehouse College, a friend and lieutenant of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a local civil rights legend, a former pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Malden, and most importantly, grandpa.”
Segun Idowu is executive director of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts and a lover of the people.
“My name is Tanisha Sullivan and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring my great granduncle, Olympian and Brigadier General, Justice Edward O. Gourdin.” Among his many accomplishments, Gourdin was the first man in history to make 25 feet in the long jump, first African American and first Native American to be appointed a Superior Court judge in New England, and winner of the silver medal for long jump in the 1924 Summer Olympics.
Tanisha Sullivan is president of the Boston Branch of the NAACP.
“My name is Dr. Joyce Imahiyerobo-Ip and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Melnea Cass who was active in the fight to desegregate Boston Public Schools.” The First Lady of Roxbury helped organize Black women to vote, helped form the Boston chapter of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, and helped found Freedom House, too. She served as the president of the Women’s Service Club where she started the Homemakers Training Program to assure domestic workers get benefits. She embodied civic engagement and was committed to human rights in Boston.
Imahiyerobo-Ip is a dermatologist and CEO of Vibrant Dermatology and Skin Bar MD in Dedham.
Therlande Louissaint and Marlyn Urquiza
“My name is Therlande Louissaint and this is my best friend/venture partner Marlyn Urquiza. We are first-generation children of immigrant parents from Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and El Salvador. We want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Black Market, a staple in our community, graciously opened by Kai and Chris Grant in 2017. They believed in our vision and gave us a roof to create Estrogenia, a safe space comprised of women of color involved in the arts, entrepreneurship, health care, and entertainment. A room full of love in the heart of Roxbury, for the people, by our people.”
Black Market in Nubian Square is an afrocentric space for Black economic empowerment and cultural enrichment.
“My name is Gregory Ball and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring WILD 1090 AM, once the city’s lone outlet for Black music. Black-owned and operated by the Nash family, WILD served as a support system and launchpad. Sunny Jo White got his start there as a jock before going over to Kiss 108 and creating the industry-changing Top 40 format. Stephen Hill held down the morning show and program director duties at WILD (where he gave New Edition their first radio play) way before his turn at the helm of Black Entertainment Television (where he greenlit the New Edition Story). WILD was a cornerstone to our community. Now, as Director of Embrace Ideas for King Boston, my goal is to build on the traditions that institutions like WILD laid for us all. With the monument to the Kings already in the works, a center for economic justice on the way along with a week-long festival, we want to add to the city’s landscape in the most positive way.”
Gregory Ball is the Director of Embrace Ideas for King Boston.
“My name is Theresa Alphonse and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Black immigrants. Since the first half of the 20th century, Black immigrants have been shaping New England. Theonide Lamarre worked in the Brockton Public School system for nearly 30 years registering Haitian and French-speaking immigrant students into school. Often going above and beyond, she helped families secure housing, food assistance, and health care, and would provide kids with winter clothing for unfamiliar temperatures. People often referred to her as the Principal of the Haitian students. Theonide is my mom. The reason for my life of service. The Black immigrant’s grit, selflessness, and determination have contributed to the richness of New England immensely. To see the sons and daughters of Haitian, Jamaican, Cape Verdean, Nigerian, Ghanaian, and Black Americans that have been in the US for generations build a community and fight together against oppression is a beautiful resistance.”
Theresa Alphonse is a public health practitioner and social justice advocate.
“My name is Red Shaydez and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Ann Petry of Connecticut. Ann Petry was a bestselling author who wrote the book, “The Street.” It was the first novel by a Black woman to sell over a million copies in 1946. “The Street” was a brutally honest tale about a young Black woman raising her son amidst the violence and adversity in Harlem during the 1940′s. It was dubbed as ‘a masterpiece’ and a ‘Black protest novel’.”
Red Shaydez is a Boston hip-hop artist, mentor, educator, and multi-hyphenate creative.
“My name is Ava and I want to celebrate New England Black history by honoring Kem Danner. She’s the senior vice president of global human resources at State Street Global Advisors in Boston. She’s my dream roommate, auntie, and all-around super cool person.”
Danner was named one of the most powerful Black women in America by Black Enterprise in 2019 and not for the first time. She is known for her savvy and her commitment to inclusion, mentorship, and empowerment. Ava is a Rhode Island high school student and believer in civic engagement for a better future.
Jabari Chioke Mosi Peddie
“My name is Jabari Chioke Mosi Peddie, and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King.” “Now is the time to make brotherhood a reality.” A resonant and transcendent order from a speech that Dr. King delivered to a crowd of thousands at a freedom march in the South End— it is that same order which defined how I walked the campus of Morehouse College, our alma mater, and defines now how I walk the turning streets of Boston. Boston has long had the duplicitous reputation: progressive, yet prejudice, and this was impressed upon me prior to my migration to New England from New York City, by way of Atlanta, both cities where I found constant affirmations of my identity. But like Dr. King, I found purpose in Boston; I found love, I found community, and I found growth. He has cobbled his impression throughout the city’s streets, paving paths for me, and all other identities and walks of life. I salute you Dr. King.”
Peddie is and educator and co-founder of The Teachers’ Lounge, a safe place for educators of color to network, learn, and be fortified.
“My name is Andrea Campbell, and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring the resilience and legacies of Black women, abolitionists, and feminists like Maria W. Stewart, Harriet Jacobs, and Phillis Wheatley, whose survival and unapologetic expressions of their talent made it possible for someone like me to thrive today. They dared to dream and be when it was anything but safe to do so. I fully believe that I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, and my own journey has shown the power of dreaming beyond my reality — to be able to turn the pain of losing my twin brother, Andre, into purpose with a platform to not only share his story but to do the hard, necessary, courageous work to transform systems to be equitable and just. My ancestors’ legacy and power has led us to this historic moment as Kamala Harris is sworn in as the first Black woman and South Asian woman vice president, and as Boston has an opportunity to be led by and to elect a Black woman as mayor for the first time.”
