Highlights: Mandela Centenary Celebration

South Africa Partners, June 20, 2018

On Sunday, June 17, 2018, South Africa Partners and the JFK Library Foundation hosted an open discussion with South African activists Max and Elinor Sisulu at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum to honor Nelson Mandela’s Centenary. The event celebrated Mandela’s uniting leadership and reflected on its relevance today for the next generation of leaders who are carrying his vision forward. Young Bostonians from the Boston City Singers kicked off the day with an exuberant medley of traditional South African songs.

The event also remembered Mandela’s historic visit to Boston on June 23, 1990, an event that brought Boston communities together in celebration of democracy and racial justice.



Why We Celebrate Mandela's Centenary

Dr. Judy Bigby, South Africa Partners Executive Director

Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 years on July 18 this year. On this occasion we remember Nelson Mandela not only for the impact he had on his own nation, but also for the impact he had on ours. President Barack Obama often said that Mandela was one of the most important leaders who inspired him even though they were generations apart.

Today we remember the sacrifices Mandela made and appreciate how extraordinary it is that after spending 27 years in prison, upon his release at age 72 he led the effort to dismantle the legacy of apartheid. He and his peers tackled institutionalized racism and restored human rights for all South Africans. He withstood the challenge of bringing together a divided country when many expected the nation would go up in flames. President Obama recognized that Mandela’s “…extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit as well as his example of tolerance, compassion, and reconciliation are as meaningful today as they were in his lifetime.” Aspiring leaders can learn from his example and commit to those values as they look to the future.

Many of us in Boston witnessed firsthand the impact of Mandela’s leadership when he visited in June 1990 shortly after his release from prison. Boston was a city still uneasy with its own diversity and history of racism. Mandela noted the historical significance of Boston in the fight for independence and as a leader of the abolitionist movement. He acknowledged Massachusetts as the first state to divest its pension funds from companies that did business with South Africa. Nevertheless, in 1990, the city remained segregated and the memories of racial tensions after antibusing demonstrations in the 70’s and 80’s remained. I do not know whether Mandela was aware that the African American community of Roxbury, one stop on his tour of Boston, had taken a vote to secede from Boston and rename itself Mandela.

In Roxbury blacks cheered as he made his way to Madison Park High School where he addressed black youth about the importance of staying in school. Later when he spoke on the Esplanade, more than 200,000 people of all races greeted him and cheered as he joined arms with local leaders black and white. On that day, it felt like there was racial harmony. There was definitely a great sense of hope and a collective appreciation for Nelson Mandela as a visionary leader.

So this year, we celebrate Mandela with the hope that we will honor his memory for many years to come by meeting head on the challenges that we face in South Africa and in the US to achieve racial and economic justice and equality in both countries.

Thank you for joining us on this momentous occasion,

Photos by Paul Drake

First Fenway Porchfest Set for Tomorrow

BU Today, June 15, 2018
By Sarah Wells (COM’18)

It all started with a group of neighbors and a ukulele in Ithaca, N.Y., back in 2007. About 20 local musicians gathered on front porches to bring the community together through live music. What they didn’t know then: that first Porchfest would spread to local communities across the United States and Canada. Today, Porchfests have taken hold in big cities (Montreal, Philadelphia, and Kansas City, Mo.) and little towns (North Liberty, Iowa, and Grants Pass, Ore.).

In 2011 Somerville was the first town to bring Porchfest to the greater Boston area. This year, nine communities and neighborhoods around the city will host a Porchfest. The first annual Fenway Porchfest is tomorrow, Saturday, June 16, and should be a showstopper.

The afternoon event (noon to 4 pm) will feature 70 local musicians, bands, and ensembles performing at 25 Fenway locations. Both amateur and professional musicians will be on hand, including the Boston Pops Esplanade Brass and the Boston City Singers. Festival organizers plan to give special priority to musicians who live or work in the neighborhood.

Given the Fenway’s dearth of porches, tomorrow’s Porchfest stages will include green spaces, stoops, and patios.

