Mel King

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Mel King was a Massachusetts State Representative and former candidate for Mayor of Boston.


Mel King’s mother, Ursula, was born in Guyana, and his father, Watts King, in Barbados. They met and married in Nova Scotia and immigrated to Boston in the early 1920s. King, born in 1928 in Boston’s South End neighborhood, was one of eight children born to the Kings between 1918 and 1938. He graduated from Boston Technical High School in 1946 and from Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1950 with his B.S. degree in mathematics. In 1951, he received his M.A. degree in education from Teacher's College of the City of Boston and then taught math, first at Boston Trade High School and at his alma mater, Boston Technical High School.

In 1953, King left the classroom to work with at risk youth, becoming Director of Boy’s Work at Lincoln House, a settlement house in Boston’s South End community. He continued his community work focusing on street corner gangs as Youth Director at United South End Settlements (USES). He also worked as a community activist and urban renewal and anti-poverty organizer. He was let go by USES when he promoted and supported neighborhood control versus USES and government control over the urban renewal and federal funds to assist poor people. King was then rehired after protests from the community over his firing and was given the job as a community organizer. King, then founded the Community Assembly for a United South End (C.A.U.S.E.), to give tenants and community residents a voice in their communities.

In 1967, King moved to the directorship of the New Urban League of Greater Boston. He brought job training for the unemployed and organized the community around public school, employment, and human services delivery issues.

King ran three times for a seat on the Boston School Committee in 1961, 1963 and 1965, being unsuccessful each time. However, his citywide political organizing for these campaigns paid off. In 1973, he was elected as a state representative for the 9th Suffolk District and served in the Massachusetts Legislature until 1982.

In 1983, King ran for mayor of Boston and nearly beat the incumbent, Ray Flynn. Out of this historic campaign, King established a Rainbow Coalition Party, a first for Boston and a model for the Rainbow Coalition created by Rev. Jesse Jackson.

In 1981, King’s book, Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development, was published by South End Press. It focused on development in housing, education, employment and politics in Boston from the 1950s through the 1970s.

In 1970, King created the Community Fellows Program (CFP) in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. He served as an adjunct professor of Urban Studies and Planning and director of the Community Fellows Program for twenty-five years until 1996. CFP, a nine-month long program, brought community organizers and leaders from across America to reflect, research and study urban community politics, economics, social life, education, housing and media.

Upon his retirement from MIT, King established the South End Technology Center to provide computer training for low-income people.

In 2003, King created The New Majority, an organization and program uniting Boston’s communities of color around candidates for elective office.[1]

Honoring Mel King

On February 23rd 2011, the Boston Women's Fund held its second Men Take A Stand event, recognizing men who promote peace, equality and the leadership of women and girls. This year BWF honored local activist, statesman, MIT adjunct professor and community organizer Mel King. BWF granted him the “Social Justice in Action” award for his many years of dedication to community organizing, youth development, nonviolence and for Taking A Stand in supporting the leadership of women and girls.

For over 55 years, Mel King, the community activist and organizer, worked determinedly for social justice across race, class, gender and age in Boston. After being a State Representative for nearly 10 years, King was the first black mayoral candidate for the city of Boston in 1983. King founded the Community Fellows program at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology where he taught for 25 years and has since established the South End Technology Center to provide youth with access to technology.

The 150 people at the event included members of the BWF family, political figures, and fans and family of Mel King. Political figures included Governor Deval Patrick, who participated and shared in this memorable evening, State Representative Russell Holmes, District 2 City Council candidate Suzanne Lee, and District 7 City Council candidate, Tito Jackson.

Governor Deval Patrick spoke about the importance of Mel King’s activism and achievements. He was grateful to King for being a “first” and for running for Mayor, which paved the way for Patrick’s successful election. Patrick’s statement that “Mel King is a living example of how to be and what to do” resonated with the audience.

Josefina Vazquez, BWF executive director, was joined by Governor Patrick in presenting the “Social Justice in Action” award to Mel King for his many years of dedication to community organizing and youth development, and for Taking A Stand in supporting the leadership of women and girls. Said Deval Patrick:

Mel King’s fifty year legacy of social activism and civic leadership is an inspiration to all of us who strive to be an uplifting force in our communities. We honor his commitment to social progress at the grassroots and his continuing impact on the lives of so many young people across the Commonwealth.” [2]

US Peace Council

Mel King was a member of the U.S. Peace Council and the World Peace Council.[3]

NCIPA (members who joined Peoples Alliance later on

A number of people who attended the Peoples Alliance Strategy Conference of November 9-11, 1979 later showed up as members of the National Committee for Independent Political Action. From the Sept.-Oct. 1984 NCIPA Newsletter we find these individuals listed on the NCIPA Steering Committee.