Andrea Campbell, a Boston city councilor proudly representing District 4, is running for mayor of Boston.
“My name is Kevin Dua, and I want to celebrate New England’s Black History by honoring Crispus Attucks: a person whom I should have taught better about to students as their 9th-grade U.S. History 1 teacher. The revolution’s first casualty, of Indigenous and African descent from Framingham, had his blood shed in the city of Boston. His country – a country who never loved his skin equally – won its freedom from foreign oppression due to his lost life. To Booker T. Washington, Mr. Attucks was murdered so that ‘the white American might enjoy liberty forever, though his race remained in slavery.’ To Dr. King, Crispus’ heritage was a ‘reminder of what he did for all oppressed people everywhere.’ Crispus Attucks was a patriot to humanity and an abolitionist towards inhumanity. His story is our American history.”
Kevin Dua was honored as the 2017 History Teacher of the Year for Massachusetts. He is the first black educator to hold that title in the state.
“My name is Vanessa Jean-Baptiste and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring my mother Michele Jeudy because of her courage and strength. My mother left Haiti in her twenties to pursue a better life in America. She learned English, pursued her masters in teaching, and she bought our family a home in Brockton. My mother always stood up for what she believed in. She gave me the courage to go against Brockton’s administration to be allowed into the cannabis industry. I am honoring Melnea Agnes Cass because she was relentless in her pursuit of educational and economic opportunities and racial justice in Massachusetts. With these lessons from both of them, I will be the first woman of color to open a dispensary, Legal Greens, in Massachusetts.”
“My name is Shanda Foster and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring my mother, Jeanne Foster, for both her teaching role of over 30 years in the Boston Public Schools, and also as the Co-Founder/Founding President and now current Vice President of the Afro-American Alumni Association at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. When my mother attended Bridgewater State College as a freshman, she was the first blackwoman that her roommate from Andover had ever met in person. That was only in 1973. Jeanne knew, first hand, how much diversity was needed on that campus, and she made it her mission to change that. Black Excellence has always been something Jeanne wanted to strive for, and she instilled that in my sisters and I at a young age. Every year during black history month, of my elementary school life, I was in charge of posting my mother’s collection of famous African Americans around school. She armed us with the knowledge of our culture, and that is why I am honoring her today.”
Shanda Foster is a creative, a writer, filmmaker, and cancer advocate.
“My name is Colette Greenstein and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Maud Cuney Hare, a pianist, writer, musicologist, and a teacher. During a time when women and especially Black women had very little agency over their lives, Cuney Hare lived life on her own terms despite the many hardships it caused her. She was politically active and socially aware. A friend of W.E.B. DuBois, she joined the Niagara Movement in 1907, which was a predecessor to the NAACP. In 1927 she founded Boston’s first Black arts center, The Allied Arts Centre.”
Colette Greenstein is an entertainment publicist as well as a contributing A&E writer for the Bay State Banner.
Kaasim Abdal-Khallaq Davis
“My name is Kaasim Abdal-Khallaq Davis and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring our family business: A Nubian Notion. For nearly five decades, A Nubian Notion was a flagship store in what is now known as Nubian Square. It started in my grandfather, Malik Abdal-Khallaq’s, barbershop in 1962 and expanded to convenience stores, boutiques, and a record store. There were stores in Ruggles, Cambridge, and on Newbury Street, too. They were among the first Afrocentric stores in America. My grandfather was often sought out by people such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Ali, Sonny Liston, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and Malcolm X. A Nubian Notion was a hub of Black pride.”
Kaasim Abdal-Khallaq Davis is a singer, model, and actor. He continues the family tradition with a clothing brand: Nubian is a Lifestyle.
Brandy Fluker Oakley
“My name is Brandy Fluker Oakley and I want to celebrate New England Black History by celebrating Lewis Howard Latimer. He was born in 1848 in Chelsea, Mass., after his parents escaped slavery in Virginia. He was an inventor and patent writer who invented the carbon filament for the lightbulb and the precursor to the air conditioner. He also drafted the necessary drawings to patent Alexander Bell’s telephone and served as a consultant to patent law firms. Latimer is an ancestor who sums up ‘because of them we can; without them we can’t.’ I’m grateful for the legacy of Black history that fuels me every day.”
Brandy Fluker Oakley is a Massachusetts state representative, proudly standing for the 12th Suffolk District.
Onjalé Scott Price
“My name is Onjalé Scott Price and I want to celebrate New England Black History by honoring Dr. Ambrose Jearld Jr. Among his many, many accomplishments, he is the co-founder and was the first director of the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program that aims to bring diverse students to study in Woods Hole. When Dr. Jearld retired in 2016 the community created a lecture series named after him to reflect his career-long commitment to increasing diversity in environmental and fisheries sciences. He is still actively involved in the science community. His legacy is, and will remain, one of the greatest in Woods Hole.” Dr. Jearld was one of the first Black fisheries biologists at NOAA.
Onjalé Scott Price is chief operating officer at Mizar Imaging in Woods Hole.
“My name is Ariel Pesante and I’m celebrating New England Black History by honoring Matthew Washington Bullock. Matthew Washington Bullock was a pioneer in intercollegiate athletics, serving as the first Black head football coach at a predominantly white college. He was the head football coach at Massachusetts Agricultural College — now the University of Massachusetts Amherst — in 1904. Bullock, a Massachusetts native, was Ivy League-educated, studying at Dartmouth College as an undergraduate and attending Harvard University for law school. Bullock went on to coach at both Morehouse College and Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University.”
Ariel Pesante is an associate athletic director at the University of Massachusetts.