Current temperature in Boston - 62 °
Get access to a personalized news feed, our newsletter and exclusive discounts on everything from shows to local restaurants, All for free.
Already a member? Sign in.
The Bay State Banner
The Bay State Banner

Trending Articles

Actions of Mississippi police Goon Squad ‘just tip of the iceberg’

‘Framing Freedom: The Harriet Hayden Albums’ offers glimpse of Black lives in Civil War-era Boston

Banner [Virtual] Art Gallery


The Legacy Pioneers: Champions of Equity Awards

The Legacy Pioneers: Champions of Equity Awards

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We are so proud to present The Legacy Pioneers: Champions of Equity Awards, surrounded by the individuals who strive, every day, to contribute to an equitable and just Commonwealth. It is with purpose that we are holding this event during Black History Month, as we feel our community is forging economic equity and rewriting history daily. We acknowledge that there is still much to be done, but we must also recognize that we have made great strides.

The recipients of our awards, our Icons, Rising Forces, Dynamic Duos, and In Loving Memory honorees, have contributed to the betterment of our community by addressing the economic disparities impacting our region. The criteria for the awards — commitment, influence, impact, engagement and courage — embody the characteristics needed to perpetuate dynamic change, as demonstrated by our incredible Legacy Pioneers.

In the face of resistance and backlash against diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives and other civil rights issues, the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) and our hosting partners — Builders of Color Coalition, Embrace Boston, Mill Cities Community Investments (MCCI), New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund (NCF), and The Partnership, Inc. — believe it is essential to publicly recognize our honorees for their accomplishments in business, education, policy reform and advocacy.

We hope that by bringing awareness to their achievements, the movement to close the racial wealth gap and remove barriers to opportunity for Black and Brown communities will persist with renewed inspiration. We are confident that by celebrating our honorees and their tireless efforts, a new generation of Black leaders will be encouraged to use their own strengths, strategies, innovation, and creativity to build on the foundation laid by our Legacy Pioneers.

Thank you for joining us during Black History Month to honor the Legacy Pioneers and celebrate our shared local Black history, present, and future.

In unity,
Nicole Obi
President & CEO, Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA)





Nia Evans

A dynamic leader in community transformation and social justice, Nia Evans is director of the Boston Ujima Project, which focuses on organizing Greater Boston neighbors, workers, business owners and investors to create a community-controlled economy.

Passionate about breaking down barriers between analysts and individuals with lived experiences, Evans recognizes the importance of diverse expertise in shaping effective policies. In addition to her role at the Ujima Project, Evans is a co-creator of the Frames Debate Project — a multimedia policy debate program that delves into the intersection of drug policy, mental health services and incarceration in Massachusetts. Nia’s leadership is characterized by her remarkable commitment to community empowerment and her role in spearheading initiatives that address pressing societal issues.


Glynn Lloyd

Glynn Lloyd is executive director of Mill Cities Community Investments, Massachusetts’ first Black-led Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and a founding member of several community improvement groups, including the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) and the Foundation for Business Equity.

Lloyd previously spearheaded the Business Equity Initiative at Eastern Bank, designed to scale up Black and Latino enterprises in Eastern Massachusetts. He played a pivotal role in the local food movement and contributed significantly to establishing the Urban Farming Institute (UFI).

Lloyd is the Founder of City Fresh Foods, a nationally-renowned food service business, and over 20 years grew it on average 15% annually to an 8-figure revenue.  Recently City Fresh Foods developed an Employee Stock Purchase Plan where a substantial amount of employees are now owners.


Ayanna Pressley

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley is an activist, a legislator, a survivor and the first woman of color to be elected to Congress from Massachusetts, after being the first woman of color elected to the Boston City Council. Throughout her career, Pressley has fought to ensure that those closest to the pain are closest to the power, driving and informing policymaking. In Congress, she has championed justice and healing: reproductive justice, justice for immigrants, consumers, seniors, workers, survivors of sexual violence, and formerly and currently incarcerated individuals.

She has also turned her experience living with alopecia into action, becoming a leading voice in raising awareness and support for the alopecia community across the nation. She currently serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.




John Cruz

John B. Cruz III is president and CEO of Cruz Companies, the largest minority-owned multi-discipline construction, real estate and property management firm in the region. Raised in a family with ties to the Cape Verde Islands, Cruz began his career in construction in 1956, working alongside his father.

A graduate of Wentworth Institute of Technology, Cruz co-founded the John B. Cruz Construction Company in 1969. Under his leadership, the company flourished, completing significant projects like The Fortress, Council Towers and the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute. He has actively advocated for minority contractors and fought against redlining and displacement in Roxbury.

Now in its third generation, Cruz Companies’ new motto, “Pioneering Progress, Empowering Communities,” reflects its dedication to continuous improvement and equitable opportunities nationwide.


