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Roxbury Multi-Service Center records

 Collection
Identifier: M109

Scope and Content Note

The Roxbury Multi-Service Center (RMSC) collection documents the center's efforts to make Roxbury an economically viable community and to provide social and mental health services to individuals. Topics include the physical and economic development of the Roxbury neighborhood; neighborhood activism and organization; community relations; anti-crime and violence prevention; affordable housing; youth programs, including summer camp; academic enrichment; employment counseling and training; urban development; public policy formation; and social service delivery. Topics concerning public health issues; alcoholism and drug addiction; homelessness; sexual assault awareness; school desegregation (Box 3, Folders 1-4); racial and educational inequality in Boston Public Schools (Boxes 2-4, Folders 18-51, 1- 23, and 1- 8); and the experience of African American children in Boston Public Schools (Box 2-4, Folders18-51, 1- 23, and 1- 8) are also covered.

The major types of material are agreements between RMSC and outside organizations; consultant correspondence and reports; grant proposals and contracts; and program descriptions, reports, and statistics.

Materials not found in this collection include the report, "The Way We Go To School: the Exclusion of Children in Boston," by The Task Force on Children out of School. This is, however, located in Snell Archive's faculty and related publications collection (LC4093.B6 T3 1971). Also, Board of Directors minutes from 1985 are missing and minutes from 1992-1998 are incomplete. Other materials not found include annual reports from the years 1967, 1970, 1975-1978, 1983-1984, 1985, and 1987-2001.

Dates

  • 1965-2002

Creator

Access Restrictions:

Files containing client information are restricted for 75 years from the date of their creation. Please contact the University Archivist for more information.

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the University Archivist.

Historical Note

Since 1630, the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston has been an integral part of the city, first for its farms, then as a strong hold during the Revolutionary War. In the 18th century, Roxbury was a fashionable suburb, and in the 19th century jobs were created and the economy was strengthened by the mill industry. From the 1920s through the 1940s, Roxbury was a thriving commercial district full of department stores, theaters, and hotels. After World War II, African Americans from the South migrated by the thousands into the urban areas of the North, and Roxbury became the center of the African American community in Boston. By the time Boston began its urban renewal program in the early 1960s, Roxbury's economy had fallen into decline causing high unemployment, inadequate housing, and underperforming schools.

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. Its goal was "to establish a direct link between the Federal Government and city, by-passing the state, to define and relieve urban pathology. The committee sought to work within the context of already established local agencies" ("Natural History of a Professional Reform Organization: Roxbury Multi-Service Center," Box 1, Folder 6). In 1962, Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD) grew out of Boston's mayor's office specifically to handle the problems encountered by those communities directly affected by the economic and social problems created by the city's urban renewal projects. Concurrently, the Ford Foundation was actively exploring ways in which to improve the social conditions of underprivileged youth by funding numerous social action programs.

These were the conditions under which representatives from ABCD, the United Way, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the City of Boston, and the Roxbury-North Dorchester community, began to develop " a plan for a direct service project which would provide, from a neighborhood base, a multiplicity of health, welfare and related services" ("Natural History of a Professional Reform Organization"). The result of their work, "The Boston Youth Opportunity Project: a report and a proposal," was submitted by ABCD to the President's Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime in December 1963. In November 1964, Roxbury Multi-Service Center was incorporated. Original incorporators included Elma Lewis, Harry Elam, Louis White, Lois Clemente, and John D. O'Bryant. In December 1964, RMSC opened on 317 Blue Hill Avenue.

During its first three years of operation, RMSC was devoted to stabilizing families in crisis by providing case-by-case intervention for both families and individuals. The goal in 1964 was to demonstrate " that a variety of services could be integrated and coordinated under one roof and one administrative structure, resulting in the elimination of the fragmentation of individuals and families among a variety of social welfare and mental health agencies" ("Proposal for the Development of the Roxbury Multi-Service Center Over the Next Five Years: 1969-174," Box 1, Folder 68). Initial programs were designed to respond to clients' immediate needs. These core programs were employment counseling and training, home development, neighborhood improvement, and assessment and counseling services. The assessment and counseling program provided individual, group, and family therapy, job counseling and training, and emergency financial assistance. In 1967, Hubert Jones, who replaced the first executive director, Gertrude Cuthbert, believed that the completion of the demonstration phase signaled a significant shift from the center's case-by-case intervention approach. Convinced that poverty was the root of the neighborhood's inability to overcome the social and economic barriers it was confronted with, the next generation of the RMSC's leaders began to create programs that focused on both developing the community of Roxbury and responding to the needs of its residents.

