Robert Moses, civil rights activist, recalled at ceremony in Cambridge, jazz parade
Moses is legendary for his work in the nation’s civil rights movement, and during Saturday’s service at St. Mary of the Annunciation Church, stories about it were interspersed with personal anecdotes revealing a man whose generosity and strength of mind have inspired loved ones and colleagues alike.
Janet Jemmott Moses, Moses’ wife, told mourners during the service that her husband had an indomitable will and that he taught by example.
“Our family has learned to live full and meaningful lives by struggling to manifest, even in the smallest of ways, a vision for the liberation of our people. I miss him. It will stay in my mind and heart forever, ”said Jemmott Moses.
Speakers at Saturday’s church service included veterans of the civil rights movement, such as Dr Alvin Poussaint, who knew Moses since they were both students at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.
Poussaint said that Moses was one of the country’s most remarkable leaders in social justice and equity.
“Bob was more than a hero. He changed the game. He was also my dear friend. I miss him, we all miss him with love, ”said Poussaint during the service.
Moses was born in Harlem, NY, and was one of three siblings. After Stuyvesant, he attended Hamilton College, where he was one of three black students in his class. He graduated in 1956 and, after receiving a Rhodes Scholarship, attended Harvard University, where he earned a master’s degree.
He returned to New York and taught math in the Bronx, but after a visit to a Southern relative, he spent a summer working for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta. He spent four years as an activist and was arrested and subjected to physical violence, including gunfire.
He avoided the Vietnam War project by moving to Canada and later to Tanzania. He moved to Cambridge in the late 1970s, after President Jimmy Carter bestowed unconditional pardons on those who had escaped the project.
Moses received a “genius” grant from the MacArthur Foundation in 1982, and then started what became the algebra project initially to help his daughter Maisha study algebra in eighth grade.
Moses spoke about some of the civil rights efforts he was involved in during an interview with The Globe in 2001.
“In the ’60s, we grabbed the franchise in Mississippi and organized black people for political access, and eventually it happened,” Moses told The Globe. “So today we rely on math literacy as a tool for organizing economic access. “
On Saturday, another of Moses’ daughters, Malaika Moses, spoke of a deep connection between those who gathered on Saturday to remember her father. These ties, she said, were a “great gift for him.”
“He gave us so much, he gave so much to the world, he gave so much to the family. Each of us has done our part … to help him on his way. and at this point we can certainly offer our love to him, ”she said.
Actor Danny Glover, board member of the Algebra Project, praised Moses for his generous nature and called him a “good spirit.”
“His spirit lives in each of us … he continues to be with us when we need him most, when we have doubts, when we smile or when we see the accomplishments of our young children,” Glover said. “We are going to smile and we are going to remember one of the most beautiful men I have ever met in my life.”
Cornel West, one of the nation’s leading academics and progressive activists, called Moses a “first-rate spiritual genius” and an intellectual titan who linked the world of ideas to action.
Pointing to a photo of Moses nearby, West said that in the image, “you see a long and rich tradition of a great people.”
West put Moses in the same line as other civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, and Sojourner Truth.
“Bob Moses was such a humble brother, [he] didn’t have any fake bones in his body, ”West said. “How did he do it? He made up his mind to be a warrior of love in the face of all this hatred of white supremacy befalling him, [and he was] straighten his back.
After the church service, many in attendance gathered in a midday procession at the town square celebration, where the festivities included dance performances and speeches about the legacy of Moses.
Some left messages in honor of Moses written on banners, including Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui.
“Cambridge is eternally indebted to Dr Robert Moses and his long-standing struggle for equality,” Siddiqui wrote. “His legacy lives on in our city, this country and around the world. “
Cliff Freeman, 28, who attended the event, said he met Moses as a sophomore in high school and thanked the civil rights icon and educator of the ‘inspiring them to take education seriously and develop a love for math.
“His heritage is the people, the voices,” Freeman said.
Java Galipeau, who described herself as “a product” of the Algebra Project and the Youth Project, spoke at length about the impact Moïse had on her as a young student struggling to channel the effort she was investing. in his school work in good grades.
In an interview, Galipeau said Saturday’s events “continued a tradition of celebration.”
“His work speaks for itself, so we should celebrate. “
Moses’ son Omo said in an interview at the plaza that the public event was an opportunity to help people celebrate the life of his father, who had worked “in the trenches” for rights. civic.
“His spirit and his work are always with us,” said Omo Moses.
Bryan Marquard of Globe staff contributed to this report.