Bob Coard, Melnea Cass Honored at the Embrace Boston Memorial

ABCD is pleased to be an early major sponsor of The Embrace monument that was recently unveiled at the 1965 Freedom Plaza on the Boston Common honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King. The Embrace monument symbolizes the hug that Dr. King shared with his wife Coretta after he won the Nobel Peace Prize. Long-time ABCD President/CEO Robert M. Coard and ABCD co-founder Melnea Cass were among the 69 local civil rights and social justice leaders to whom the plaza is dedicated for their role as a “voice for the people” in Boston from 1950 to 1970. 

“For ABCD, this unveiling was an especially proud moment,” said ABCD President and CEO Sharon Scott-Chandler. “ABCD exists because Melnea Cass and Bob Coard shared an uncommon vision and resolve.  They were motivated by the belief that people working together could make their community a better place. For those few hours, the atmosphere at 1965 Freedom Plaza felt like the beloved community of which Dr. King spoke. People with diverse viewpoints and backgrounds celebrating and championing equity, justice and love.”  

Community activist and organizer Melnea Cass volunteered at community centers and also served as president of the Women’s Service Club for more than 15 years, helping to ensure access for women to social security and other benefits. She helped found Freedom House, an organization dedicated to advocacy for African Americans in Boston. It is no wonder that in 1962, Boston Mayor John Hynes appointed Cass as the only woman charter member of ABCD which, at the time, assisted people who lost their homes to urban renewal efforts.

A charismatic and innovative leader, Robert M. Coard was earning a doctorate in urban planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1964 when he joined ABCD, recently designated the anti-poverty agency for Boston. Coard would go on to lead the organization as president and CEO from 1968 to 2009. He showed us the beacon of hope that ABCD could be, and with that light, guided many, many of us to a better life.