Press release: Dorchester mother, grandmother named first Neighborhood Innovator as part of The Good News Experiment

Lola Alexander recognized for strength and helping others after overcoming unimaginable tragedy


BOSTON — Lola Alexander, a Dorchester resident of more than 50 years, has been named the first honoree of The Good News Experiment, an initiative created by two former public affairs colleagues to recognize neighborhood innovators with feature stories that are publicly distributed through blog, social media and traditional media formats.

Alexander is being recognized for her work as a volunteer peer advocate for Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE) in Roxbury, where she serves as an intermediary between the organization and mothers who would benefit from services including MJE’s “You Matter” course. In addition, Alexander is part of a trauma response team for the Mattapan Community Health Center and a counselor of hope for the Boston Public Health Commission.

While Alexander, a breast cancer survivor, describes her life today as the strongest it has ever been, she has overcome dark days that would seem unimaginable to most. The mother of six children — three boys and three girls — lost a daughter to cancer. In 2001, a few years after the devastating loss of her daughter, Alexander lost two sons to street violence, senseless acts that happen all to often on the streets of Boston and throughout the country, according to MJE staff.

Alexander stands today as grandmother and great-grandmother to more than two dozen children. She stands today as a woman who has overcome tragedy by making community service her life’s work.

“I just kept hearing something in me saying don’t give up; just keep holding on; just keep moving,” Alexander said. “I’m just a proven statistic that things have gotten better. And I just truly want to say to someone else who’s going through a hard time right now. I’d just like to speak to them that they might be encouraged to get better. You know you can cry. It’s not a shame to cry. It cleanses you and helps you release all of the feelings that you’re feeling that’s not good for you, the burdens that are holding you down. But just move on. Be with a family member, someone that you really care about. Find your girlfriends, your guy friends. Maybe you might walk outside and you never know who is watching you. Someone would just say that you look like you might need a hug today. That’s hope. That’s hope. Just carry yourself in that way. Be willing to open up for yourself. Don’t close up, open up.”

The Good News Experiment was created through a partnership between MJE Founder and President Monalisa Smith and writer Andrea Cale, author of the novel The Corn Husk Experiment. Prior to their present positions, the women sat back-to-back in a public affairs department of a large bank in Boston. Smith, who had a background in lending, and Cale, who had a background in journalism, had frequently collaborated to share bank news ranging from community reinvestment grants to loans for community development. Cale stepped out of her public affairs post in 2008 as she became a mother and started working on her first novel. The pair had lost touch until Cale heard her former colleague’s voice on the radio as Smith spoke about the loss of her nephew to street violence in Boston in 2010 and her creation of MJE.

“I kept her unexpected story and her new work in my thoughts,” said Cale. “I think there is an urgency for us to partner once again.”

“So many times, stories like Lola’s are depicted as ‘another son lost,” said Smith. “The untold, bigger story is the amazing growth that comes from women after they lose something so precious. This is an international story. Through ‘The Good News Experiment,’ we start to show the faces.”

As part of the partnership, Smith leverages her knowledge of community work to gather ideas about potential honorees across a range of service areas. In turn, Cale leverages her background in journalism to write and share the feature-style stories on neighborhood innovators. They have begun recognizing innovators in their home state of Massachusetts, but they welcome nominations from throughout the country, Cale said.

For more information on Mothers for Justice and Equality services, please visit To view video of Alexander’s life advice on moving through challenging times, visit To nominate an individual or group for the neighborhood innovator recognition, visit for more information.

Mothers for Justice and Equality was founded in Boston in 2010 by Smith and other mothers who had lost family members to community violence. Today, more than 500 members come to MJE’s “kitchen table,” an office space in Roxbury, Massachusetts, where neighborhood mothers receive tools to become community leaders. In the last several years, the organization has provided a variety of innovative initiatives to work toward ending community violence, including:

  • Events and discussions that have featured political leaders ranging from former Governor Deval Patrick to most recently, a 3rd annual mothers against violence national conference that featured City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh;

  • “You Matter: Personal Leadership Training,” a youth peer leadership program and a workforce readiness initiative;

  • Financial literacy curriculum to inmates at the Suffolk County House of Corrections to address the needs of young adult inmates coming back into the community;

  • Training to new Boston Police Cadets and Boston EMTs to prepare them when facing individuals dealing with trauma;

  • Voter engagement drives;

  • Parent/Police Partnership advisory group;

  • Being recognized as a Department of Transitional Assistance work service site;

  • Becoming an approved provider of services for the Boston Public Schools;

  • Receiving a $30,000 grant from The Boston Foundation’s StreetSafe Program,

    allowing the organization to make changes including the passage of an ordinance to

    restrict selling knives to minors; and

  • Running dozens of billboards across Boston in an awareness campaign that depicted

    young victims of homicide with the group’s motto: “It’s not OK.”