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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh calls the honorees’ service examples of “selflessly working to better their neighborhoods”
BOSTON — Mothers for Justice and Equality (MJE) has announced that Dorchester residents Anthony Meeks, a City of Boston Street Worker for Boston Centers for Youth & Families, and Alvin Morris, a therapy mentor, outreach coordinator and football coach for local youth, have been named recipients of MJE’s “Community Excellence Award,” an honor given to those who are extraordinary change agents within their Boston and Greater Boston neighborhoods, orga-nizers said.
As a street worker for Boston Centers for Youth & Families’ Youth Services Department, Meeks works to help keep neighborhoods safe through participating in a youth violence prevention and early intervention program that has served as a best practice model throughout the nation. In this role, Meeks works to deescalate and mediate potentially violent conflicts between neighbor- hood gangs and high-risk individuals who contribute to neighborhood violence.
“As a Street Worker, I feel obligated and responsible to be there for those who are hurting, and provide a healing environment for those who have survived,” said Meeks. “Providing comfort, an open mind, humility and a listening ear are essential strategies for my work.”
Through the Street Worker Program, Meeks also helps youth and families gain access to a vari- ety of health and social services including education, recreation, diverse enrichment opportuni- ties, substance abuse treatment and tutoring. Food, clothing and shelter are also provided at community center sites around the City of Boston.
“Without my community partners, I would not be receiving this award,” said Meeks, who also said that during his youth, his mother instilled in him a drive to serve others. “I love our great city, the City of Boston. At the end of my work day, most times I lie in bed and feel able to say, ‘Job well done.’”
As part of this recognition, Meeks and Morris, whose story follows, joined four honorees of MJE’s Courage and Conviction Award and approximately 200 guests aboard the Spirit of Boston on June 9, 2018 for dining, dancing and celebration. The event is a catalyst for the annual Mother’s Against Violence National Leadership Conference that is held every fall in Boston.
Many of the honorees are recognized for standing firm in the face of adversity to become posi- tive role models and change agents.
Morris, a 32-year-old who also plays football for the semi-professional Boston Bandits of the New England Football League, said he was raised in Dorchester by his mother, a woman who Morris said “worked 10 times harder than most” at being an exceptional single parent as she also held a position with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) for 23 years.
“Mothers for Justice and Equality’s Community Excellence Award means a lot to me because growing up where I grew up, a lot of us didn’t have positive male role models,” Morris said. “I want to be a positive role model for these kids so that they see that you don’t have to go down negative paths to be a cool person, drive a nice car, look nice or be popular.”
As a Therapy Mentor and Outreach Coordinator for the Mattapan Community Health Center, an organization that aims to improve health and enhance the quality of life by providing exceptional primary care, preventative health and social services in Mattapan and surrounding communities, Morris works with kids ages six to 21 years old with strength-based therapy, one-to-one mentor- ing and building behavioral, independent living and social skills, tools that Morris said have be- come especially relevant in today’s Digital Age.
“Alvin and Morris are extraordinary examples of the powerful work that comes from young men in our communities when they’ve chosen a positive path,” said Monalisa Smith, Founder and President of Mother’s for Justice and Equality. “MJE is honored to name them recipients of the 2018 Community Excellence Award for their outstanding commitment to mentoring and making a difference for our youth today.”
“This year's award winners represent the impact one individual can have in creating a profound and positive change within their communities,” said City of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. “The Community Excellence Award recipients have gone above and beyond, selflessly working to better their neighborhoods. I applaud them for their efforts, and thank Mothers for Justice and Equality for recognizing these individuals for their important contributions to our city.”
Morris said that a critical first step to his work is breaking down walls between him and the youth he mentors by relating to them, describing that he was once their age, dressing like them and telling them stories of his youth. Once that relationship is built, Morris said progress begins to happen.
“I swear it’s the simplest — and most effective — work we do,” said Morris. “These kids just need someone to talk to.”
A team player on and off of the field, Morris said he wouldn’t be able to be so successful in his mentoring without a strong network of co-workers who are constantly sharing ideas and sup- porting each other. He said he has dreams to grow these type of networks within local communi- ties.
“I would just say that we need more positive males out here working with these kids, especially these young men — the young women too — but we really need males out there showing these kids what you can be if you don’t want to be on the streets,” Morris said. “And even if you have been on the streets and you got locked up and you got out and you’re trying to do the right
thing, show them that too. I have friends and family who got locked up and got out and are do- ing the right thing now. You have an opportunity to do better, and it’s on you to do better. I want kids to see that and know that. We can rise up do better and help out the next generation. I know that by mentoring and being a role model, I can effect kids 10 years from now. I know it might not happen next year or the year after that, but if I’m preaching to the right person, when that 10-year-old and that 12-year-old becomes 18,19 or 20, they’ll remember that they can be successful.”
For more information on Mothers for Justice and Equality, please visit mothersforjusticeande-
About Mothers for Justice and Equality
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 pro- vided a variety of innovative initiatives to work toward ending community violence, including:
Events and discussions that have featured political leaders ranging from former Governor De- val 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 individ- uals 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.”
Note: These interviews and press releases were created in partnership with Mothers for Justice and Equality in the spirit of The Good News Experiment, an initiative that highlights individuals’ extraordinary community work.