By Maritza Martinez
Green For All Fellow Hakim Cunningham feels that “service work is one of the highest calling a man can undertake in his lifetime.” He is the director of organizing at the Boston Workers Alliance, a community organization led by unemployed and underemployed workers fighting for employment rights.
Boston Workers Alliance addresses one of the nation’s most grim federal government statistics – one out of every six black men has served time behind bars. The organization provides judgment-free services to help members understand their rights and navigate the process for keeping their criminal histories from inhibiting the job search process. Over the past six years, Hakim has personally helped more than 2,400 people overcome their criminal records through leadership development and political and economic education. He helps the formerly incarcerated get a fresh start, find employment and build their skills.
Hakim also builds community gardens where folks who are struggling financially can access fresh produce. Across the country, too many families still have to choose between fresh produce or paying their bills. .As restrictions on public assistance increase, Hakim has developed a way for people to feed themselves and their families.
“All we have is us,” he explains. “We cannot rely on others to help resolve our problems.” Hakim provides opportunities for youth and adults to learn about resilience, gain new skills, and grow their own healthy food. Someone might begin with a small pot of basil on his windowsill,and then, before too long he becomes a regular volunteer at the garden. Engaging the community in urban agriculture and skill development is critical to Hakim’s vision for creating more resilient communities.
Last summer, Hakim worked with thirty eager young people through a partnership with the Boston Youth Environmental Network. During a six-week internship with clean energy companies and non-profit organizations in Boston, he taught the youth about the opportunities available in the green economy through The Roots of Success environmental education curriculum. Watch testimonials from students who participated in the 2012 Roots of Success Clean Energy Internship.
Investing in youth, families, and those who’ve gone through the criminal justice system are all part of rebuilding strong communities. Hakim is making it his life’s work to build the change he wants to see in his community and the world.
“What we really need is funding and donations to further the work,” he says.”This work is done out of love, but we incur a financial debt trying to do it.”
To find out how you can contribute to Hakim’s work visit: http://bostonworkersalliance.org/.