Boston City Singers Awarded $100,000

Dorchester Nonprofit Receives Cummings Foundation Grant

BOSTON (May 31)—Boston City Singers is one of 100 local nonprofit organizations to receive a $100,000 grant from the Cummings Foundation’s $100K for 100program. As a Dorchester-based organization, we were chosen during a competitive review process from a total of 597 applications. The grant will be paid over four years.

Founded in 1995, Boston City Singers focuses on inclusion, access and social justice. We are known for our family atmosphere where diversity of all kinds is acknowledged and welcomed. We have created a unique community where love is born, peace is kept, and magic is real. Our 15 programs, for ages 4-18, are gateways to life-changing experiences.

Funds from the Cummings Foundation will support increased staff capacity for youth development programs and youth leadership training. “We are extremely grateful to Bill and Joyce Cummings and the Cummings Foundation for their investment in our youth,” said Founding Artistic Director Jane Money.

We are indebted to the nonprofit organizations like Boston City Singers that have a meaningful impact on the local communities where our colleagues and clients live and work,” said Joel Swets, Cummings Foundation’s Executive Director.  The Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings. The Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 11 million square feet of space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation. 



About Boston City Singers

Founded in 1995, Boston City Singers, along with its subsidiary Cambridge Children’s Chorus, is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing music education and creative youth development programming to children aged 4 to 18, regardless of financial means. The organization’s programs in Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Cambridge serve early 500 children with the majority of our youth residing in the urban neighborhoods of Dorchester, Mattapan, Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Hyde Park, Roslindale, and South Boston. In addition to music instruction and performance experience, Boston City Singers incorporates youth development and leadership-training opportunities. Since 1995, 100% of our graduating seniors have been accepted to four-year college programs. Additional information can be found at


About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons communities in Marlborough and Woburn. They have awarded over $220 million to Boston-area nonprofits to date. Bill Cummings released his self-written memoir, “Starting Small and Making it Big: An Entrepreneur’s Journey to Billion-Dollar Philanthropist,” in March 2018. Additional information is available at and

Milton teen to perform with Boston Pops

Patriot Ledger, May 6, 2018
By Patriot Ledger staff

Milton teenager Sam Higgins will sing with the Boston Pops at Symphony Hall on June 6.

Sam, 15, is one of three winners of the 10th annual Fidelity Investments Young Artists Competition, a state-wide competition for high school students. They will perform with maestro Keith Lockhart and the orchestra along with Sutton Foster, a Tony Award-winner and star of the television show “Younger.”

“It has been my dream to perform with the Boston Pops,” Sam said.

A freshman at Milton High School, Sam, started singing with the Boston City Singers at age 4. The Boston City Singers is a non-profit organization that provides music education to children ages 4 to 18.

“I’ve been singing since before I could talk,” Sam said. “And singing continues to be the biggest passion in my life. It is surreal that at the mere age of 15, I’m really starting to live out my dream -- I want to be an opera singer.”

Sam is the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Higgins. He was chosen as a winner of the competition for his performance of J.S. Bach’s “Bereite dich, Zion.”

In addition to his training with Boston City Singers, Sam studies with Eiji Miura, a graduate of Boston Conservatory at Berklee College of Music and a member of the faculty of New England Conservatory’s Preparatory School.

For more information log onto

Volunteers find unity, purpose at One Boston Day happenings

Volunteers created “peace flags” inside the IBEW Local 103 Freeport Hall on Sunday at an event organized by the Martin Richard Foundation. (Daniel Sheehan photo)

By Daniel Sheehan, Reporter Staff
Dorchester Reporter — April 18, 2018

Hundreds of volunteers gathered on Sunday at IBEW Local 103 in Dorchester to celebrate One Boston Day, a city-sponsored commemoration of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing that seeks to channel the “Boston Strong” ethos into a citywide day of service.

Sunday’s event in Dorchester, organized by the Martin Richard Foundation, featured live music, food trucks, service projects, and a variety of children’s arts and crafts activities, including one where kids make hundreds of “Peace Flags” with messages of hope and healing.