Rainbow Coalition

In Boston, Mel King had put together what he was the first to call a Rainbow Coalition for mayoral runs in 1979 and 1983.[4]

In 1985 Mel King, was an M.I.T. Community Fellow and Director of the Massachusetts Rainbow Coalition.[5]



SURVIVAL FEST 84 was held August 5 1984 in MacArthur Park.

"Come To Hear And Strategize With Those Changing The 1980's"

  • How can we support each other in electing progressive local candidates?
  • How can we make electoral work serve the grassroots movements for a freeze, for U.S. out of Central America and human needs?
  • How can we over turn the racist dual primary system in the South?
  • Is working inside and outside the Democratic Party a viable strategy and how can it be done?
  • How can we formulate demands to revitalize our basic industries without falling into the pitfall of the chauvinist anti-import solution -- letting U.S. finance capital off the hook?

This event was organized by the Communist Workers Party front, the Coalition for a People's Convention. The event was advertised in a half-page notice in the Marxist weekly Guardian, their Book Supplement - Summer 1984, p. 12, and the Communist Workers Party and Federation For Progress were listed as participants.

National endorsers of the event included Mel King - Chair, Massachusetts Jesse Jackson Campaign.

Student peace rally


In May 1984 Ed Markey, Mel King, Victor Weisskopf, John Pastore, Roberta Snow, Monica Eisenbud addressed a student peace rally in Copley Square Boston.

Endorsing Frontline

Frontline, July 20, 1987

Felix Arroyo connection

On August 18 2001, Boston Democratic Socialists of America Summer conference voted to endorse Denise Provost and Kevin Tarpley for re-election to Somerville’s Board of Aldermen and Felix Arroyo for an At- Large seat on the Boston City Council.[6]

Long-time progressive activist Felix Arroyo was raised in Puerto Rican public housing; his father was a police detective, his garment seamstress mother an ILGWU member.

Past President of the Boston School Committee and current critic of the MCAS test, Felix Arroyo was a policy advisor to both Mayor Ray Flynn and Senator John Kerry, and an active opponent of U.S. Central American policy in the 1980s. He is endorsed by the SEIU State Council, Boston NOW, CPPAX, Mel King, Boston City Councilor and DSA member Chuck Turner and State Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks.[7]

War Times

In January 2002, a group of San Francisco leftists, mainly involved with STORM or Committees of Correspondence, founded a national anti-Iraq War newspaper[8] War Times.

Endorsers of the project included Mel King.

Preferring Castro

When Mel King ran for mayor of Boston, he declared that he would prefer the government of Castro to that of Ronald Reagan.[9]

Community Planning in Cuba

In the early 2000s Merri Ansara and Mel King were involved in "community planning" in Cuba according to an October 2003 Havana Journal article by Marie Kennedy, Lorna Rivera and Chris Tilly[10];

Every socialist country has had to manage a set of tensions surrounding popular participation: How to balance local initiative with a set of national priorities? How to reconcile goals of equality with opportunities for communities to shape their own development? How to facilitate widespread participation without opening the door for internal and external foes of the revolution? Cuba, along with the other countries of the former Soviet bloc, resolved these tensions by leaning toward centralization and top-down planning. But over time, Cuba has incorporated more decentralization, consultation with ever larger numbers of people and channels for bottom-up influence...
Mass organizations such as the network of neighborhood-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) and the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) also operate in a top-down manner, primarily mobilizing people for campaigns in order to carry out centrally determined objectives. Rarely have these organizations employed methods to empower their membership to craft the program of action...
At the beginning of the “Special Period” (as the period of economic crisis from 1989 through the 1990s was termed), Popular Power was augmented by the establishment of neighborhood-based and elected Popular Councils. These councils are made up of volunteer delegates elected in each neighborhood and representatives of the main economic, social and service institutions, such as the CDRs and the FMC. These neighborhood-based councils support the work of their delegate to the Municipal Council, working closely with residents to identify and advocate for local issues. In 1992, constitutional reforms also established a more direct electoral system for the National Assembly, although candidates for the Assembly are still nominated through a process largely controlled by the Cuban Communist Party.
A major campaign to develop effective participatory community planning methods was launched. Marie, along with planner/activists Merri Ansara and Mel King, facilitated an early two-week seminar with about forty staff members from the twelve workshops operating in 1993. They found that the main barriers to participatory planning were essentially two sides of the same coin: residents expected to have their needs met on the basis of decisions made by experts and professionals who were educated to fix problems for people...
Because of the basic values of Cuba’s socialist political culture (social justice, equality, freedom), many of the workshops (of which there are now twenty) have far outstripped similar efforts in the U.S. to put decision-making power in the hands of those most affected by the problems being addressed. For example, the work with women and youth in Atares could provide a model for even the most progressive of U.S. community-based organizations.

