Published On: February 29th, 2024

Pictured from left: Manny Mervil, City Councilor Ayesha Wilson; Edward Eccles, Kris Manjapra, Rev. Charles Eccles.

Imagine a Cambridge where we all play a part in ending disparities and building unity so everyone can thrive here. We got a glimpse of that community at NAACP Cambridge’s Annual MLK Brunch last Saturday, through the words of inspiring leaders and the actions of local change makers who are not just imagining but working to create a better city.

For the second year in a row, Cambridge NAACP recognized winners of our Imagined in Cambridge! Social Innovation Award as ‘Drum Majors’ for community – Black History in Action for Cambridgeport (BHAC) and Emmanuel (Manny) Mervil of Everybody Gotta Eat.

“Entrepreneurship is hard…It’s not for the weak. But there’s a voice in my head that says: Keep going,” said Manny, who shouted out individuals and organizations all across the room who’d supported his venture. “Cambridge is a big community. I want to keep it like that.”

Kris Manjapra of BHAC called us all to action to preserve our city’s Black history as a way to strengthen social cohesion.

“How do our ancestors speak to us? Their stories can inspire action for social change and we can build on our stories for a more equitable city,” Kris said. “Equity is about connecting the dots to make sure data and outcomes match the values we espouse.”

Another honoree was former Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui, credited for cultivating strong partnerships to scale Cambridge RISE, a pilot guaranteed basic income program fueled by philanthropic support to a $22-million cash assistance program led by the City and in partnership with CCF and the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC) to combat economic disparities. Councilor Siddiqui reminded the crowd that Martin Luther King, Jr. was an early proponent of guaranteed income and she encouraged us to act boldly to ensure no child in Cambridge gets left behind.

The event reminded us that Dr. King’s message is not a dream, it is a blueprint; and that grassroots agents – who take their cues from place, history, lived experience – hold the power to lead equity and justice in our communities. Congratulations to NAACP Cambridge and all its awardees for their inspiring work for the people of Cambridge and the city we all love.