Photograph of Mel King on his 60th Birthday. © 2023 Linda Haas Photography, LindaHaasPhoto.com
BOSTON (April 26, 2023) – In INSITES this week: Mel King was a passionate leader, teacher, elected official, colleague, friend, and advocate for social justice and civil rights in the Boston area for most of his 94 years. As a community leader, he has had as much influence on the City of Boston as any other political figure during the past century.
But the legacy of Mel King and the impact of his advocacy for better communities and increased opportunities for BIPOC residents extends far beyond Boston. One of his greatest accomplishments is the movement he initiated to create community development systems and deliver economic empowerment that has improved life for people in every corner of Massachusetts, and which continues to this day.
As a state representative, Mel King was the founding father of CEDAC – the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation. In the 1970s, he convened a series of weekly working group sessions of community activists and planners at MIT– the “Wednesday Morning Breakfast Club.” CEDAC’s first executive director, Carl Sussman, was a participant in those planning sessions. Mel turned those weekly discussions into legislation that addressed the need for credit, capital, and technical assistance for community development organizations.
This legislation was enacted in 1978 as Chapter 40H, which created CEDAC, as well as the Community Development Finance Corporation (since renamed Mass. Growth Capital Corporation), and established the definition of a community development corporation in statute. In essence, this forward-thinking law created an infrastructure for community development in Massachusetts, which created one of the most robust networks of community development organizations in the nation.
As Mel wrote in his 1981 book CHAIN OF CHANGE: Struggles for Black Community Development: “CDFC and CEDAC provide clear examples of how to use the legislative process to set up institutions which can provide ongoing assistance for community development through community control.”
In 2019, CEDAC celebrated its 40th anniversary with a special event honoring Mel King’s legacy and the accomplishments of the organization. At the event, King was recognized for his role in creating the program and for his decades of service to communities. The impact of King’s work to promote community development can be seen and felt in housing, community organizing and planning, and youth programs across the entire state of Massachusetts. His advocacy, his legislative initiatives, and the programs they created – which sustain to this day – have been credited with helping to revitalize numerous cities and towns.
As his memory and legacy are honored and celebrated, we at CEDAC will always remain true to his vision to strengthen communities across the Commonwealth by providing financial and technical assistance for affordable housing and child care development.
CEDAC is a public-private community development financial institution that provides project financing and technical expertise for community-based and other non-profit organizations engaged in effective community development in Massachusetts. CEDAC’s work supports two key building blocks of community development: affordable housing and early care and education. CEDAC is also active in state and national housing preservation policy research and development and is widely recognized as a leader in the non-profit community development industry. For additional information on CEDAC and its current projects, please visit www.cedac.org.