Not a Zero Sum Game

The Embrace Ideas Festival

TBF News Summer 2022

A large cement sign reads "EMBRACE." It is placed in a courtyard surrounded by trees and buildings.
The festival culminated in a free Juneteenth Block Party in Nubian Square. Photos by OJ Slaughter.
On June 13, the Boston Foundation its first in person public event in more than two years, serving as the host of the inaugural day of King Boston’s sweeping, week-long Embrace Ideas Festival.

The five-day event included keynote conversations and panel discussions on topics as diverse as “Healing from Racialized Trauma” to “The Saving Power of Culture,” in venues as varied as Harvard Medical School and the ICA. Performances by local musicians and artists capped each day’s program. It all culminated in a free Juneteenth Block Party in Roxbury’s Nubian Square on June 17 to kick off the Juneteenth weekend. 
Imari Paris Jeffries and Hank Willis Thomas sit onstage for a session during Embrace Ideas Festival
Artist Hank Willis Thomas, who created The Embrace with Mass Design Group, spoke with King Boston Executive Director Imari Paris Jeffries (left) at the ICA on “The Saving Power of Culture.”

The festival brought together local and national scholars, artists and stakeholders to shine a light on the challenges we face and the collective actions we can take.

A rendering of Embrace memorial in Boston Common
The memorial will be unveiled early in 2023 on the Boston Common.
King Boston, an initiative of the Boston Foundation, is working closely with the City of Boston to create a living memorial and programming honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, and their work together in the city where they first met and began their profound partnership.
The physical memorial, titled The Embrace, is under construction and will be unveiled on the Boston Common on MLK weekend in 2023. The Embrace Ideas Festival is just one of King Boston’s ways of honoring the Kings through thought-provoking antiracism programming. 

“We chose to make the week leading up to the Juneteenth federal holiday one of learning and joy,” said Imari Paris Jeffries, King Boston’s Executive Director, “a weeklong celebration that embraces music, art, culture, ideas and community.”
“This is an exciting moment for us,” said M. Lee Pelton, President and CEO of TBF in the opening keynote. Addressing Paris Jeffries directly, he said, “I remember when you shared your vision for this festival in October of last year. You said your team and you were going to hold the largest anti-racist festival in the country. And here we are and I want to celebrate you and everyone who made this a reality.”

Pelton continued by speaking about TBF’s new strategic vision, Our New Pathway, which places equity at the center of everything the Foundation is doing, with a deep commitment to closing the racial wealth gap.  

Lee Pelton stands onstage at a podium giving a speech
TBF President and CEO M. Lee Pelton led the first keynote conversation of the Embrace Ideas Festival. Phot0 by Richard Howard.
“We know that eliminating the wealth gap involves understanding and unwinding policies and systems that have long excluded or made it more difficult for non-white people to accumulate the equity to pay for education, buy homes or start businesses.”

In a segue to the first Keynote Conversation of the Festival, he added, “But here’s the thing—erasing the wealth gap is worth it for all of us. By one estimate, not eliminating the racial wealth gap has cost the American economy $16 trillion over the last 20 years. Closer to home, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation estimated that closing racial wealth gaps in Massachusetts could raise the state GDP by $25 billion over the next five years. 

“As you’ll hear from Heather McGhee today, zero-sum thinking—the corrosive idea that there is only so much good to go around—that progress for one group has to come at the expense of the other—is a lie.”