Marvin Gilmore

Marvin Gilmore, co-founder of Unity Bank and Trust Co., Boston’s first Black-owned commercial bank, contributed to the creation of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency. As CEO of the Community Development Corporation of Boston, Gilmore played a pivotal role in the development of the Southwest Corridor, Roxbury and the South End.

Honored for his World War II service, Gilmore received the French Republic’s Legion of Honor distinction.

He currently serves on several prominent nonprofit boards. Gilmore also established the Marvin & Lorna Gilmore Foundation for Black and international students at Brandeis University with his late wife. His life story is captured in the biography “Marvin Gilmore: Crusader for Freedom” by Paul Katzeff. Gilmore’s legacy includes his dedication to civil rights activism, entrepreneurship and community building.


Colette Phillips

Colette Phillips is president and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications, a pioneering public relations and marketing firm in Boston. With over three decades of experience, she is an influential figure in multicultural marketing and a trusted strategic advisor to C-level executives.

Colette is also the founder and president of Get Konnected! and The GK Fund, fostering cross-cultural relationships and inclusivity in both business and community engagement.

Under her leadership, Colette Phillips Communications specializes in strategic public relations, branding and diversity communications. The firm has been recognized among the top 25 PR firms in Boston by the Boston Business Journal. Colette’s impact extends beyond business, with service on a variety of local civic and nonprofit boards.


Darry Settles

Darryl Settles, president of Catalyst Ventures Development and managing partner of Catalyst RCP, plays a pivotal role in identifying and executing initiatives that benefit Boston’s diverse communities. Recognized as one of Boston’s Most Influential Men of Color, he boasts a career of 30+ years in entrepreneurship and business, with a focus on hospitality and real estate investments and development.

His commitment to empowering minority groups is evident through roles as co-founder of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA), Builders of Color Coalition (BCC) and Boston Real Estate Investment Fund (BREIF).

Numerous accolades include being named one of Boston Magazine’s 150 Most Influential Bostonians. His career is marked by dedication to providing resources and opportunities that encourage wealth creation and empowerment in Boston’s diverse landscape.


Richard Taylor

Richard L. Taylor, chairman of the Taylor-Smith Companies, oversees multiple real estate business entities. A seasoned professional with years of experience in law and real estate, he has a notable track record in residential, retail and commercial real estate development.

Taylor played a key role in transforming Boston’s World Trade Center. He also served as the state’s secretary of transportation.

He holds JD and MBA degrees from Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School, as well as degrees from Oxford University and Boston University, where he was its first Rhodes Scholar.

His leadership extends to various boards, including the MBTA and the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He founded the Minority Developers Association and serves as Founding Director of Suffolk University’s Center for Real Estate.


Teri Williams

OneUnited Bank President and COO Teri Williams leads the implementation of strategic initiatives and oversees day-to-day operations, including retail, marketing and technology, Ms. Williams has consolidated multiple banks into OneUnited, creating a powerful national brand offering innovative products and services. Williams holds an MBA with honors from Harvard University. Beyond her corporate role, Williams is dedicated to community service, serving as the former Chairperson of the Black Economic Council of Massachusetts (BECMA) and director of the 79th Street Corridor Initiative in Miami, Florida.

Williams authored “I Got Bank! What My Granddad Taught Me About Money,” a book for urban youth.

As the leader of the largest Black-owned bank in the U.S., Williams continues to empower and uplift urban communities with impactful leadership and advocacy.




Benaree and Fletcher Wiley

Benaree “Bennie” Wiley and Fletcher “Flash” Wiley have collectively dedicated their lives to leadership, philanthropy and service.

Bennie, graduated Howard University with a B.A. in marketing and later earned an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School in 1972. She became president and CEO of The Partnership, Inc. in Boston in 1991. Under her leadership, The Partnership played a pivotal role in integrating over 1,300 African Americans into the corporate community.

Flash Wiley became the first African American from the State of Indiana appointed to a military academy. As an Air Force Academy and Harvard Law School alumnus, Flash practiced law for almost four decades, co-founding the largest minority-dominant law firm in New England, Budd, Reilly and Wiley. He joined PRWT Services, Inc., in 1996, contributing to its recognition as Black Enterprise Magazine’s 2009 Company of the Year. Flash has also been extensively involved in civic and charitable activities, founding the Governor’s Commission on Minority Business Development in 1984

The Wileys’ legacy, marked by selfless commitment and determination, remains a guiding force for future leaders.


Debprah and Duane Jackson

Deborah and Duane Jackson, united by their commitment to racial equity, economic inclusion and access to quality education and their strong marital bond, also stand as influential figures in their respective fields.

Deborah Jackson, president emerita of Cambridge College, has forged a lasting impact in the nonprofit sector. She’s led the American Red Cross of Eastern Massachusetts, The Boston Foundation, Boston Children’s Hospital and Morgan Memorial Goodwill Industries, Inc.

She has served on numerous influential boards and commissions, including a Mayor’s Task Force, state commissions, four major nonprofits, a bank, three colleges and a private high school. She also serves on the Board of the AICU in Massachusetts, and as a member of the New England Chapter of The National Association of Corporate Directors.

