Published On: June 23rd, 2023

Photos by London Parker-McWhorter and CCF staff.

As a community foundation driven by the unique circumstances of our city and the people who call it home, we were inspired last week to learn from movement makers and storytellers whose work is defined by a belief in place and its people.

“I’m fascinated with the role of place. Every living creature has a place where they’re most happy, safe, and secure,” said Derrick Christopher Evans, a grassroots movement builder and inaugural grant recipient of our Bob Moses Fund for Education and Organizing. “These places contain communities and communities are their own best hope. To me there’s only one story here and it needs to be about place and community using their relational, spatial, and story capital to lift up people and to create justice and sustenance,” he added.

Derrick was the subject of Leah Mahan’s documentary, “Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek,” screened at First Church in Cambridge on June 14. The film tells the story of how Derrick stood up to corporate and political interests to save his hometown of Turkey Creek, Mississippi from unjust development and environmental racism, by creating a movement. Leah and Derrick joined Bob Moses Fund cofounders, Dr. Janet Moses and Maisha Moses, in a panel discussion after the film.

“Bob Moses is an excellent example of immersing ourselves in a “place” with its own elders, traditions, children, environment, and political and economic circumstances,” Derrick said. “No matter how abused or neglected, places like Bob’s Mississippi or today’s Turkey Creek and Roxbury are, as communities, their own best hope; their own legacies, elders, and stories are there to heal and inform as needed. Also, to lift a place’s story, you need to recognize and connect it to its sister communities for mutual benefit and power. These connected stories become an “offense” that can be mobilized.”

The Bob Moses Fund invests in people on the ground, quietly leading movements for change. Derrick is one of four grant recipients to date, including two Cambridge natives, Emmanuel Mervil of Everybody Gotta Eat and Deondre Starling of Scholars Before Athletes, and Jeremy Dennis of Ma’s House in New York.

“They’re catalysts,” said Dr. Janet Moses. “The real revolution will never be televised. We are looking for diamonds in the rough and give them the kind of support they need to do what they know how to do best. It is only by investing in people who are working on the ground that major philanthropy would probably never give money to. And it’s this spirit of the movement, which Bob embodied, that we are trying to honor with the Fund.”

Many thanks to Janet, Maisha, Derrick, and Leah and to everyone who joined us in community last week. If you missed it, watch a recording of the panel conversation: