Mel Miller: civil rights leader and son of Roxbury
On June 22, we gathered to honor Mel Miller, the founder and owner of the Bay State Banner for more than 57 years. We gathered not only to celebrate him for his work as a businessman, but also to thank him for being one of Boston’s most effective civil rights leaders. He was a civil right leader because, as longtime friend and fellow son of Roxbury Topper Carew said that night, “Brother Mel … was creatively bodacious. He dared to create an instrument called the Bay State Banner.” This instrument he used to “be our principal storyteller and our master weaver of a tapestry of the history of Roxbury” (and Massachusetts).… “His love and dedication to Roxbury has fueled his spirit and passion,” allowing him to keep the paper going “when other local papers are dropping like flies.”
When Miller started the paper in the mid-1960s, images in the media had already begun to drive us to political action, as is true today. Images of racial terrorism, from Emmett Till’s disfigured and mutilated corpse in his casket to the recent videotaped, slow-motion murder of George Floyd, inspire us to action and cause our society to change for the better, no matter how many in of our society want to maintain the racist status quo.
Since 1965, the Banner has been a sober, uplifting voice committed to advancing the interests of Black people and people of color in the greater Boston area. The paper has long been one of the best Black-owned weeklies in the country.
As we honored Miller last week, we thanked him for entrusting us with sustaining the newspaper that represents the best of his life’s work. As we move forward with the Banner, we want him to know we will continue the best practices that he and his staffers have established over the decades. The paper’s value and quality can be seen in its service to readers and also in its alumni, who include the late PBS NewsHour anchor Gwen Ifill and former New York Times reporter Lee Daniels, just to name a couple.
We plan to make a few changes to build upon the strong foundation that Miller has built. In many ways, we are restoring elements present in earlier editions, for example, by bringing back the Roving Camera feature and a sports section. We are adding food and travel stories and an art gallery page with guidance from notable artists like Paul Goodnight.
In addition, we are bulking up the Banner’s website with short videos to accompany stories. Our new online sports section will also stream select local high school and college games as part of our new sports library on the website. We are transforming the website into an interactive online resource by adding direct links to employment, business and educational opportunities. Those additions will help us provide more to the community we serve.
We will be expanding our news coverage into the five other New England states, ultimately producing three additional regional editions: Rhode Island, Connecticut and a combined one for New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont.
Thank you, Mel Miller, for the invaluable gift you have given to our beloved Roxbury and, in turn, all of Greater Boston, Massachusetts and the country. As the paper transitions to new ownership at Mitchell Stark Enterprises, we look forward to serving the Banner readers as you did and broadening the newspaper’s audience and impact for many more decades to come.
Thank you also, Mel Miller, for all your sacrifices over the years. We will make sure we continue to fight to make this country better for all people, as you have done as one of Boston’s most effective civil rights leaders.
— Ronald Mitchell and André Stark