Duane Jackson, an accomplished architect and founder of Alinea Capital Partners, crafted an enduring heritage in real estate and development. His journey includes serving as chairman of the board of the Massachusetts Port Authority, where he championed historic diversity and inclusion policies that can be credited for changing the landscape of Boston’s Seaport district, with minority-owned developments like the Omni Hotel.

The Jacksons’ joint dedication to fostering diversity and community advancement emphasizes a collaboration that transcends traditional boundaries, crafting a lasting impact in their respective professional fields and the communities they touch.




Bruce Bolling

Boston politician and businessman Bruce Carlton Bolling emerged as a prominent figure in Massachusetts, following in the footsteps of his father, state Sen, Royal L. Bolling, a key advocate for public schools desegregation. A graduate of English High School and Northeastern University, Bolling earned a master’s degree from Antioch University, now Cambridge College.

In 1981, Bolling was elected to the Boston City Council and made history as he became the body’s first Black president in 1986.

In 1993, Bolling took a step further, running for mayor of Boston. From 2000 until his passing in 2012, Bolling served as director of MassAlliance. In 2015, his legacy was further honored when the former Ferdinand Building in Roxbury was renamed the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building.


Kenneth Guscott

Roxbury native Kenneth I. Guscott was a World War II veteran, community leader and entrepreneur who played a pivotal role in shaping Boston’s landscape.   

After military service, Guscott, graduated from the Merchant Marine Academy and the Bettis Reactor Engineering School with a nuclear engineering degree.

A prominent figure in the civil rights movement, he was president of the Greater Boston NAACP during a crucial period of school desegregation. His advocacy extended to minority-owned business support, culminating in the 2003 development of State Street Financial Center — the largest American office tower financed and planned by minority investors at the time.

Guscott’s visionary efforts endure, notably with the development of a 25-story commercial and residential building in Nubian Square, showcasing his commitment to community development and economic empowerment.


Leon Nelson

Leon T. Nelson was founder of the Greater Roxbury Chamber of Commerce (GRCC), former president of the Boston NAACP, 16-year director of the NAACP annual national conventions, and former administrator with Freedom House, Inc. and ABCD.

The GRCC stemmed from a series of meetings and concepts formed by a group at the Roxbury Multi-Service Center in the early 1990s. This organization served as a pillar for minority business advocacy, access, opportunity and advancement in the city of Boston.

The GRCC produced the Black Business Directory, highlighting Boston’s Black power leaders in all business and community sectors, and was a strategic partner and member of the Boston Chamber of Commerce.

Many Black Bostonians benefited from Nelson’s legacy and impact in business, Black organizations and community.


Bill Owens

Bill Owens, the first Black man elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, was a visionary leader who pioneered the call for reparations for descendants of slaves.

His impact resonates through initiatives he spearheaded, including establishment of the Office of Minority and Women’s Business Assistance and his role in the development of Roxbury Community College and the Reggie Lewis Center. Owens moved to Boston at 15 and earned degrees from Boston University, Harvard and UMass Amherst. In his political career, Owens worked to secure funding for education, advocated economic empowerment, initiated youth summer jobs programs and played a key role in passing significant legislation, including an assault weapons ban.

Owens‘ passing on Jan. 22, 2022 marked the end of a remarkable life of public service.


Archie and Beth Williams

Archie and Elizabeth “Beth” Williams, the father-daughter duo behind Roxbury Technology Leon T. Nelson Corporation (RTC), a manufacturing and distribution business, left behind a revered legacy in the landscape of business, community activism and social responsibility through their significant contributions.

Archie Williams, a World War II veteran and a lawyer, founded Freedom Industries in 1968 with a vision that black-owned businesses could be catalysts for positive change in economically depressed urban areas. This conglomerate included ventures like Freedom Electronics and Engineering, which thrived by assembling transformers, cables and printed circuit boards for major firms like Raytheon and IBM. Archie’s commitment to community was evident as he hired locally, supported flexible working hours and provided financial assistance to employees in need.

In 1995, he became president of Roxbury Technology Corporation (RTC), a manufacturer and distributor of toner cartridges for laser printers.

Beth Williams continued the legacy of social responsibility and entrepreneurship. Taking the helm at RTC in 2003, Beth not only transformed the business into an award-winning, multimillion-dollar enterprise, but also dedicated herself to Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) reform. Over 15% of RTC’s workforce comprised former convicts,

Beth’s achievements earned her prestigious awards from American Express, the New England Minority Supplier Development Council and Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

Archie, a Brown University trustee emeritus, passed away Nov. 28, 2002. Beth died April 21, 2021 at age 57. They leave a lasting legacy of social change, community empowerment and the enduring impact one family can have on a community.





We thank the following organizations, and their leadership, for their foresight and continuing support.




Black History Month, Legacy Pioneers, Legacy Pioneers: Champions of Equity Awards