In 1968, RMSC initiated its first community based program, the Sav-More Association. The purpose of this program was to improve the 17 block Savin and Moreland Street neighborhood and its residents by helping them develop the skills to compete for the financial and educational resources to which they had been denied access. By including residents in the problem solving process, a major neighborhood clean-up was accomplished and the Sav-More Teen Council was formed. These teen workers became active in many aspects of their neighborhood, including planning and implementing social activities for the neighborhood's youth. The Teen Council grew into the Teen Educational Center and eventually evolved into the Youth Development Center, which is still in existence.

RMSC's philosophy of community and individual self-determinism was put into action through two types of programs: one aimed at community development and the other focused on individual needs. Community development programs included housing rehabilitation and ownership, tenant advocacy programs, and crime and safety programs. Individual needs programs included assessment and counseling, the Day Activity program for residents with mental health needs, the Reading Skills Lab, and a summer camp program.

From the beginning, RMSC was an advocate for the community and for educational opportunity. Working together with the Sav-More Association, RMSC was successful in preventing the Mobile Gas Company from tearing down a six-family house to replace it with a gas station. Concerned about the reports the staff was hearing from parents about their children's experiences in school, RMSC organized the Task Force on Children. For over two years, this group, lead by Hubert Jones, investigated the performance of the Boston Public Schools, and in 1971, they published the report, "The Way We Go To School: the Exclusion of Children in Boston," (LC4093.B6 T3 1971), which was the catalyst for change in local and national education laws. In 1974, RMSC played an important role in school desegregation when it was called upon to staff school buses and to monitor South Boston High and Hyde Park High, the two most volatile schools.

Throughout the 1980s, RMSC continued to implement programs that responded to the needs of individuals and programs to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood. These programs included the Family House Shelter for homeless families (the first shelter of its kind in Massachusetts), the Minority Student Retention Program at Boston Latin and Boston Prep high schools, the Housing Rehabilitation and Sales program, and the Boston Safe Neighborhood program. In 1980, RMSC began to collaborate with the Educational Counseling Committee (EEC), which was begun in 1949 when the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People determined that not enough Black high school graduates were attending college because of the high cost of secondary education. From 1949 to 1980, the EEC provided educational counseling and financial assistance to Black students in the Boston area. In 1989, RMSC assumed management of EEC and the EEC college scholarship program became the Roxbury Multi-Service Scholarship.

By the 1990s, the Blue Hill Ave. beautification project Green on Blue was in operation as were the Housing Counseling Program, and Project R.I.G.H.T. (Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together), which focused on the revitalization of the Grove Hall area of Roxbury. The John D. O'Bryant Community Youth Center was established in 1993 to provide educational and job training programs, anti-violence programs, and leadership development programs.

Between 1993 and 1997, RMSC experienced five executive and interim directors. This instability, together with reoccurring administrative weaknesses and a financial deficit, caused the Board and staff of RMSC to examine all aspects of the organization. From December 1997 to May 1998, a management team comprised of staff members and led by Vanessa Bell was responsible for day-to-day operations. With the help of management consultants from CommonGround, a transition plan was developed and Brenda Gadson was chosen to lead RMSC into its 40th decade.

