Grove Hall banner array will honor Black women leaders past, present

This banner is hanging in Grove Hall as an example of what organizers hope will be in a full array of 200 portraits by mid-July.
Photo courtesy Rep. Chris Worrell

More than 200 Black women leaders past and present will be honored with street pole banners along Blue Hill Avenue (from Quincy Street to Franklin Park), Washington Street, and Seaver Street in Grove Hall this summer in what organizers say will be the largest such public display in the city.

The “Black Women Lead” project has been in the works since 2019, according to one of the organizers, Ed Gaskin of Grove Hall Main Streets, who said the object of the displays is to highlight the names of Black women who have been leaders locally and nationally and worked “tirelessly since the 1700s to make Boston a better place.”

“I can’t imagine it will be received by the community in any way but positive,” said Gaskin, who noted that fundraising efforts are still ongoing to make the project, which is being supported by the Kraft Foundation, City Councillor Brian Worrell, and state Rep. Chris Worrell, a reality this summer.

“The idea is to give a sense of purpose and history,” said Gaskin. “You go from Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman who were abolitionists or helped escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad. Fast forward and we have a Black mayor, a Black congresswoman, and a black US attorney, so this banner project gives you a sweeping sense of history.”

The names listed for display include people like the late state Rep. Doris Bunte, long-time activists Alfreda Harris and the Mildred Hailey, and television personalities Rev. Liz Walker and Karen Holmes Ward. There are long-ago activists like Geraldine Pindell Trotter, 20th century leaders like Gail Snowden, and current day thought-leaders like Karilyn Crockett, the author of “People Before Highways.”

“These Black women leaders represent the possibilities my family, and so many other families, envisioned when they came to Boston from West Virginia in the 1950s,” said Crockett. “It’s an incredible honor because I appreciate the way Grove Hall Main Streets and others involved are sending a collective message that no one community or city walks on one person. There are so many hands and hearts put into loving and leaning into justice.”

Former state Rep. and city housing official Charlotte Golar Richie said she was humbled to be included as an honoree.

“My hope is that this project is just the beginning of an ongoing effort that documents and celebrates the contributions of Black women in our society – those we know and those that are unacknowledged or underacknowledged,” she said.

“Role models count in our society and having somebody that looks like you and is doing things you might like to do helps our young people dream about possibilities.”

The Worrell brothers will help launch the effort during a State House event this Friday (May 12). “So often we forget what these Black women have done or are doing for the community,” said Chris. “We want to make this a yearly thing because you can’t uplift all that Black women have done in just one year…We believe every other city and small town could take this model from the 5th Suffolk District and District 4 to honor their community’s Black women past and present.”

For his part, Brian hopes the array of 200-plus Black women depicted one after another on street banners will be groundbreaking in his neighborhood. “When I was in school you have one person come to you and tell you to stay in school,” he said. “You remember who it was, but it feels like an anomaly when just one person encourages you. When you have 200-plus people coming at you and saying you can be a change agent because they did it, it broadens the possibilities for our young people.”

Gaskin said they are still seeking about $40,000 to fund the project and install all 200-plus banners. He said he can get the banners in place within three weeks of completing the fundraising – and the hope is that will be done by July when the national NAACP convention takes place in Boston.

“I’d like to have them up for that event and I think the attendees would like to come see these banners as a placemaking event,” he added.



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