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‘Doers’ one and all: MassLive’s profiles of emerging Black leaders (Editorial)

Emerging Black leaders in Massachusetts, clockwise from top left, Andrea Campbell, Abyssinia Haile, Justin Haynes, Willie Burnley Jr., Ariaun Stewart, Sean Rose, Kenny Lumpkin, and Regina Hudson. (Staff and courtesy photos)


Today, on Juneteenth, MassLive shared short profiles of emerging Black leaders. We hope readers are as inspired as we are by the social justice missions that guide them. While they’ve found different ways to make a difference, they share an important quality.

All are doers unafraid of rising to a challenge.

 In shaping these profiles, we asked these leaders about the significance of Juneteenth, the federal holiday created in 2021 that the nation celebrates today. The date is linked to the day, in 1865, when enslaved people in Texas finally learned that President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation had set them free years before.

“Juneteenth means to me freedom,” said Giselle Gaines of Springfield, who works to make health care accessible to older residents.

“It means expression of who you are,” said Justin Haynes of Springfield, who created a clothing line, JUS10H. 

The profiles provide insight into what animates the activism that is producing meaningful benefits, every day. In Springfield alone, they include the Safe Space program for LGBTQ+ young people, afterschool programs and, in Northampton, one activist’s commitment to care for fellow veterans. 

Before those successes, there were hurdles – including many imposed by longstanding racial inequities. Out of that comes examples of community-building and mentorship that holds the power to rise above disadvantage and doubt. The profiles recount times when these people tackled harsh realities head-on.

Often, these activists needed first to care for loved ones, and themselves, before turning their focus to achieving wider goals for their communities.

Change, it is clear, isn’t for cowards.

We hope readers spend time with these remarkable people and consider their thoughts on overcoming setbacks.
 Here are a few passages from the profiles that we found especially inspiring, all in these activists’ own words:

– From Giselle Gaines: “My advice is to bet on you and follow your passion. You will never know where it might lead you to. Build meaningful relationships because, together with the right people, change will happen.”

– From Tiffany Allecia, executive director of the Springfield Creative City Collective: “Knowledge is power, and by understanding the root causes of systemic issues, you can better advocate for change.”

– From LaMar Cook, deputy director of Gov. Maura Healey’s western Massachusetts office in Springfield: “It begins with us. I would love to see more of our youth being groomed in government and politics to create positive change and equity for their communities.”

– From Shenell Ford, founder of Heart2Heartbeat Lactation & Wellness: “Find your village and lean in, as often as you need.”

– From Abyssinia Haile, a 17-year-old rising senior at Minnechaug Regional High School: “There are so many inequities I witness on a daily basis in my school and throughout my own school district, and it pains me to go on with my life without doing anything or not speaking up.”

– From Terrell Joyner, who helps people develop financial literacy: “In poverty-stricken areas and even more so in minority communities, financial literacy is hard to come by and not talked about in the home.”

– From Payton Shubrick, founder and CEO of 6 Bricks, a cannabis store: “Oftentimes your best moments are on the other side of fear. Stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready.”

– From Sina Holloman, who works to care for elders: “Break through the noise and become who you are destined to be. You are capable of and have the ability to overcome any and every obstacle placed in front of you. Remain persistent and consistent with your vision and goals. Decide and act with purpose and true intention. Trust and believe in yourself always. You can do it.”

– And from Kenny Lumpkin, a Springfield restaurant owner: “Juneteenth is, in my honest opinion, another American holiday that we should all celebrate. I believe Juneteenth should be in [collaboration] with the Fourth of July, as we all, as Americans, celebrate liberation and freedom in this country.”

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