New Commonwealth Fund Honored with Inaugural AIM Latimer Award
| April 14, 2021
By: Chris Geehern
Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) today announced the creation of the Lewis Howard Latimer Award to be presented annually to a Massachusetts innovator, organization or business leader who has broken barriers to innovate and create economic opportunity.
The award honors Lewis Latimer, a Chelsea-born Black inventor who in 1882 patented a method for the production of carbon filaments critical to the development of the electric light bulb. The child of former slaves, Mr. Latimer also drafted the drawings that allowed Alexander Graham Bell to receive a patent for the telephone.
The inaugural Latimer Award will go to the New Commonwealth Racial Equity and Social Justice Fund, coalition of Black and Brown executives from some of Massachusetts’ most prominent corporations who have raised more than $20 million to support communities of color across the commonwealth. Nineteen business executives created the fund last year amid the painful racial awakening that followed the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others.
The award will be presented at the AIM virtual Annual Meeting on May 14 before an audience of some 600 business leaders and public officials from throughout Massachusetts.
“The 3,300 member companies of AIM are delighted to honor the New Commonwealth Fund and, in the process, honor a talented and underappreciated inventor from Chelsea who made possible the inventions that still drive our economy,” said John R. Regan, President and Chief Executive Officer of AIM.
“Many of the obstacles to opportunity that Lewis Latimer was forced to overcome still exist in our economy and the New Commonwealth Fund is a singular example of coming together to address those obstacles.”
The mission of the New Commonwealth Fund is to provide essential support, resources and thought leadership for uncovering and dismantling systemic racism and all of its forms, within institutions in Boston and across the other 350 cities and towns in the commonwealth.
“It’s time to change the narrative on race in Boston,” said Paul Francisco, SVP, Chief Diversity Officer, State Street.
“A fund of this nature—for Black and Brown communities and led by Black and Brown corporate executives—has never been attempted in Massachusetts before. We firmly believe we can make the lasting and meaningful changes our communities of color so desperately need. We are committed to immediate change and recognize that we all must be committed to long-term, sustainable effort to eliminate systemic racism.”
The founders of the New Commonwealth Fund are:
- Dominic Blue, Head of Strategic Planning & Delivery, MassMutual
- Mo Cowan, President, Global Government Affairs and Policy, and Developed Markets; Leader, Boston Development and Operations, General Electric
- Pamela Everhart, SVP, Head of Regional Public Affairs & Community Relations, Fidelity Investments
- Linda Dorcena Forry, VP of Diversity, Inclusion & Community Relations, Suffolk Construction
- Paul Francisco, SVP, Chief Diversity Officer, State Street
- Damon Hart, EVP, Deputy Chief Legal Officer, Liberty Mutual Group
- Malia Lazu, Lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Founder of The Urban Labs
- Fred Lowery, SVP, President Life Sciences and Laboratory Products, Thermo Fisher
- Stephanie Lovell, EVP, Chief Legal Officer, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
- Quincy Miller, President, Eastern Bank
- Myechia Minter-Jordan, President & CEO, DentaQuest Partnership for Oral Health Advancement and Catalyst Institute
- Valerie Mosley, CEO, Valmo Ventures
- Rodney C. Pratt, VP, General Counsel, Converse
- Desiree Ralls-Morrison, SVP, General Counsel, Boston Scientific
- Rebekah Splaine Salwasser, Executive Director, Red Sox Foundation
- Greg Shell, Managing Director, Double Impact, Bain Capital
- Corey E. Thomas, CEO, Rapid7
- BJ Trach, Partner and Executive Committee Member, Lathan & Watkins
- Damian W. Wilmot, SVP, Chief Risk & Compliance Officer, Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated
The initial focus of the Fund is to provide resources to initiatives and nonprofit organizations supporting communities of color in the areas of policing and criminal-justice reform, health-care equity, economic empowerment and youth education, empowerment, and civic engagement.
Among the organizations funded so far Elevated Thought, a Lawrence nonprofit that uses art to drive social justice; the Brockton Interfaith Community; and Martin Luther King Jr. Family Services in Springfield.
“There are a number of highly effective Black and Brown-led organizations in the commonwealth doing extraordinary work – but they continue to be systematically underestimated and under-resourced,” said Quincy Miller, President, Eastern Bank.
“The time has come to build more capacity in these organizations so they can bring the change our communities need.” On average, the revenues of Black-led nonprofits are 24 percent smaller than white-led nonprofits – and unrestricted net assets of Black-led nonprofits are 76 percent smaller than white-led counterparts.
AIM selects Latimer Award honorees based upon several factors, including:
- The degree to which an organization or individual has exemplified the inventiveness and creativity of Lewis Latimer to benefit society and the economy.
- The track record of an organization or individual in creating or maintaining jobs that benefit communities traditionally left out of the economic mainstream, including women, communities of color, immigrants and the LGBTQ+ community.
- An organization’s or individual’s understanding of its broader role as a corporate citizen.
- The degree to which an organization or individual has challenged economic and social structures that have historically impeded the progress of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Lewis Latimer spent much of his boyhood working with his father, who eventually had to separate himself from his family for safety reasons after the Dredd Scott decision required individual slaves to prove they had the consent of their owner in order to legally become free. Lewis forged a long career as an inventor and draftsman, culminating in his hiring at the Edison Electric Company, where he served as an expert witness in patent litigation on electric lights.
While at Edison, Latimer wrote the first book on electric lighting, entitled Incandescent Electric Lighting (1890) and supervised the installation of public electric lights throughout New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, and London.