Posted January 6th 2010 at 8:00 pm by
in Mel King Community Fellows

CoLab rings in a New Year with Mel King Community Fellows

Mel King Community Fellows visit the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative greenhouse.

This week is a special one for CoLab and for the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning.  Today, January 6th, we welcomed the full 2010 cohort of Mel King Community Fellows to our campus.

The Mel King Fellowship is designed to promote community practitioners’ learning and co-creation of knowledge with the MIT academic community.  The goal is to support cadres of community practitioners as they engage with each other and with the Institute’s scholarly community through self-directed mutual learning.

Fellows are chosen on the basis of their expertise in community engagement and their demonstrated interest in and capacity to work collaboratively to examine links between theory and local practice. They are drawn from communities across the country and have experience in a range of social justice pursuits.   This year’s cohort includes:

Rev. William Barber, Greenleaf Christian Church, Goldsboro, NC

Rev. Scott Douglas, Greater Birmingham Ministries, Birmingham, AL.

Penda Hair, Advancement Project, Washington DC

Derrick Johnson, Mississippi State Conference, NAACP

Joyce Johnson, Beloved Community Center, Greensboro, NC

Rev. Nelson Johnson, Beloved Community Center, Greensboro, NC

Dr. Jacquie Kay of WPI, Inc., Boston, MA

Burt Lauderdale, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, London, KY

Malia Lazu, The Gathering for Justice, New York, NY

Juan Leyton, Neighbor to Neighbor, Boston, MA

Penn Loh, Tufts University, Medford, MA

The Fellows will spend 2010 exploring prospects for using the stimulus (and subsequent federal and state public investments) to develop equitable sustainability initiatives at the local level. This week and throughout the rest of the year, CoLab shall support community leaders’ learning, knowledge-sharing and theory-building about the most pressing issues facing urban communities today.


From 1970 to 1998, the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) has honored over 250 community activists and leaders via the Community Fellows Program.  Melvin H. (Mel) King, long-time Boston activist and former Massachusetts state representative launched the program during his tenure as an adjunct professor at DUSP.  King designed the fellows program as a year-long sabbatical for mid-career practitioners who were in danger of burning-out on the community battlefields.  The fellowship program sought to reward practitioners by offering a year of study at MIT, where they could reflect on their work, conduct research, acquire skills, and build new relationships.

Forty years later, the Community Innovators Lab continues to build upon this long-standing DUSP tradition of bridging community practice with academic research.  Instead of undertaking a year of study at MIT, current fellows continue working at their respective sites while deepening their connections with the dispersed learning community at MIT and across the nation.

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