Chronology

  • 1964 RMSC founded as three-year demonstration project funded by the Ford Foundation, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the United Sates Office of Economic Opportunity, and The Boston Foundation.
  • 1967 RMSC staff identifies poverty as a major problem in the Roxbury community.
  • 1971 The Task Force on Children report, "The Way We Go To School: the Exclusion of Children in Boston," is published, which results in Massachusetts and the federal government declaring that every child has the right to have educational needs met at public expense. RMSC provides administrative support to the Ecumenical Center of Roxbury. RMSC organizes the Sav-More Association, made up of residents committed to improving the quality of life in their neighborhood.
  • 1972 RMSC responds to the problems of the Spanish speaking population of Roxbury by sponsoring La Alianza Hispana, a "one stop" multi-service center located on Dudley Street.
  • 1973 RMSC is asked by the City of Boston's Department of Youth Services to begin a Temporary Shelter Program. RMSC is asked by the City of Boston's Department of Public Health to submit a proposal to train minority graduate students in mental health and the Commonwealth Fellows program is developed.
  • 1974 RMSC provides support for children and families during desegregation of Boston Public Schools and serves as the City of Boston's liaison to South Boston High School. Staff members provide training for teachers on race relations. RMSC and Lena Park discuss possible joint venture.
  • 1978 RMSC's Day Activity Program begins with working agreements between Dorchester Mental Health Clinic and the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center.
  • 1979 The RMSC Reading Skills Laboratory operates out of a firehouse located at 424 Warren Street and provides intensive after-school tutorial program for youth grades 4-12.
  • 1982 RMSC creates program designed specifically for Viet Nam veterans.
  • 1984 RMSC establishes a food pantry where neighborhood youth volunteer.
  • 1987 RMSC needs assessment results: services for youth, families and elderly need expansion.
  • 1990 RMSC collaborates with Freedom House, Harvard Street Community Health Center, and Lena Park Community Center to form the Boston Youth Development Project aimed at enhancing youth's self-esteem, self-confidence, educational achievements and health.
  • 1991 RMSC receives the City of Boston's Public Facilities Department funding to clear vacant lots along Blue Hill Avenue. Youth are hired and trained in landscaping. The Green on Blue projects are launched.
  • 1992 RMSC initiates collaborative discussions to organize Project Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together (R.I.G.H.T.), a community based initiative to promote safety, community health, and economic programs for children and their families. RMSC commits to rebuilding Roxbury through action with Blue Hill Ave Task Force and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
  • 1994 RMSC establishes the Multi-Cultural Institute, a therapeutic model that focuses on providing treatment based on culturally sensitive issues.
  • 1997 RMSC Board and staff examine the viability of existing programs and engage in a planning process that will change the strategic direction and structure for RMSC's future.
1964
RMSC founded as three-year demonstration project funded by the Ford Foundation, the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, the United Sates Office of Economic Opportunity, and The Boston Foundation.
1967
RMSC staff identifies poverty as a major problem in the Roxbury community.
1971
The Task Force on Children report, "The Way We Go To School: the Exclusion of Children in Boston," is published, which results in Massachusetts and the federal government declaring that every child has the right to have educational needs met at public expense. RMSC provides administrative support to the Ecumenical Center of Roxbury. RMSC organizes the Sav-More Association, made up of residents committed to improving the quality of life in their neighborhood.
1972
RMSC responds to the problems of the Spanish speaking population of Roxbury by sponsoring La Alianza Hispana, a "one stop" multi-service center located on Dudley Street.
1973
RMSC is asked by the City of Boston's Department of Youth Services to begin a Temporary Shelter Program. RMSC is asked by the City of Boston's Department of Public Health to submit a proposal to train minority graduate students in mental health and the Commonwealth Fellows program is developed.
1974
RMSC provides support for children and families during desegregation of Boston Public Schools and serves as the City of Boston's liaison to South Boston High School. Staff members provide training for teachers on race relations. RMSC and Lena Park discuss possible joint venture.
1978
RMSC's Day Activity Program begins with working agreements between Dorchester Mental Health Clinic and the Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller Mental Health Center.
1979
The RMSC Reading Skills Laboratory operates out of a firehouse located at 424 Warren Street and provides intensive after-school tutorial program for youth grades 4-12.
1982
RMSC creates program designed specifically for Viet Nam veterans.
1984
RMSC establishes a food pantry where neighborhood youth volunteer.
1987
RMSC needs assessment results: services for youth, families and elderly need expansion.
1990
RMSC collaborates with Freedom House, Harvard Street Community Health Center, and Lena Park Community Center to form the Boston Youth Development Project aimed at enhancing youth's self-esteem, self-confidence, educational achievements and health.
1991
RMSC receives the City of Boston's Public Facilities Department funding to clear vacant lots along Blue Hill Avenue. Youth are hired and trained in landscaping. The Green on Blue projects are launched.
1992
RMSC initiates collaborative discussions to organize Project Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together (R.I.G.H.T.), a community based initiative to promote safety, community health, and economic programs for children and their families. RMSC commits to rebuilding Roxbury through action with Blue Hill Ave Task Force and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.
1994
RMSC establishes the Multi-Cultural Institute, a therapeutic model that focuses on providing treatment based on culturally sensitive issues.
1997
RMSC Board and staff examine the viability of existing programs and engage in a planning process that will change the strategic direction and structure for RMSC's future.