Boston Social Forum

At the 2004 Boston Social Forum Bringing the Movement into Electoral Politics . Panelists were Mel King, Chuck Turner, Felix Arroyo, Steve Backman, Lydia Lowe, Patrick Kearney, Judy Roderick.[11]

Right to the City support

According to Mel King there’s an additional factor that figured significantly in Martin Walsh’s successful mayoralty campaign in 2013.

A group called Right to the City, composed of various organizations working on access to affordable housing, good jobs, quality education, and sustainable community development, seeks to enable a cross section of racial, ethnic, and income groups to remain and participate in all aspects of Boston.

The group’s members, a new rainbow coalition, are in the forefront of such issues as foreclosure blockades to protect people’s homes, stopping no-fault tenant evictions, and fighting alongside unions for construction jobs.

Following its questionnaire to both mayoral candidates, the group felt Walsh was more responsive to its concerns. Having encouraged these young adults to do this analysis, Mel King joined with them. At our endorsement announcement, I admired their commitment to looking forward and not wallowing in the past.

They saw a candidate who willingly shared parts of his life that indicated he has the capacity for change. He invited them to work with him to make a difference for all the city’s residents.

Both at the endorsement event, when a high school student spoke, and at Fields Corner, where a diverse group rallied, I saw evidence of ways Walsh’s campaign included people. A personal highlight was watching the candidate join in singing a song I wrote: “We are in harmony; once to every generation comes the chance to change the world.”[12],

Tax Day forum

Saturday, April 12 2014, a Tax Day Forum was held in Boston's Emmanuel Church, 15 Newbury St., with speakers: Mel King,Congresswoman Katherine Clark, Congressman Jim McGovern, Harris Gruman SEIU, Carolyn Federoff AFGE, Local 3258, Lew Finfer Raise Up Mass., Rep. Jay Livingstone, Grace Ross, Tilly Teixeira MA Senior Action, Joe Kebartas Veterans For Peace, Joann Thomas & Alan Booth MAHT, Amy Tighe 350MA, Andrew Fish Mass PIRG, Nathan Proctor Mass Fair Share, Ed Woll, Jr. MA Sierra Club, M.K. Merelice Green Rainbow, Dr. Richard Fine Medical Researcher, Robert Folan-Johnson ACT UP, Phyllis Evans NEU4J, Michael Kane National Alliance of HUD Tenants and other community leaders, all of whom will join people directly impacted by budget decisions.

A framework for action included a diverse set of initiatives, including immediate measures like collecting signatures for the Raise Up Massachusetts minimum wage and earned sick time ballot initiatives, as championed by Harris Gruman of the SEIU State Council, to medium-term measures like lobbying the six Massachusetts congressmen who voted NO to the Congressional Progressive Caucus’ Better Off Budget last week, as championed by Michael Kane, to more long-term initiatives like proposals to wipe out childhood poverty in Massachusetts, as championed by gubernatorial candidate Don Berwick.[13]

Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward


Now What? Defying Trump and the Left's Way Forward was a phone in webinar organized by Freedom Road Socialist Organization in the wake of the 2016 election.

Now what? We’re all asking ourselves that question in the wake of Trump’s victory. We’ve got urgent strategizing and work to do, together. Join Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson of the Movement for Black Lives and Freedom Road, Calvin Cheung-Miaw, Jodeen Olguin-Taylor of Mijente and WFP, Joe Schwartz of the Democratic Socialists of America, and Sendolo Diaminah of Freedom Road for a discussion of what happened, and what we should be doing to build mass defiance. And above all, how do we build the Left in this, which we know is the only solution to the crises we face?

This event will take place Tuesday November 15, 2016 at 9pm Eastern/8pm Central/6pm Pacific.

Those invited, on Facebook included Mel King.[14]


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