Commonwealth Compacts Sponsors Black Empowerment Breakfast
February 12, 2013
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies
On the first day of Black History month,150 community members and business leaders joined together in the Ryan Lounge to participate in the twentieth Black Empowerment Breakfast organized by Carole Copeland Thomas of the Multicultural Symposium Series and co-sponsored by Amtrak and Commonwealth Compact, at UMass Boston's McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies.
Dean Ira A. Jackson welcomed guests to campus. “We are very proud to be associated with this day and with all of you. In 2013, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the march on Washington and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. We have an obligation to continue the fight for opportunity, freedom, and justice for all – values all held dear to our namesake, Boston’s own Speaker of the House of Representatives, John W. McCormack.”
Georgianna Meléndez, executive director of Commonwealth Compact, also welcomed the community and gave an overview of the special project she leads. “Many people have heard of the cradle-to-grave expression – that your destiny is predetermined when you are born. But, by working together, we can break that cycle. It doesn’t have to be that way. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, we can have hope for the future by working in the present.”
She went on to describe Commonwealth Compact’s Talent Network, a workforce diversity project in Massachusetts that strives to increase the visibility of and access to professionals of color in Massachusetts. “We work with employers to achieve their diversity goals. Beyond a moral imperative, it’s economic survival.” Using another common metaphor, she noted, “we help companies that are proactive to fish in the ocean rather than in the pond.”
She concluded her remarks with a quote from King, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Following a show-stopping performance from some thirty elementary school singers from the Renaissance Charter School of Hyde Park which drew thunderous applause for all three musical selections, Reverend Dr. Ray Hammond from the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church Boston gave the blessing before breakfast.
Cassius Cash, the first African American superintendent of the Boston National Historic Park and Boston African American National Historic Park, delivered the keynote speech. He explained the historical significance of Boston as the birthplace of freedom – both the independence from Britain and the emancipation for slaves. In fact, under his direction, the National Parks Services is now rebranding their historical homes, museums, and parks together in this fashion. Cash coined the marketing phrase “Boston’s Trails to Freedom’’ to cojoin the stories of struggle associated with the Freedom Trail and the Black Heritage Trail.
Sharing his own history and path to leadership, he told guests of his childhood fascination with the TV show, “Mutual of Omaha” and how that show inspired him to leave his roots in urban Memphis and take an internship “in the woods” of Washington state to gain experience working in the forestry service. He went on to tell of his education as a wildlife biologist and his career path within the Forest Service. He rose in the ranks from district ranger, civil rights officer, and assistant forest wildlife biologist. In 2004, he was promoted to staff officer in Nebraska. When serving as deputy forest supervisor in Oregon, he saw the job opening for the superintendent position in Boston, a city he had never visited nor knew much about.
Throughout his speech he wove in two guiding messages – ones he has used in his own professional development and most appropriate for the event’s theme of empowerment. “First, if you want something you’ve never had, do something you’ve never done. Second, have the curiosity to overcome the fear of failure.”