Massachusetts Appleseed’s office is closed today in observance of Juneteenth, the annual holiday marking the day that federal troops marched into Galveston, Texas and freed those who remained enslaved more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. This act reminds us that freedom and justice are never easily given but must be fought for, and that the enforcement of legal rights is as essential as their mandate.

Once again, our commemoration of Juneteenth coincides with powerful, community-led demands for systemic change and renewed opportunities to dismantle the structures that fuel white supremacy and perpetuate racial injustice. As we confront the ways systemic, anti-Black racism has continually evolved and taken shape through destructive policies that deny access to justice, safety, and opportunity – from redlining, to the school-to-prison pipeline, and countless more manifestations – this Saturday serves as a reminder that America’s history is not past, but continues to inform our present inequities.

We are glad to see Massachusetts mark Juneteenth as an official state holiday this year, and there continue to be many ways to celebrate:

To our Black colleagues, leaders, and partners, we hope today and tomorrow are days of celebration, joy, and rest. To our white and non-Black colleagues of color, we invite you to join us in commemorating Juneteenth through education, reflection, and action by elevating and giving space to Black voices, engaging with Black history that too often goes untaught, and honoring and remembering the organizers and activists who have always pushed this country to live up to its foundational ideals. Together, we can take steps forward in our pursuit of a future where the full humanity of every person is protected and the promises of freedom, justice, and equity are realized.


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This spring, Massachusetts Appleseed joined over 250 companies, schools, community organizations, and others as participants in the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign, hosted by the Alliance of YWCAs of Massachusetts. Through three discussion sessions during April and into early May, Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members gathered together to discuss and reflect on the ways in which white supremacy is embedded in our education systems, experiences in employment, and every facet of our lives.

Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members participate in the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Participants from three separate discussion sessions: Deborah Silva (Executive Director), Melanie Rush (Research and Policy Assistant), Madeline Poage (Development and Communications Associate), Peter Tobani (Board Member), Zeia Fawaz (Spring Research Intern). Not pictured: Melanie Todman (Chair of the Board of Directors) and John Shutkin (Vice Chair of the Board of Directors).

Together, staff and Board members discussed, “The Muddled History of Anti-Asian Violence” by Hua Hsu, “Racism Is Not a Historical Footnote” by the legendary Bill Russell, “Rotundamente Negra (Rotundly Black)” by Shirley Campbell, and Kimberlé Crenshaw’s keynote address at the 2016 Women of the World festival.

A number of themes emerged throughout our conversations, with participants reflecting on the failure of the American education system to adequately educate students about systemic racism, the consequences of this failure, the impact of microaggressions, the importance of engaging directly with all perspectives, and more.

Our final discussion centered predominantly on Kimberlé Crenshaw’s keynote address, which resonated with staff particularly strongly. In it, Dr. Crenshaw describes the origin of the #SayHerName campaign and lists some of the many Black women killed through racist police violence – Eleanor Bumpurs, Margaret Mitchell, Michelle Cusseaux, Tanisha Anderson, Natasha McKenna – and how the women in these examples were being evicted, experiencing homelessness, in need of mental health services, or vulnerable in other ways. But rather than being treated with understanding or support, they were met with brutality, violence, and silence. At its most fundamental, Dr. Crenshaw’s address reminds us that racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and poverty are intertwined, and until we treat them as such, they will continue to persist.

Massachusetts Appleseed staff also utilized the digital pledge board provided by YW Boston during the campaign, committing to specific ways we will each participate in the fight to eliminate racism in our work and in our lives. Through these pledges, staff members aim to strengthen our ongoing work to develop projects through the lens of anti-racism and ensure all components that make up Massachusetts Appleseed – from governance, to programs, to fundraising – align with our Statement of Values. The Statement of Values was created collaboratively by staff and the Board of Directors in 2020 and through it, we are explicit in affirming that our commitment to promoting access to justice and opportunity goes hand in hand with our commitment to combating all forms of systemic racism.

Massachusetts Appleseed's digital pledge board, completed during the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Massachusetts Appleseed’s digital pledge board, completed during the 2021 Stand Against Racism Campaign.

