On Thursday, May 18th, The Castle Group, in collaboration with media partner GBH, hosted the Mission to Motion: Health, Wellness, and Equity panel discussion. Held at the GBH Studio at the Newsfeed Café in the Boston Public Library, the spring event brought together four local changemakers: Toy Burton, founder & executive director of DeeDee’s Cry; Andrea Cohen, founder of HouseWorks; Michael Curry, president & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers; and José F. Massó, chief of Human Services for the City of Boston.
Together, the panelists engaged in a conversation moderated by Paris Alston, Co-Host of GBH’s “Morning Edition” and spoke to more than 40 early- and mid-career professionals about the causes, people and purpose that led them to make a wider impact on their communities.
The two-hour event began with 30 minutes of networking, and the panel kicked off with a warm welcome from Hilary Allard, managing director of The Castle Group. Paris Alston opened the 45-minute panel discussion with panelist introductions, during which they explained how their passions and personal missions inform the work they do as professionals every day.
DeeDee’s Cry Founder Toy Burton, who lost her sister—the organization’s namesake—to suicide and is a suicide survivor herself, said,
“Historically, suicide prevention has been geared to the white community, and unfortunately, it’s been a myth that Black people don’t die by suicide.”
Burton emphasized that DeeDee’s Cry is the only organization in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that places an exclusive emphasis on the importance of behavioral health and suicide prevention for BIPOC populations. Noting that the state needs more of those resources, she said,
“We don’t want to wait for them to become attempt survivors or people who died by suicide. We want to give them that support now. We want to step in before there is a crisis.”
Andrea Cohen, founder of HouseWorks, a leading elderly home-care company in the Northeast, spoke about her own experience with her aging parents. A long-time advocate for the elderly and their caregivers, Cohen spoke on the rising importance of elder care to state and federal agencies. Due to increased costs on taxpayers, she said,
“There’s a lot going on at the state level, there’s a lot going on federally in aging advocacy. For those of us who have been advocates for the last 30 or 40 years, it feels like it’s about time…We are being noticed, and we’re stronger than ever on the advocacy front now.”
Michael Curry, president & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, which promotes population health equity for all, said witnessing the impact of “racial injustice, the racism, and the systemic issues” on the communities he grew up in motivates him to this day. He reminded attendees that when policy isn’t improved, real people are impacted, saying, “When we don’t deal with systemic racism, we’re losing lives.” A believer in the power of leadership that reflects the communities being served, Curry highlighted that he is hopeful and encouraged by the diversification he’s seeing in the state.
“We have never seen a time in Massachusetts and in Boston where we talk about health equity. We’ve never seen a time where black and brown folks run stuff… We actually run systems now. We are actually chiefs and mayors in key positions and now we can move an agenda and resource folks in the way we need to. That’s the exciting part about where we are now.”
José F. Massó, chief of Human Services for the City of Boston, a role which ensures a more equitable city by overseeing key departments that provide services to residents, and a lifelong resident of the city of Boston said,
“I had to navigate these systems…As I’m discussing it, I’m not too far removed. I’m discussing it from lived experience. I’m discussing it from somebody who I know has gone through it.” Massó, who was appointed to his role in April 2022, spotlighted the importance of community input, saying, “I think one of the best things I’ve been able to do within this past year is listen, and truly listen… let me really figure out what the needs are and how we could be potentially solving them. Because the community has the answers.”
Audience members were invited to ask questions throughout the panel conversation. The event was open to those of the public who are passionate about our region and city, and about their ability to help create change, positive impact and a lasting legacy.
Mission to Motion was first launched in partnership with the Fierce Urgency of Now Festival in 2021, organized by the Greater Boston’s Chamber of Commerce’s City Awake program. The networking lunch provided attendees the opportunity to hear from community leaders on how they use their businesses to move the city of Boston forward. Following the success of two FUN installments of Mission to Motion, The Castle Group partnered with GBH to launch a signature initiative of events that will center around various topics.
We’d like to thank our event sponsor, the Eos Foundation, for helping us to provide attendees with food and refreshments from Venezuelan vendor Carolicious, and the Mission to Motion Advisory Board for their support:
- Ché Anderson, Assistant Vice Chancellor for City & Community Relations at UMass Chan Medical School
- Daren Bascome, Managing Director/Creative Director, Proverb
- Damon Cox, Head of Next Practice and Inclusive Growth, MassChallenge
- Andrés Holder, Executive Director, Boston Children’s Chorus
- Robin Kane, Founder/Principal Consultant, RK Evaluation & Strategies
- Kanna Kunchala, Chief Strategy Officer, Chief of Staff, City Year, Co-Chair of Quin Impact Fund
- Robert Lewis, Jr., President and CEO, Boys & Girls Club of Boston
- Sandra Lopez Burke, Managing Director, Community and Government Relations, GBH
- Asia Mei, Chef and Owner, Moonshine 152
- Imari Paris Jeffries, Executive Director, Embrace Boston
- Gary Prado, Senior Legal Counsel, Fidelity Investments
- Celia Richa, Senior VP, Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
- bec rollins, Vice Chancellor, University Relations, University of Massachusetts Lowell
- Andrea Silbert, President, Eos Foundation
- Wendy Spivak, Principal/Co-Founder, The Castle Group
Watch the full program | Mission to Motion: Health, Wellness, and Equity
Up Next | Mission to Motion: Civic Engagement
The next installment of Mission to Motion will take place as part of the City Awake and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 Fierce Urgency of Now Festival on Thursday, September 14, from 1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. at MassChallenge. To register or learn more visit missiontomotion.com.