The marquee of the Citi Center for the Performing Arts, still known as the Wang, was lit up on Wednesday evening. In bold colors and a dominating photo it read “Hubie80!” For years now, Boston has known that “Hubie” is Hubie Jones, a man who has made an incomparable impact on this city.
He came to Boston in 1957 to B.U.’s graduate school of social work. It was the same year he married Kathy Butler, who helped found the Metco program and who, for a decade, served on the Newton School Committee, the first African-American to do so. Hubie speaks often of how profoundly a speech by Martin Luther King at that time at Jordan Hall affected him, and it is altogether fitting that Jordan Hall is where the annual MLK Day concert of the Boston Children’s Chorus takes place. The chorus was Hubie’s brainchild, and has fulfilled his dream of using the arts to bridge racial, ethnic, religious and economic differences. David Howse, executor director of the BCC and a rising star in Boston, was one of the organizers behind Wednesday’s tribute.
A child of the South Bronx, over half a century in Boston, Hubie has left his imprint on the city in helping to launch or drive as many as 30 non-profit organizations, including City Year, the Roxbury Multi-Service Center, Mass Advocates for Children, Teen Empowerment, Higher Ground, Roxbury Youthworks and the Citywide Educational Coalition. He also made his mark in academia, becoming the first African-American to serve as dean of the Boston University School of Social Work. He was Special Assistant to the Chancellor for Urban Affairs at the University of Massachusetts Boston, acting President of Roxbury Community College, Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a visiting associate in community psychiatry at Harvard, a teacher at Simmons and Brandeis. Along the way, he received tons of honorary degrees and awards. And, by the way, in the midst of all this, Hubie and Kathy raised a family of eight accomplished and community-committed children and now enjoy nine grandchildren. (see photo below)
Hubie and I worked together for 20 years, he as a weekly commentator on Channel 5 (WCVB-TV)’s long-running public affairs program Five on Five, and I, as the show’s producer and occasional host. He has always been about steadfast commitment to social justice, civil rights and the protection, education and development of children.
Whatever his ever-increasing visibility even to the point of celebrity, he has never wallowed in ego. The day after the 80th birthday, having received personal greetings from Mayor-elect Marty Walsh and heard accolades from President Obama, Governor Patrick, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, longtime brother-in-the-cause Mel King, and representatives of some of the cultural and youth organizations whose lives he has touched, Hubie reflected with me on how far Boston has come. This celebration was not about him, he said: “this was about community.” And so it was.
It is clear that, thanks to the efforts of Hubie and those with whom he worked for decades, even when it comes to inclusivity, Boston is, as he observed Wednesday night, “on the cusp of being a truly great city.”
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