We are ecstatic to highlight the great work that New England United 4 Justice (NEU4J) has done in the city of Boston. Previously located at 1845 Dorchester Ave, NEU4J has recently moved to their brand new location at 102 Columbia Rd in Dorchester. NEU4J is “grateful to have worked with Codman Sq. NDC, Community Labor United and several funding and community allies that have played a part in the move”. The team at NEU4J will continue their work in Fields Corner, Codman Sq, Mattapan and Hyde Park. They look forward to continuing to do support work with Roxbury allies and continuity to serve Boston families.
Formerly Known as Mass Acorn, NEU4J was founded by A team of dedicated residents from Dorchester, Mattapan, and Roxbury in 2010. They had trusted allies who were also involved supporting this process and journey along the way. NEU4J is an organization committed to promoting social, economic, and racial justice in the Greater Boston Region. They have a strong grassroots organizing model that centers the leadership and voice of low-income residents in the neighborhoods they serve.
Through community engagement they have developed a strong and dedicated team from their base. At NEU4J their members are the heart of the organization and the staff and team are the backbone. The team of residents and staff hold the day to day work of our missions and goals. They also have a team of funders and allies that they work with to support continuing to build a broad agenda led by the community.
NEU4J believes that social change happens when those most impacted by issues of systemic injustice, organize at the block level to address issues within their neighborhoods. Through their involvement at a community level, residents engage in direct city and regional organizing efforts that allow resident leaders to participate in strategy efforts that drive small and large campaign efforts that have an impact on a City and Statewide agenda, led by the community.
NEU4J’s direct action campaigns are 1) rooted in a clear, integrated analysis of race, class and gender justice, 2) aim to challenge the systems of oppression by building a united front for liberation, and 3) always start where members are at, when developing leaders for the movement.
Movement building is an essential component of NEU4J’s social change vision and strategy. We know we are one voice, one organization, in a broader ecosystem of movement leaders and partners that we are very intentional about building with.
One of NEU4J’s biggest strengths is their ability to mobilize the community. They have a strong, traditional grassroots program. Which include, phone banking, word of mouth and going Door to door to engage with residents directly. Through these efforts they have designed popup education spaces. In these spaces they have discussions and planning sessions based on the direction residents need and identify as important spaces to create.
The 2020 year allowed NEU4J to see a different reality in the work that they take on as a grassroots organization focused on social, racial, and economic justice. As 2021 comes to a close, the team at NEU4J is committed to deepening their understanding of the role they play as an empowerment organization in the community. Through the continued crisis and survival mode of our City, they have seen the significance of their collective work, bold action, new organizing models and how they directly impact the lives of thousands of families across Boston.
NEU4J continues to move an organizing model that includes wellness checks and services as a part of the day-to-day efforts. This is one of the major shifts they had to undertake as an organization, to meet the needs of residents we represent. The Wellness program connects families with direct referrals around food: Hot Meals, Senior Food Programs, Produce and Groceries. Supporting families in applying for Food Stamps/SNAP, State and City programs that provide direct resources for Housing and Utility costs. They are also able to provide education to ensure families have access to the new Child Tax Credit. Through their worker center, they have connected residents to job training and job openings across the City, as programs reopen and job opportunities become available.
The wellness program has allowed NEU4J to provide direct service and support to residents in need. They have moved their services to an organizing model, allowing NEU4J to access new avenues to engage families in direct advocacy campaigns. Their ability to move this model significantly relies on their staff and member outreach program, through NEU4J’s civic team, which they have been able to continue to build year-round. They are happy to announce that the wellness program will continue to be a core part of their efforts throughout the 2022 year.
Noemi Ramos the Executive Director at NEU4J believes that “In this critical moment, our communities continue to face the burden and impacts of COVID, and we remain in this cloud of uncertainty as the new variant begins to hit our communities” At NEU4J they continue to use their voice to position and shift political dynamics that have an impact on policy, services, and the well-being of residents within the City and State, while working on behalf of the families they represent. Noemi added “As the Pandemic continues to hover over our nation we know, black and brown, low-income families and communities of color continue to be at risk. We have a health crisis and an economic crisis that residents are navigating through in their daily lives, to survive”
The overall health of their members and neighborhood is critical to NEU4J, they have seen first hand the challenges around access, education, and information around the vaccine, testing sites and COVID safety measures. Noemi added “Families continue to struggle with the resources they need in accessing healthy and affordable food in the community. Residents continue to experience dramatic challenges around both housing protections and gaining access to financial resources to cover their rent, mortgages, and utilities.
