This spring, the Coalition will be marking a significant moment in our evolution as an organization - one that brings up many different feelings for me in my role as Executive Director. As many of you know, the Coalition would not be where it is today – in fact, it wouldn’t even exist – without the leadership, dedication, and determination of Janet Goldenberg, our co-founder and Board President. After nine years of incredible work, Janet is completing her time as Board President in March. At that time, Mark Scott, the Director of the Division of Violence Prevention at the Boston Public Health Commission, will assume the role of President. I will both miss Janet in that role greatly and welcome the opportunity to work with Mark in this capacity.
Below, you will find reflections from both Mark and Janet about the upcoming transition. I am excited to share this moment with all of you.
I follow in Janet Goldenberg’s deep footprints in awe, with admiration, and great aspiration. I am grateful that her leadership is harnessing the power of the Coalition’s Board, Community Council, staff, and membership to offer a glimmer of hope that we might prevent gun violence in Massachusetts. I am glad Janet’s wise counsel and sturdy hands will not be far from the Coalition’s work.
I anticipate that the Community Council will set the agenda, the Board will execute its fiduciary responsibilities, the staff members will hold the Coalition’s many moving parts together, and collectively the Committee Chairs, Executive Committee, Community Council, and members will get the job done.
It has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to help co-found, grow, and lead the MA Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence with you for the last nine years. Although I will complete my term as President in March, I cannot imagine a better person to take over this role than Mark Scott. I know you will come to appreciate his wisdom, vision, leadership and humor as much as I have.
I take enormous pride in what we have accomplished since the Coalition’s founding in 2012. We brought together disparate stakeholders committed to reducing gun violence in all its forms, and built — from the ground up— a force now able to push back the power of the NRA in the Massachusetts statehouse. Volunteer led, with no paid staff, we mobilized the public to pass and implement the 2014 gun bill which expands background checks to all gun sales and includes for the first time — at our insistence— the requirement that crime guns be traced so we can better understand how they are reaching the streets; we passed the ERPO Bill to provide families breathing room to get help in moments of crises, and with our outstanding partner Stop Handgun Violence have developed a website empowering people to access the law when they need it. We helped secure funding for youth jobs programs and violence intervention programs to support crucial primary prevention efforts in our communities. We pushed back on mandatory minimums and demanded lawmakers consider unintended consequences. We organized a national effort that helped successfully prevent the passage of a conceal carry reciprocity bill that would have undermined all the gun laws we know work. We have spoken in countless forums to educate the public about the risks of guns in the home and built key relationships with researchers, community leaders, and throughout all levels of government.
And while I will never forget the thrill of standing next to Governors Patrick and Baker as they signed into law the gun bills we had worked so hard to pass, the highlight for me was bringing youth from St. Stephens to meet Speaker DeLeo and listening while they spoke to him about the importance of funding for youth programs.
In the wake of all those remarkable successes together, we were able to secure funding and build a robust non-profit with an expanded and inclusive leadership team and three full time paid staff. I have always said that although I believe this work has saved many lives, my faith tradition says that to save one life is to save a universe. If only one life was saved as a result of our efforts, it was still unquestionably worth all the time, sacrifice, blood, sweat and tears.
The strength of the Coalition has always been in bringing together people with different lived experiences and backgrounds, all unified to address gun violence. There were folks who came to the table because they were traumatized by school shootings like those at Newtown or Parkland; those horrified by shootings in places of worship; those who had lost children, siblings, spouses and friends to suicide. There were people who joined because they were outraged by the drumbeat of shootings in Boston and Brockton and Springfield and so many other places. And there were people like many of us, myself included, who came to the table for all of these reasons. And while different concerns may have propelled us to the table, we unequivocally agreed that all forms of gun violence were tragic. That every gun death, every shooting, was unacceptable. And that we would work together to address all forms of gun violence, no matter what had brought us to the table.
Every organization benefits from an infusion of new energy and new ideas, and we are no exception. The Coalition now has a superb executive director and a Board and Community Council with remarkable leaders. And led by those voices, we are growing our mission to reach more communities across the Commonwealth and to better address the devastating root causes of community gun violence.
The work of gun violence prevention — while deeply rewarding — is complicated, difficult and too often soul-crushing. But being in this work with this extraordinary team of committed and talented volunteers also made it energizing and fulfilling. I deeply appreciate the hard work, support and camaraderie of all of you over the last nine years. I am honored to call you my friends and colleagues. I know Mark will foster that same sense of community, and I know that you will have his back as you always had mine.
Thank you for partnering with me and holding me up on this extraordinary journey. I’m looking forward to supporting the sacred work of the Coalition in a new role, with Mark at the helm.
With much gratitude