"The city of Boston is not one color, but many shades of brown," said Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 14th annual African-American Achievement Awards ceremony last week. "The movers and shakers are those in the black community."
Over dinner and live musical performances, local residents gathered at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury on April 17 to celebrate the unsung heroes of Boston. It was also an occasion to celebrate African-American culture.
"This is our way of giving back," said Annie Kinkead, a Mattapan resident. "The people sitting here are our friends and neighbors." Kinkead, who attends the event annually, said she came with other locals "by the bus load."
Latoyia Edwards of Dorchester, a morning reporter for NECN, hosted the event, which included performances by Gospel Choir, The Kingdom Builders, Urban Hip Hop troupe, The Goonies and Mayor Menino's AAA Kids, a Boston school age children's theatrical performing arts troupe. Performances, which occurred throughout the entire ceremony, made the evening fun and entertaining for all in attendance.
Cynthia Loesch and Keith Motley, both of Dorchester, and Danny Hardaway of Mattapan were each presented a Community Service Award for their positive contributions to their local communities.
"Other people could care less what young people have to say but I know how important it is for young people to stand up and have their voices heard," said Cynthia Loesch confidently at the awards ceremony.
At age 22, she has had no problem having her own voice heard. A 2007 Boston College graduate, she is the Director of Community Organizing with FAMILY Inc. and is serving her third year as President of the Codman Square Neighborhood Council. She is the youngest president to preside over the 11-member board."I always knew what I wanted and I knew what I wanted to be," says Loesch. "I am in a position where I am happy doing the work I do."
When Loesch was 13, she founded BOLD Teens. This youth led organization works to improve the health, safety and environment of the community. The program is founded on Loesch's belief that cooperation between young people and adults is a crucial component to the betterment of one's local community.
"She is always there to talk," said Briana Miller, 15, BOLD Teen member. "She is very committed and dedicated to her job."
Loesch is currently working with FAMILY Partners to bring a Farmers Market to the community and educate residents on the importance of organic foods. She is also active on the Tobacco Free Massachusetts Executive Board and teachers at the Codman Academy Charter Public School.
"I want to be that person that brings resource to families that need them and to uplift communities where they need to be uplifted. It is important to remind people that we are all connected. I feel this is my job and I'll do it forever."
Danny Hardaway of Mattapan is on a mission to turn the Morton Street Village business district into a shopping area to rival Newbury Street in the Back Bay. Hardaway co-owns Final Touch with Class boutique on Morton Street and founded the Morton Street Board of Commerce.
"I would love to have Morton Street become a place where we can have all different people of nationalities to shop on this strip," said Hardaway. "People can come to rest, go to cafés and have a cup of coffee and just read the paper outside."
To turn his vision into a reality, Hardaway does his best to unite community members and local area businesses.
"I believe this vision is possible," he said. "It is coming. The Morton Street Board of Commerce consists of business people and residents. Being united as a community, we come together as one. We can come together, unite and make this a beautiful place."
At 6'8", award-winner Keith Motley is an intimidating figure in a suit congregating with some of Boston's most important people, such as Mayor Menino.
That is until you hear him speak. After a few moments of listening to his deep but warmhearted voice, it is easy to understand why he is so popular among students at UMass Boston. Even while speaking to an audience of over 700 people, Motley has a way of making you feel as if you the only one he is talking too.
As the eighth chancellor of the university, Motley leads 13,500 undergraduate and graduate students, a full time faculty of more than 800 and a $254 million annual budget. He has been instrumental in leading strategic, system-wide initiatives and working closely with the Board of Trustee's committee's on advancement and athletics. He is also the founder of the Roxbury Preparatory Charter School and serves on numerous boards of community organizations.
Motley is also founder and education chair of Concerned Black Men of Massachusetts Inc. where their mission is to "improve the quality of life in the black community by reaffirming the viability of the black male."