MACDC and 20 Members take Racial Equity Pledge

February 18th, 2022 by Nadine Sanchara

The Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations (MACDC) and 20 of its members have so far committed to a Racial Equity Pledge that affirms their commitment to work internally and in partnership with others to make their organizations more diverse, equitable and inclusive.  MACDC launched the Racial Equity Pledge at its Annual Meeting in November 2021.

“We are excited to be working with our members to help each other and push each other to be what we aspire to be – diverse, inclusive, equitable and effective organizations working to eliminate racism in all its forms,” said Joseph Kriesberg, President of MACDC.  “This will be our North Star as we work to turn our pledges into actions.”

In the summer of 2020, during the surge in civil rights actions following the killing of George Floyd and other people of color, CDCs, individually and collectively, joined with others to speak out against injustice and to reflect on their own practices and culture. Community organizers from CDCs across the state came together to push for more racial equity within the CDC movement. They asked MACDC’s leadership to embrace a racial equity pledge to be shared with its members.

MACDC’s board voted to establish a committee to work with the organizers to develop this pledge and a plan for implementation. The MACDC Board of Directors encourages its members to discuss the pledge with board members and staff and sign the pledge as a step toward our collective effort to make our movement and our organizations more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

“The Racial Equity Pledge was created for our members, by our members to encourage action. Together we are learning, growing, and challenging ourselves, through a transparent and inclusive process. Equity is at the core of our work. Understanding how racial inequities manifest in our organizations, programs, policies, and neighborhoods is essential in community building,” said Shirronda Almeida, Director of the Mel King Institute, a program of MACDC.

Emilio Dorcely, CEO of Urban Edge and a board member of MACDC, was involved in the pledge from its inception said, “it is an honor for me to be part of the team that created the MACDC racial equity pledge. Flexible and adaptable to agencies across Massachusetts, our pledge, combined with our collective power and determined drive can make our field more equitable and inclusive.”

By signing this pledge, organizations agree to embrace four values:

  1. committing to learning and addressing the different levels of racism so they can take action to dismantle those inequities;
  2. their staff should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve;
  3. their board should be diverse, equitable, inclusive, and representative of the communities they serve; and
  4. authentic representation in programming/services.

Pledge adoptees also commit to implementing at least one specific action toward advancing each of these values within the next year.

“The intention of this pledge is to provide a roadmap for MACDC member organizations to identify and commit to specific, actionable steps toward racial equity within the context of their community and mission. As organizers we will work with our respective organizations to create change, and the collective action represented by the pledge is what is needed to break down the systems that have created and enabled racial inequity to persist. It is exciting to see the work that has already begun with The Neighborhood Developers and several other organizations across Massachusetts,” said Sharon Fosbury, Director of Community Building at The Neighborhood Developers.

MACDC has taken the pledge as we believe it is important to keep ourselves accountable from the inside. To jump start our learning and mutual accountability, we have hosted meetings both for those members who have adopted the pledge already and those considering it. Through the Mel King Institute, we are also offering member-only workshop opportunities to support members in the implementation.  For more information, and to see who signed on so far, visit the Racial Equity webpage.

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Commonwealth Launches Homeowner Assistance Fund

February 10th, 2022 by

The Commonwealth has launched the Massachusetts Homeowner Assistance Fund (Mass HAF), a federally funded housing assistance program funded through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  The goal of Mass HAF is to prevent foreclosures and displacement of homeowners who are at least 3 months behind on their mortgage payments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

MACDC, and other housing advocacy organizations, played an important role in advising the Commonwealth on program design and implementation. The Program establishes a central role for housing counseling in assisting homeowners with their applications, and is utilizing a network of other community-based organizations to get the word out far and wide, including to hard-to-reach communities and those with language barriers. 

Homeowners can check their eligibility and apply online. If homeowners need assistance in applying to the Mass HAF Program, in-depth counseling, or legal services, they can contact a local housing counseling agency (HCA). Homeowners can determine the HCA serving their area using the HCA finder tool. 


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Climate Conversations: Urban Tree Plantings & Youth Empowerment at Groundwork Lawrence

February 7th, 2022 by Neha Chinwalla

Photo from Groundwork Lawrence. 


For almost 22 years, Groundwork Lawrence (GWL) has focused on brownfields and park redevelopment, tree canopy coverage, and youth empowerment.  

“We center everything around the community so that the community is really telling us, not us telling the community, where their concerns are,” Deputy Director Lesly Melendez said. One of the community’s greatest concerns is high utility costs.  

Increased tree canopy coverage offers a solution to this concern. Areas with fewer trees have higher utility costs, while more trees lead to lower heating and cooling costs with more natural climate control. Trees also help combat Urban Heat Island Effect, which occurs when land cover is dominated by surfaces like asphalt that absorb heat 

One of the programs GWL leads is the Green Streets program. Launched in 2004, the initiative aims to increase the urban tree canopy across Lawrence by providing free trees to residents and businesses. The GWL team ensures trees are planted in appropriate areas across three Lawrence neighborhoods: the Arlington/Campagnone North Common, the O’Connell South Common, and Colonial Heights. With funding from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental AffairsGreening the Gateway Cities program, GWL planted almost 800 trees in the densest areas of Lawrence in 2021. 

GWL focuses on educating the community on the benefits and services provided by trees and greenspaces, while also offering paid opportunities for youth to engage around climate action. They have four youth program crews under their Green Team: So Fresh (urban agriculture and food), So Green (trails, parks, trees), So Community (community engagement and outreach), and the newest, So Reduce (recycling, upcycling, composting). During the summer of 2021, GWL expanded its program to 40 youth team members and 8 youth leaders.  

GWL is continuing to adapt and respond to the needs of the community during the pandemic. GWL has returned to offering nutrition programs in Lawrence public schools. Looking ahead to this year, GWL is aiming to match the programming additions they made in 2021 and continue to grow their efforts.  

We’ve grown as an organization in terms of staffing and programming. Now, it’s about really digging deep and putting those roots in the ground,” Lesly said, “and making sure we’re doing what the community really wants us to be doing.” 

For Lesly, the work is about much more than planting trees. Born and raised in Lawrence, Lesly’s favorite part about her job is having the opportunity to give back to a community that has given her so much. 

“As a kid, I saw some of these parks in such horrible conditions,” Lesly said. “Now, being able to be a part of a redevelopment of a park or creating a new park space, for not just this generation but generations moving forward, is probably the thing that excites me the most.” 

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