The Move to Boston

In January, 1979, the CCI office moved from Reading to Boston, where we were provided a small office in the rooms of the Black Ecumenical Commission, 14 Beacon Street. That space was offered by Erna Ballantine (now Bryant), then the Director of the Black Ecumenical Commision, and a CCI Board member. While the suburbs were not abandoned, there was a clear change in focus, centered on organizing with people where they worked rather than where they lived. Many of those suburban people worked in Boston, and that is where we needed to be.

Before we left Reading, one of the most moving events of my life took place when two Maryknoll nuns came out from Boston to visit. There had been no contact with them until they phoned and said they wanted to meet with me. The day was a pleasant day, and the three of us sat on the front church lawn, ate our bag lunches, and shared our dreams about peace and justice. The sharing of bread and drink was quite like communion for me, with two of the most lovable and beautiful people. Before they left to return to their Boston base, we agreed that when they came back from a mission to El Salvador, we wanted to work more together. Those two women were Ita Ford and Maura Clarke. Not long after that, I, and much of the world read of their brutal rape and murder in El Salvador. Their pictures remain prominent in my living room, and the spirit they brought to me will always inspire my longing for the peace the world did not give them.

History was like a dog yapping at my heals, insisting on attention. Some of the great white leaders of the Abolition Movement, Garrison, the Grimke sisters, L. Maria Child gained attention as quotes came from them. They were then just pertinent quotes from another time, but constituted a dawning of the importance of history, still to become prominent in my life. The spirit of Baldwin was at work on my heart of “dis-ease”. Now I also realize that the powerful, moving spirit of Garrison was already meeting my spirit.

From that first room in the offices of the Black Ecumenical Commission, one of the amazing memories was sharing space with the black writer William Worthy. Bill had for years followed and written about revolutionary movements in the world. Once I remember he let me stand over his shoulder as he typed his fury at a situation I do not recall; I said to Bill then, “I surely hope you are never mad at me!”. His writing of a truth usually ignored by the majority press was remarkable; I treasured the opportunity to know him. From the early days of sharing space with Bill and Erna, CCI has moved five times within the building, where it still greets people, and does wonderful education and work for racial justice.

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