Celebrating Black History Month
As we reflect on the work of so many inspiring Black leaders this Black History Month, we would like to honor some of the members of our own Benchmark community who deserve to be recognized and celebrated.
Lionel Porter, a resident at Cabot Park Village, has dedicated his life to advocating for minorities. Lionel’s lifelong dedication to fight against discrimination started early in life while growing up as a Black child in a segregated Mississippi.
He shared one of those early formative experiences, saying, “While walking to church one day, we saw blood on the street because a Black man had run from a white police officer. To warn all of us what could happen if we didn’t behave, the blood was left there as a constant reminder.”
That reminder stayed with Lionel as he thought about what he wanted to do with his life. He eventually became a lawyer in order to defend “the rule of the right.”
Lionel went to law school at night, earning his Juris Doctorate degree, and for 36 years did the work he always wanted to do. He served as Legal Redress Chair for the South Middlesex branch of the Boston NAACP and worked in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to mediate employee discrimination cases. During that time, he developed a dispute resolution system for the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities to speed up investigative processes, after he found there was a growing backlog of discrimination complaints.
“It’s been incredibly gratifying to help those who have been discriminated against purely because of their age, gender or skin color,” said Lionel.
Lionel is retired now, but he says his work is not done: “I feel like I still have so much to share—and with what’s happening in the world right now, the need is great.”
Every February, Lionel leads the community’s Black History Month lecture series—a continuation of his passion for researching and preserving African American history. Two to three times a week, he produces and leads lectures on topics such as Reconstruction, notable Black writers, and the ideology and history of white supremacy.
As part of his lecture series, Lionel also organizes guest speakers. This year, one of the speakers is U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts, Rachael Rollins. Rollins is the first black woman to ever be confirmed as U.S. Attorney in the District. She will be speaking about assuring justice and fairness for minority defendants, a topic near and dear to Lionel.
We are so grateful to have the privilege to learn from Lionel, and we feel lucky that he is a part of our Benchmark community. Thank you, Lionel.