Marcus Hughes is an attorney and practices healthcare law as an Assistant General Counsel at UMass Memorial Health Care, Inc. in Worcester, MA. He resides in Boston with his wife and daughter. Marcus participated in YOW in 2002, and was on The City School Board from 2002-3.
How have you changed because of your experience and work with The City School?
Since becoming involved with the City School I am much more aware of the great potential of young people to make positive change in their communities. What I love about the City School is that the organization believes strongly in empowering youth to speak up to injustice and to get involved in the decision making process by providing youth a seat at the table. I've witnessed this dedication to youth leadership as a participant in one of The City School's original programs, Youth Outreach Weekends (YOW) and as a youth board member.
How have you continued your commitment to social justice beyond The CitySchool?
I try to stay involved in my community by participating in causes that mean very much to me. One program I have been involved in for the last fifteen years is the John William Ward Public Service Fellowship. This wonderful program provides at least 15 students from a Boston Public School the opportunity to have a summer internship in a governmental office in Boston. Fellows work closely with politicians and their staffs and get to learn what it is like to work within government to make positive change. I also am very happy to speak out against what I see as injustice in our communities. Recently, my family and I were fortunate to participate with over 150,000 other people in the Women's March in Boston the day after the Inauguration. It was one of the best experiences of my life.
What's your vision for how we can achieve justice?
I am a lawyer so I really do believe that achieving justice for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups in our society often must be realized through the courts, not thelegislature. Many of the civil rights victories that were won in the 1950's, 60's and 70's were through landmark cases at the US Supreme Court. The courts have for generations been the one branch of government that has more often than not stood up for people of color, women, disabled and the poor when popular opinion was satisfied with the status quo. But the courts are just one part of a social justice movement. It takes the persistent work of ordinary folks to organize peacefully but forcefully through marches, demonstrations and the written and spoken word to begin the process to effect real change.
What's your real life superpower?
I always like to say that I never forget a face. I for some reason can spot a person out of a crowd that I haven't seen in years and remember where I met them or how we are connected. But don't ask me to recall names . . . I am horrible with names!
If you could have coffee with one social justice activist, who would it be and why?
I would have to choose Mel King for his dedication to issues that have been most important to low-income, minority communities in Boston. Mel ran for mayor of Boston at time when the city was still wounded by the Busing era and actually did very well even though he was unsuccessful. His motivation and desire to make his city better despite the odds is inspiring.
What call to action do you have for our larger community in this political moment? What do you want people to know or do?
I think we all must just do our part to stay engaged, informed and active in our own communities . . It could mean to one person that they should run for a local office or seek appointment to government board. It could also mean to another person that they participate in marches or rallies for a particular political or social cause . . . In this tumultuous political time all people need to step up and do their part to be informed citizens and to participate in the political process (no matter what your party) in whatever form they feel comfortable. However, what is certain, is that our society needs more voter participation at every local, state and national election. That is the only way we can exercise control over our elected leaders and keep them accountable. Institutions like The City School are indispensable because they teach young people that their voice matters and they matter