Chronology of Directors

  • 1964-1965 Gertrude Cuthbert
  • 1965-1971 Hubert T. Jones
  • Oct-Sep 1971 Florence Gerber (Interim Director)
  • 1971-1978 Percy Wilson
  • 1978-1983 Marilyn Anderson
  • Mar-Sep 1983 Dawn Swan (Interim Director)
  • 1983-1985 Ricardo Millett
  • Sept-Dec 1985 Emerson Davis (Interim Director)
  • 1986-1993 Shirley Carrington
  • Feb-Mar 1993 Robert Persley (Interim Director)
  • 1993-1995 Valerie Lovelace
  • Jan-Aug 1995 Richard Folly (Interim Director)
  • 1995-1997 Zuline Gray Allen
  • Apr-Dec 1997 Milton Samuels (Interim Director)
  • Dec 1997-May 1998 Vanessa Bell (Interim Director)
  • 1998-2005 Brenda Gadson
  • 2005 Claudia Smith-Reid
1964-1965
Gertrude Cuthbert
1965-1971
Hubert T. Jones
Oct-Sep 1971
Florence Gerber (Interim Director)
1971-1978
Percy Wilson
1978-1983
Marilyn Anderson
Mar-Sep 1983
Dawn Swan (Interim Director)
1983-1985
Ricardo Millett
Sept-Dec 1985
Emerson Davis (Interim Director)
1986-1993
Shirley Carrington
Feb-Mar 1993
Robert Persley (Interim Director)
1993-1995
Valerie Lovelace
Jan-Aug 1995
Richard Folly (Interim Director)
1995-1997
Zuline Gray Allen
Apr-Dec 1997
Milton Samuels (Interim Director)
Dec 1997-May 1998
Vanessa Bell (Interim Director)
1998-2005
Brenda Gadson
2005
Claudia Smith-Reid

Extent

30 cubic feet (30 containers, 3 flat file folders)

Overview

RMSC is a social service agency modeled after the 19th century settlement house where all client services were located under one roof. It began as a three-year demonstration project in 1964 to provide services to the Roxbury and North Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston. From its inception, the mission of RMSC has been to offer programs and services designed to empower the residents of Roxbury and North Dorchester to become economically and socially self-sufficient. RMSC was originally funded by government and private sources including the City of Boston, Action for Boston Community Development, the United Way, the Ford Foundation, and the Permanent Charity Fund.

Overview

The Roxbury Multi-Service Center (RMSC) collection documents the center's efforts to make Roxbury an economically viable community and to provide social and mental health services to individuals. Topics include the physical and economic development of the Roxbury neighborhood; neighborhood activism and organization; community relations; anti-crime and violence prevention; affordable housing; youth programs, including summer camp; academic enrichment; employment counseling and training; urban development; public policy formation; and social service delivery. Topics concerning public health issues, such as alcoholism, drug addiction and homelessness; sexual assault awareness; school busing; racial and educational inequality in Boston Public Schools; and the experience of African American children in Boston Public Schools are also covered. This collection includes the records of the executive directors; Board of Directors meeting minutes, committee and program reports and correspondence; grant proposals and contracts; program descriptions, reports and statistical information; organizational charts; development and public relations records; and audio-visual material and memorabilia.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into 7 series: 1. Administration; 2. Board of Directors; 3. Executive Directors; 4. Programs; 5. Grants and Contracts; 6. Outside Organizations; 7. Audio-visual and Memorabilia.

Physical Location

60/1, 61/4, FF5/D2

Related Materials:

La Alianza Hispana records (M055).

"The Way We Go To School: the Exclusion of Children in Boston," by The Task Force on Children out of School (Snell Archives Faculty and Related Publications LC4093.B6 T3 1971).

The Archives and Special Collections Department capture the website content of the Roxbury Multi Service Center, which is accessible at http://wayback.archive-it.org/1747/*/http://www.roxmulti.org/

Bibliography

  • Annual Reports, 1965-1989, Box 2, Folders 1-3.
  • Board of Director Minutes, Boxes 2-4, Folders 17-32.
  • Boston Landmarks Commission website: http://www.boston-online.com/roxhist.html
  • Brief Report on the Roxbury Multi-Service Center for 1967, Box 1, Folder 2.
  • Brief Report on the Roxbury Multi-Service Center for 1968, Box 1, Folder 2.
  • Roxbury Multi-Service Center, Inc., Report of Operations, January 1-December 31, 1965, Box 1, Folder 8.
  • Roxbury Multi-Service Center, Inc., Overview, 1994, Box 2, Folder 69.
  • Swan, Dawn. " Natural History of a Professional Reform Organization: Roxbury Multi-Service Center"," (n.d.) Box 2, Folder 6.
Title
Finding aid for the Roxbury Multi-Service Center Records
Author
Finding aid prepared by Kimberly Reynolds with the assistance of Zachary Enright and Susan Martin
Date
November 2005. Finding aid updated by Abigail Cramer, October 2012.
Language of description
Description is in English.
Sponsor
This collection was processed with funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US