First Parish at ACE’s “Jammin’ for Justice”
By Clark Taylor, Published on May 25, 2016
Six of us from FP in Needham traveled to Roxbury on Monday, May 23, for “Jammin’ for Justice,” a fundraiser for the Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE). All enjoyed circulating in the diverse gathering of some 150 people. Not least was what the six of us gained from getting to know each other better. The event was very well organized. As we entered we filled out information sheets about ourselves. That complete, we received a program with information about all the aspects of the evening. First Parish was listed as a sponsor of the event at the “Block Captain” level, which came with a sponsoring donation of $250. Our name tags each had a unique number on it that was our code for bidding in the silent auction, which was set up along a wall and ready as we entered the hall.
ACE, with which First Parish is building a suburban-city partnership, is an agency that serves Roxbury’s low income folks and people of color that began more than twenty years ago by tackling toxic waste and air pollution problems that often locate in impoverished areas. Earlier this Spring in a “toxic tour” led by ACE staff, 16 of us from First Paris walked from place to place in the Dudley Square area where we saw and learned about the sites where ACE won several tough battles to clear sites of toxic materials and to reduce air pollution. The organization now works with residents in an effort to keep their apartment homes in the face of landlords skyrocketing the rents to attract more affluent residents. We think of the process as “gentrification.” At ACE they call it “displacement”—getting driven out of the homes where some have lived for decades At each of our seats at the table we chose, we found a card with the words “Remain, Reclaim, Rebuild Boston—in Chinese and Spanish along with English—which succinctly describes the goals of the ACE campaign.
We were soon aware of the rich diversity of the ACE constituency, which we found invigorating. We enjoyed snacks as the catering staff circulated among us with delicious appetizers. I set off to find Lee Matsueda, the Political Director of ACE and our staff contact person. As I searched for him I ran into people I knew or people open to conversation.
The program portion of the evening began with a stirring address by Kalila Barnett, the Executive Director of ACE, which described the campaigns to improve their area. She was followed by Tiffany Chenault, Chair of the ACE board. Then the two very effective and entertaining fundraisers took over. They worked in tandem, starting with anyone willing to donate $2500 and worked down, step by financial level step, with takers at every level, to a point at which people were invited to donate whatever they could afford. Next up were awards. given to three organizations that have worked closely with ACE. The program concluded with remarks by a young man, Tyree Ware, who represented the very important youth program of the organization.
By the end of the program we were ready for the delicious food which was served buffet style. The lines at the two food stations moved quickly, so there was little delay in getting our meals. Before and after the meal folks checked their bids on the silent auction. At the table where our group sat we were joined by Sophie Hadingham, the new youth director of the church, who has had a long-term relationship with ACE. After the meal we had photos taken, which are included with this report. After the meal and further conversation the event drew to a close. We left with the impression that we had participated in an evening with a very effective, impressive urban organization, with which we were happy and proud to be associated.