Historic First Annual Summit for Black Elected Officials in Honor of Black History Month

Special to the Journal

The First Annual Summit of State Elected Officials, celebrating Black History Month, commenced on February 16th, marking a significant milestone in establishing a new tradition. This inaugural summit, hosted at the Massachusetts State House, gathered Black state elected officials from across New England. It provided a distinctive platform for dialogue, collaboration, and legislative innovation focused on addressing the pressing issues facing the Black community in New England today.

The summit’s agenda covered critical areas such as education, public health, criminal justice reform, housing, and economic development. Participants engaged in comprehensive discussions, sharing insights and strategies from their varied experiences and legislative backgrounds. The collaborative atmosphere facilitated an analysis of existing policies, acknowledgment of successes, identification of areas for improvement, and the development of new legislative paths.

State Senator Lydia Edwards highlighted, “This summit represents more than a gathering; it is a bold step towards unity, empowerment, and progress for the Black community. By uniting, we have established a tradition that not only honors our history but also paves the way for our future. It’s about learning from one another, celebrating our achievements, and addressing challenges together.”

The event also stood as a beacon of hope and a model for similar initiatives nationwide, showcasing the impact of collective action by state elected officials for the betterment of the communities they represent. “This is just the beginning,” added State Senator Edwards. “We anticipate this annual summit will grow, evolve, and continue to inspire significant change across New England and the nation.”

In addition to legislative discussions, the summit featured keynote speeches from prominent leaders in the Black community, including Maine Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross, workshops, and panel discussions aimed at fostering innovation and actionable solutions. Speaker Talbot Ross stated, “The New England Summit of State Elected Officials in Honor of Black History was more than a gathering; it was a powerful demonstration of the strength, resilience, and collective wisdom within our community. By coming together, we amplify our voices, celebrate our achievements, and chart a course for a future where Black history is actively shaped by those dedicated to servant leadership. I am grateful to Senator Edwards for organizing this event and look forward to the work ahead.”

 Tanisha M. Sullivan, President of the NAACP New England Area, remarked, “This historic convening allowed state elected officials from across New England to collaborate and learn about policy priorities in their states. We thank Senator Edwards for initiating this event and look forward to ongoing collaboration among policymakers and community leaders to strengthen communities and families across New England.”

The participation of notable Massachusetts leaders, including Mayor Michelle Wu, Governor Maura Healey, Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll, NAACP President Tanisha Sullivan, Meet Boston President Martha Sheridan, State Representative Bud Williams, and Museum of African American History President Dr. Noelle Trent, enriched this year’s summit. Their presence and contributions added valuable perspectives, emphasizing the importance of state and local collaboration in advancing the interests of the Black community.

Governor Maura Healey remarked, “Our administration is committed to building a legacy centered on equity, always applying an equity lens to our work to increase access to education, housing, economic opportunity, and healthcare. This spirit is embodied in Senator Edwards and our legislators of color’s daily work. I thank Senator Edwards for organizing this summit, creating an opportunity to elevate Black leaders across New England, and celebrate Black history and social justice. I look forward to our continued collaboration to make Massachusetts a more equitable home for all and am excited about next year’s event.”

“Black history is American history, not only in February but throughout the year. However, opportunities like this allow us to celebrate and acknowledge the incredible contributions of the Black community in Massachusetts,” stated Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll. “I am thankful to Senator Edwards for creating a space where leaders across New England can unite and support our Black communities, shaping history for years to come.”

Representative Bud Williams, Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, expressed, “It is often said that it takes a village and that the squeaky wheel gets the oil. I firmly believe that through the collaboration of our elected officials, who address the diverse needs of constituents, agencies, and advocates, we will advance. We hear you, see you, and want you to know that your fight is our fight. Speaking for my colleagues at the State House, we pledge to do all within our power to continue this work. Change is coming—actually, it is already underway.”

“I have devoted many years to serving my community in the 11th Hampden District, both on civic and state levels. As the current House Chair of the Joint Committee on Racial Equity, Civil Rights, and Inclusion, Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus, and a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Black Empowerment, I can unequivocally state that the New England 1st Annual Summit of State Elected Officials was a transformative event. Massachusetts has proven itself a leader on many fronts, and this summit adds to our achievements, demonstrating our commitment to racial equity, civil rights, and inclusion for all,” said Representative Williams.

Martha Sheridan, CEO of Meet Boston, remarked, “Attending and addressing the First Annual New England Summit of State Elected Officials was an immense honor. The summit sparked essential conversations on topics affecting our region and the nation. These discussions align with Meet Boston’s goals, especially in building equity within the visitor economy as part of a broader effort toward community economic development.”

“We were truly honored to be part of the First Annual Summit for Black Elected Officials as part of Black History Month,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, President & CEO, Museum of African American History Boston/Nantucket. “We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. I firmly believe that having elected Black elected officials of every age and background from across New England stand where Frederick Douglass, Lewis Hayden and other giants who fought for civil rights and social justice once stood will inspire the next generation of political leaders.”

A special thank you is extended to the fiscal sponsors: Massachusetts Building Trades Council, 1199 SEIU Union Healthcare Workers East, Local 103 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, The New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, Massachusetts & Northern New England Laborers’ District Council, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, United Auto Workers, and Meet Boston for making this event possible. Additionally, appreciation is conveyed to Speaker Ron Mariano and Senate President Karen Spilka for their support of the event. Lastly, gratitude is expressed to Pan de Bono, Blue Mountain Jamaican Restaurant, Sol y Sal Boston, and Neighborhood Kitchen for providing exceptional catering services.

As the first event of its kind, the summit not only commemorated Black History Month but also reaffirmed the commitment of public servants to uplift and advance the interests of their communities. State Senator Edwards and all participants extend their heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to the success of this historic summit and look forward to the enduring impact it will have on the communities they serve.

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