Massachusetts Appleseed has recently deepened its decade-long work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by focusing on the specific ways girls of color are targeted and excluded from their learning environments. As we convene students, educators, advocates, and other community members together to inform and guide our research and advocacy efforts, the tools provided through this campaign will help us build an anti-racist, intersectional foundation on which to do so.

We are so grateful to YW Boston and the Alliance of YWCAs of Massachusetts for providing these resources, and to all the guest curators for their selections and discussion guides. We look forward to continuing to make space for these collaborative and essential conversations, hold ourselves accountable, and center anti-racism in our work to build a more just, inclusive future.

Recommendations for further reading and watching from Massachusetts Appleseed staff and Board members:


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Boston nonprofit receives 4 years of funding from Cummings Foundation

For Immediate Release

Contact: Deborah Silva, Massachusetts Appleseed, 617-482-8686,
Contact: Alison Harding, Cummings Foundation, 781-932-7093,

BOSTON, June 1, 2021 – Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program. The Boston-based organization was chosen from a total of 590 applicants during a competitive review process. It will receive $100,000 over four years.

Massachusetts Appleseed is a nonprofit organization that works in partnership with community organizations, pro bono attorneys, coalitions, and community members to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. The organization uses policy-driven investigations and powerful advocacy to remove the systemic barriers that prevent Massachusetts’ vulnerable populations from accessing their legal rights, education, and economic stability.

Staff from Massachusetts Appleseed celebrate generous support from Cummings Foundation.

Massachusetts Appleseed staff celebrate Cummings Foundation’s generous support.

“We are deeply grateful for this extraordinary and generous support from Cummings Foundation,” said Deborah Silva, Executive Director of Massachusetts Appleseed. “Over the past year, we have seen the needs of our communities rise, systemic inequities worsen, and the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately devastate the most vulnerable among us. This grant will help us meet this historic moment and push for community-informed solutions to ensure Massachusetts families and youth can exercise their legal rights, build pathways out of poverty and crisis, and achieve meaningful access to essential services and opportunities.”

These funds will support and grow Massachusetts Appleseed’s many initiatives to expand access to opportunity and rebalance the scales of the civil justice system to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for all. In particular, this award will support the organization’s work to end language discrimination immigrant families face in state courts and agencies and to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, focusing on the ways girls of color are unjustly targeted and punished in schools. This funding will also support Massachusetts Appleseed’s work to help young people experiencing homelessness overcome legal barriers and build safe, stable futures.

The Cummings $25 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties.

Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.

“We aim to help meet the needs of people in all segments of our local community,” said Cummings Foundation executive director Joel Swets. “It is the incredible organizations we fund, however, that do the actual daily work to empower our neighbors, educate our children, fight for equity, and so much more.”

With the help of about 80 volunteers, the Foundation first identified 140 organizations to receive grants of at least $100,000 each. Among the winners were first-time recipients as well as nonprofits that had previously received Cummings Foundation grants.

“We have adopted a democratic approach to philanthropy, which empowers an impressive roster of dedicated volunteers to decide more than half of all our grant winners each year,” said Swets. “We benefit from their diverse backgrounds and perspectives; they benefit from a meaningful and fulfilling experience; and the nonprofits often benefit from increased exposure and new advocates.”

This year’s grant recipients represent a wide variety of causes, including social justice, homelessness prevention, affordable housing, education, violence prevention, and food insecurity. The nonprofits are spread across 43 different cities and towns.

The complete list of 140 grant winners, plus more than 800 previous recipients, is available at

Cummings Foundation has now awarded more than $300 million to greater Boston nonprofits.

About Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice

Massachusetts Appleseed’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for Massachusetts residents by developing and advocating for systemic solutions to social justice issues. The nonprofit researches and identifies the ways in which the justice system, schools, and government agencies have systematically failed impoverished and vulnerable communities, challenges harmful public policies that perpetuate injustices and inequities, advocates for long-term solutions, and develops know-your-rights resources for those impacted. (

About Cummings Foundation

Woburn-based Cummings Foundation, Inc. was established in 1986 by Joyce and Bill Cummings and has grown to be one of the three largest private foundations in New England. The Foundation directly operates its own charitable subsidiaries, including New Horizons retirement communities in Marlborough and Woburn, and Veterinary School at Tufts, LLC in North Grafton. Additional information is available at