John Fitzgerald has been immersed in the community development world for a long time. Although now retired, he started his career as a Vista Volunteer in Oklahoma, before working for Boston Public Schools, New York City Community Action Program, and then finally at the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) with the SEED program funding Community Development Corporations (CDC). Even in his retirement, John has remained an active community member, first as a volunteer on the Organizing Committee of Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC), then serving on their board, and finally as co-chair of the board.
John’s relationship with the Mel King Institute, as a member of both the Steering and Curriculum Committees, is also long and storied. During his time at DHCD, he was appointed as representative to MKI before it was even formed. John worked with others including Matthew Thall, who did a research study to understand what kind of organization the CDC community needs for provision of education and support. This study led to the structure and framework that makes up MKI today, as a leader in professional development and information clearinghouse for community development topics.
John continues to serve on the Alliance for Racial Equity steering committee. As part of his involvement, he provides support for various programs and events. Last year, the annual Stand Against Racism event was planned right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. John helped to pivot the event online and invited one of the speakers to the event. He has also provided support through written feedback on initiatives as well as other tasks as needed.
In addition to the steering committee, John is also a frequent participant of the Racial Equity Facilitators feedback circle. In his opinion,
“The best thing that the group has done has been the list of things that the different CDCs can be doing to advance racial equity in their communities. There is a great difference in the levels of where people are at, with some CDCs being pretty advanced, and some CDCs being very much at the beginning of the process. We need to get everyone who needs to be on board on board to push for racial equity.”
Racial equity has been an integral part of John’s life’s work, and participating in the Racial Equity Facilitators group is just one way that he gets involved to hear what others are doing to push racial justice at their organizations.
When asked his favorite part about being involved with MKI is, his answer is simple: the people. In his words, “I’ve gotten to know a lot of wonderful people over the years…and developed an appreciation for the breadth of people and expertise that goes into MKI…The work is always there, but the people change, so it’s been about getting to know what a wonderful group of people.” In 2019, we honored John with the Mel King Institute Champions award. Thank you, John, for your commitment to community development and racial equity work, and for all you do at MKI.