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Under Paris Jeffries’ leadership, King Boston making some big moves, including $1m gift to Roxbury church

A nonprofit is raising money for a monument, and much more; King Boston gave $1m to Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury

Imari Paris Jeffries, executive director for King Boston.Chris Morris for The Boston Globe

When Imari Paris Jeffries joined King Boston in the spring of 2020, the initiative had raised about $4 million for a memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta.

Paris Jeffries knew he needed much more than that. Beyond the memorial, there is the spinoff work that King Boston had promised: a festival, a research center in Roxbury to study racial justice issues, a gift for Twelfth Baptist Church where King himself once preached. It seemed like a daunting task, especially during a pandemic.

Flash forward 16 months. It’s fair to say Paris Jeffries has exceeded all expectations as executive director for King Boston: He has secured $20 million in pledges. It will cost about $10 million to build the memorial on the Boston Common, a sculpture called The Embrace that will likely be done by the end of 2022. Paris Jeffries will soon have a payroll with as many as 10 people. Then there’s the center in Roxbury to be funded, too.

On Monday, King Boston fulfilled one part of its mission. The affiliate of the nonprofit Boston Foundation gave $1 million to the Twelfth Baptist Church, the church’s biggest-ever gift. Among those at the check presentation: senior pastor the Rev. Willie Bodrick II.


The money will be used to further the church’s mission. Some examples that Bodrick cites in an interview: affordable housing work, speaker programs, feeding the hungry, renovations of the church itself.

“It’s a big donation, but there’s so much work to do,” Bodrick said. “We see this as the beginning to do even greater things in the city of Boston.”

The King Boston initiative was started by entrepreneur Paul English, who launched an effort to build a King memorial in 2017 by pledging $1 million of his own money. English still chairs the effort but has turned over many responsibilities to Paris Jeffries.


“He has helped when he needed to help and he has stepped back when he needed to step back,” Paris Jeffries said.

King Boston began as part of The Boston Foundation, which plans to spin the group off as a separate nonprofit. That will become necessary as King Boston’s Center for Economic Justice — a research hub, marketplace, event space, and museum — in Roxbury gets closer to fruition. The concept grew out of community discussions around the memorial, and the widespread belief that organizers needed more than just a statue to honor the Kings’ legacy.

Paris Jeffries would like to start a new fund-raising campaign in January, for the new 25,000-square-foot center King Boston wants to build in Roxbury — he hopes on a city-owned parcel on Tremont Street known as “P3.” He estimates he may need to raise another $50 million.

The rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, particularly in response to George Floyd’s killing in 2020, helped open doors. A year ago, Paris Jeffries began an effort to secure $250,000 donations from at least 25 businesses and other organizations. So far, 17 have stepped up.

“People are looking for what they can do and how they can contribute,” Paris Jeffries said. “We’ve had a hopeful message about what Boston could be that people wanted to hear.”

Berkshire Bank aims to woo investors by “doing good”

Berkshire Bank is raising its game, with the hopes of getting noticed as an ESG stock. The “environmental, social and governance” label is aimed at drawing investors who want to place their money with a company that’s doing good, as well as doing well.


Berkshire’s turnaround efforts were foundering before the Boston-based bank hired Nitin Mhatre from Webster Bank to be chief executive in January. Mhatre must be doing something right: The stock has risen more than 40 percent this year to the $24 range, though it was briefly trading in the $28s this summer.

Part of Mhatre’s plan is to improve Berkshire’s ESG score, which outside evaluators give to the bank’s socially conscious efforts. Toward that end, Berkshire is lending and investing some $5 billion over three years in everything from small business loans to community donations and financing low-carbon projects. Berkshire will continue to work with the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, the Boston nonprofit led by Steve Grossman, as part of this effort, to help small businesses in underresourced communities.

Previously, the bank was spending about $3 billion on these items over three years, according to a spokeswoman.

Berkshire issued a detailed list of its ESG commitments last week. “It puts pressure on us now that we’ve put those numbers out for everyone to see,” Mhatre said.

Good question, Jim

Everywhere he goes, Governor Charlie Baker gets “the question.” Will he or won’t he run for a third term?

Baker braced for it again during his virtual visit with the New England Council last week. First, Baker dutifully plowed through three of his go-to topics these days: the state’s progress in the COVID-19 fight, the administration’s McKinsey & Co. report on the “future of work,” and his quest to pry $2.9 billion in stimulus funds from the Legislature for causes such as housing and workforce skills training.


Baker admitted to New England Council chief Jim Brett that he does indeed have a list of projects in mind should the state land an expected windfall in federal infrastructure funding. The only one he specifically named was the replacement of the two road bridges over the Cape Cod Canal.

Brett informed Baker he had one final question for the governor. Baker seemed sure he knew what it would be. But he was wrong.

Brett asked: “What grade would you give Mac Jones?”

“That wasn’t exactly what I thought you were going to ask me,” Baker responded.

Baker then proceeded to say the rookie Patriots quarterback should be graded on a full season of work, and not just one game — fitting for an elected official who might ask voters for another four-year term in 2022. Maybe Baker ended up talking politics instead of sports after all.

Welcome to the Jungle, or . . . Somerville

Rock on, Mayor Joe. Don’t forget to pack up the Fender and concert T’s when you leave City Hall.

Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville took a little flack on Twitter last week after a link was posted to a Boston Globe story describing how he ushered in a development boom, and how things might change under a more left-leaning mayor.


Someone with the Twitter handle @Eustice6464 replied: “Having Joe leave will be a breath of fresh air. Not sure that many people will miss him as mayor . . .”

Well, maybe fans of hair metal will.

Curtatone responded by posting a link to a video of the late 1980s Cinderella song, “Don’t Know What You Got (Till It’s Gone).” The mayor’s Twitter critic simply gave the mayor’s tweet a “like” — a “well played” acknowledgement. Touché.

Plenty of questions remain. Are developers livin’ on a prayer now in Somerville? Will it no longer be their paradise city? Will the next administration be bringin’ on the heartbreak? With the preliminary election over, and city councilors Will Mbah and Katjana Ballantyne in the running for November, the final countdown has begun.

Bold Types is a weekly feature about the movers and shakers who are driving Boston’s business world.

Jon Chesto can be reached at Follow him @jonchesto.