The crowd inside the auditorium was dotted with dozens of blue MR8 jackets. This year, 115 runners – including 2014 marathon winner Meb Keflezighi – ran the marathon for team MR8 in honor of Dorchester’s Martin Richard, who was eight years old when he was killed while watching the marathon pass on Boylston Street five years ago with his family. With the added star power and so many runners being sponsored, the foundation exceeded its goal by raising more than $1 million.

“It’s gratifying to see so many people step up,” said Gov. Charlie Baker, who spoke briefly at the event and lauded the “determination and perseverance” of the Richard family.

Team MR8 runner and volunteer Michael Gosselin said the race has new meaning for him. “I think what is great is that the Richards are an example of, when something does happen to you, it’s how you respond and move forward, and that’s what they’re teaching the children in the community, and that’s what really mattered to me the most.”

Another runner, Vicky Shen of South Boston, said her city has always been about kindness and community, but it was a terrible event that brought those qualities to the fore.

“It’s not about looking back at what happened in 2013, it’s about understanding what came out of it, and what the community has had in it the whole time,” she said. “Really there’s a lot of bridges being built.”

The Martin Richard Foundation’s Sierra Rothberg said the foundation has created a platform for people to join together and volunteer. She hopes that’s one legacy of what happened five years ago.

“Everybody wants to do something really good and positive on this day, and I think throughout the year, but this is kind of a moment for everyone to really pull together, and we’re really seeing that today, with numbers and spirit.”

Mayor Martin Walsh, who also spoke at the event, thanked the Richard family and all the runners and volunteers before inviting all the children in the building to join him up front with to thank Martin.

“Let’s, on three, thank Martin for teaching us valuable lessons every single day of his life, and for still teaching us today,” said the mayor. Toward the end of the event, a children’s choir from Boston City Singers performed a rendition of Andra Day’s “Rise Up,” followed by a moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., the time of the bombing in 2013.

Bill Richard concluded the event with a quote from his wife Denise: “Perhaps we rely on the notion that we need life-altering situations to make kindness matter. Kindness need not be displayed in random acts but with intent and purpose. Kindness is a vital part of the effort to foster a peaceful and just region, nation, and global community. Kindness supports human dignity, and should be shared freely, neighbor to neighbor, block by block, until everyone is recognized as equal.”

Simón Ríos of WBUR contributed to this report.

Community Consulting Teams of Boston Awards a Consulting Project Grant to Boston City Singers

(February 28, 2018 – Dorchester, MA) Community Consulting Teams of Boston (CCT) has selected Boston City Singers as one of its 11 pro bono management consulting projects for 2018.  CCT has awarded over 200 consulting grants to Boston-area nonprofits since its inception in 1990, providing an estimated $17 million value. Boston City Singers was chosen among Boston-area nonprofits based on its organizational stability and readiness to plan and implement change.  The CCT project will focus on Boston City Singer’s business strategy. “We are honored to be selected from such an impressive group of applicants and are so grateful for this support,” said Jane Money, Founding Artistic Director.

About Community Consulting Teams of Boston

Community Consulting Teams of Boston (CCT) amplifies the impact of Boston-area nonprofits through pro bono management consulting projects performed by teams of experienced MBAs from top-tier business schools.  Since 1990, CCT has helped over 170 Boston-area nonprofits, with more than 700  MBA alumni volunteering to address their most pressing business challenges.  Learn more about CCT at


About Boston City Singers

Boston City Singers was founded 23 years ago in the inner city neighborhood of Dorchester. Their vision is to transform the lives of inner city young people one voice at a time, inspiring and developing each heart to live with compassion in a world of differences.

They train and inspire the musician, student, and ambassador in each singer by providing the highest level of musical instruction and wide-ranging  performance opportunities to support personal development, celebrate diversity, and foster goodwill. Boston City Singers is proud to have 100% of those who graduate with them accepted to 4-year colleges and 96% have graduated on time thanks to their zeal, commitment and substantial scholarships.  This year, Boston City Singers graduates amassed over $300,000 in scholarships on the basis of staff support, recommendations and referrals.

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