Grief, Remembrance, Justice
The Activist Legacy of Melnea Cass
Boston still strives to live up to the legacy of Melnea Cass, one of the city’s most dynamic civil rights leaders of the 20th century. Join panelists Monica Cannon-Grant of Violence in Boston and Kai Grant of Black Market for a discussion of how our memories of Cass can help us channel our sense of grief as Bostonians into a call for lasting change.
This event took place on March 5, the 251st anniversary of the Boston Massacre. One of the first to fall that night was Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native descent. His presence inspired generations of activists—including Cass—in their fight for equality. She revived the tradition of a Crispus Attucks Day civic event on March 5 during the height of the busing crisis to express the strength of the Black community in the face of white violence.
Boston stands at a similar historical moment: Marked by deep losses, yet presented with an opportunity to draw on the power of history to transform our despair into hope, and remember that sometimes justice grows in times of greatest loss. The event will be an opportunity to reaffirm Cass’s lasting impact on the city, reflect on the meaning of Attucks today, and imagine the contours of a new March 5 event that can bring all Bostonians together in community.
Moderated by Malia Lazu, the panel discussion also features a performance by poet and storyteller Dzidzor.
This event is generously sponsored by the Lowell Institute and New England Women’s Club Fund at the Boston Foundation.
About the Panelists
Monica Cannon-Grant, the CEO and founder of the Violence In Boston Inc., a nonprofit working to improve the quality of life and life outcomes of individuals from disenfranchised communities by reducing the prevalence of violence and the impact of associated trauma. As a former Black Lives Matter activist, Monica organized 55,000 people last year to protest the murder of George Floyd and the many others murdered by police across the country. She was named Bostonian of the Year for 2020 by the Boston Globe, Social Justice Advocate of the Year by Bostonian Magazine and one of the top ten leaders of the year by Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. She has resided in the Roxbury area for 17 years.
KAI GRANT, the founder of Black Market along with her husband Christopher, creating Nubian Square’s first flexible cultural event spaces with a signature artisan marketplace. She now manages Black Market’s programming, which focuses on reigniting Roxbury’s creative economy. Her family has been in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood for over 100 years as educators, entrepreneurs, political leaders, artists, spiritual leaders, and military leaders. Kai has been awarded citations by the Boston City Council, the Governor of Massachusetts, the Black & Latino Caucus, the NAACP, and a host of local organizations in recognition of her many achievements.
Dzidzor (Jee-Jaw) is an African folklore, performing artist, author and entrepreneur. Didzor’s style of call and response, has re-imagined poetry and story-telling as a way to include the audience in a experience to challenge, inspire and encourage self beyond traditional forms. She began performing through slam poetry and now curates spaces Black Cotton Club, and teaches in Boston.
Malia Lazu, founder of the Lazu Group, is an award winning, tenured strategist in diversity & inclusion who sparked deep economic development and investment in urban entrepreneurship. Most recently, she worked to generate wealth for communities by expanding access to capital and spurring economic growth as EVP and Regional President at Berkshire Bank. She was named one of Essence Magazine’s 50 founders to watch, and sits on the boards of Revolutionary Spaces, the Boston Chamber of Commerce, Massachusetts Business Roundtable, as well as the Nation Magazine Editorial Board.
Reflecting Attucks is a virtual exhibit that explores the memory of Crispus Attucks, a man of African and Native descent who was the first to die at the Boston Massacre, an act of protest widely viewed as a turning point on the road to American Revolution.
In this exhibit, we delve into Attucks’s world and look at how generations of Americans have seen their own reflection in the image of Attucks standing in the face of fierce opposition. By remembering him as a martyr, leader and courageous fighter, they fueled freedom movements that changed the course of history.