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King’s birthday fete represents the best of Boston

Ray Flynn
King’s birthday fete represents the best of Boston
Ray Flynn, Mel and Joyce King and Mayor Martin Walsh celebrate King’s birthday at the McKinley South End Academy. (Photo: Mayor’s Office photo by Don Harney)

The other day at the McKinley South End Academy, the students, teachers, civic leaders, Mayor Martin Walsh and I paid tribute to neighborhood activist Mel King. The old school gym where Mel and I played a lot of hard fought basketball games against each other many years ago was named after Mel King. A well-deserved tribute to a man who has been a friend to many over the past 89 years.

After the ceremony, one of the newcomers to the South End community came up to me and said, “Mayor, I’m curious. I’ve lived in the community 11 years, but what I heard about the old Boston by you and Mel King is not what I read about years ago. Especially the remarkable stories we all heard here today. Why do these Boston stories not get told today? Shouldn’t our young people hear and read about them. Wouldn’t it make them feel proud about their neighborhood, heritage and themselves. Why does everything have to be so negative?”

Well, Mel’s special day was not yet over. The Scholars Brigade of the McKinley Public School warmed the audience with a beautiful presentation of school unity and pride. One of the students told Mayor Walsh, Mel King and me, “You made us all feel so important being here in our school today.”

I responded, “It’s all of you students here today at the McKinley School who make us all proud to be able to meet the future leaders and citizens of our city. As parents and grandparents, you make us feel like all our hard work, determination and honesty was worth it. Whether our families were dock workers like mine and Mel’s, laborers like Marty’s, or worked in our hospitals and hotels like my wife’s from Ireland, you are proving to everybody that the future of Boston is still one of tradition, pride and hope.

Raymond L. Flynn is the former mayor of Boston and U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

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