On April 6 at Roxbury Community College, I opened a fascinating presentation and conversation about Boston’s remarkably diverse Black population with a tribute to the heroic and iconic life of Mel King, whom we lost this spring at the age of 94. Mel was one of the most important and influential civic leaders of our time. His body of work was extraordinarily prodigious and profound. There are few corners in Boston that he did not touch with his astonishing leadership.
We all know Mel’s outer achievements, but they don’t begin to tell the whole story. He was a champion of equity and a creator of opportunity so that people could thrive and live lives of meaning, purpose and hope. Most of all, he was a community activist, who gave people a voice and agency to rally around common causes.
In his 1964 acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.” Mel King was “an other-centered man.” He had the audacity to suggest that people everywhere should have sustenance for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. May he rest in power and may his example inspire all of us.