The team at NEU4J believes that the sentiment that “life will go back to normal”, is not a reality for many of the families they represent. Mimi added “The road to recovery will be long and will take years to overcome. NEU4J continues to work with families to ensure residents Know their rights, Have information on direct financial resources and support navigating services, Direct organizing and leadership opportunities to empower and educate families with ways that enable them to take direct action to fight for Housing, Jobs, Childcare and have a voice in the direction our City and State.
Thank you to NEU4J for engaging and empowering the community for the last 11 years, the work that they have done has been critical to the growth of the community. They empower the next generation of local leaders who will continue to do the great work and take NEU4J to the next level.
Meet the Executive Director of New England United for Justice
We recently had the pleasure of meeting with Noemi “Mimi” Ramos, the Executive Director of New England United 4 Justice (NEU4J). Mimi, who identifies as a Black and Latina woman, Founded NEU4J in 2010 which is a non-profit that is committed to promoting social, economic, and racial justice in the Greater Boston Region. As a founding member of NEU4J, Mimi and the great team of NEU4J continually strive to engage and empower families to speak up and become a part of the solution to improve the City focused on worker rights, childcare, housing and voter protections and engagement.
A Dorchester Native, Mimi grew up on Dudley St, surrounded by family, with her grandmother and Tio living in Uphams Corner. When she was in the 7th grade Her parents got divorced, this led to Mimi and her mother being displaced for two years. Her mother was able to find affordable housing in Dorchester on Adams St, Mimi added “ I always find myself coming back to Adams St.” While she doesn’t currently consider herself to be religious, Mimi grew up in a penacostal household and she credits her exposure to religion at a young age for her ability to quickly connect with people.
Mimi went to school in Weymouth with her brother where they were 2 of 3 people of color at the school. At the time her Stepdad an Irishmen did not understand the challenges that Mimi and her brother would have to face everyday. She experienced a lot of tension with her fellow classmates, with the issues revolving round her race, culture and religion. Mimi is thankful to the principal of the school Mr. Bernard, who as a blackman was able to connect with Mimi and her brother she added “i’ll never forget him” he helped Mimi and her brother get through the hardships that came her way.
After leaving school in Weymouth Mimi would go on to attend Frank Thompson Middle school, which was a complete 180 for her. In Weymouth she was at a predominately white school and dealt with issues that centered around her race and religion, whereas at the Thompson middle school she was called the white girl in the room because of how she spoke. It was here at the Thompson that Mimi learned to ask people to take her for who she is, reflecting back on it Mimi feels that her early school experience allowed her to “See things from many sides and angels”
Mimi would go on to attend South Boston High School, While in high school Mimi had her daughter marasol?? She had to take a step back from school to attend to her newborn daughter. Growing up her mother and aunt always talked about how they were not able to finish school. They have lived through Mimi, So she was always driven and motivated to continue pursuing school. She wanted to prove to her daughter that it was possible to graduate from school while being a young mother but also to fulfill the wish her mother,aunt and grandmother had for her. They are the anchors that help keep Mimi grounded, focused and motivated to serve Dorchester.
After graduating from high school Mimi would go on to get her associates degree From Bay State College to become a medical assistant. At the time she wanted to work with babies in the healthcare industry. After college Mimi worked at Saint Elizabeths, she worked in the field for a short period of time before she lost her job. It was a challenging time for Mimi, she had a young daughter and was out of work, she applied for food stamps, but before receiving any benefits was told that she would have to do something work wise. They suggested that Mimi look into volunteering with local nonprofits organizations, so Mimi reached out to Mass Acorn, a now deficient non profit that was down the street from her home in fields corner.
Mimi joined Mass Acorn in 2004 and immediately Fell in love with the people she was working with and for and loved the work environment at Mass Acorn. She felt like she had found what she was meant to do, Mimi added “organizing found me”. After volunteering with them for a short period of time Mimi officially applied to become a community organizer. She recalled that during the interview Joyce Campbell the E.D at the time asked Mimi “ How many years would you give me to show you what the work is about” Mimi couldn’t believe that Joyce would ask be so direct during the interview, but after some thought Mimi committed to work for Mass Acorn for several years.
In 2010 Mass Acorn shut down, this was a tough time for Mimi and the team at NEU4J. Over six years they had done great work for the community and were making strides in community engagement, so they knew they had to continue to move forward and do the work. They were left with a choice, either start a new organization, or merge with another. Due to overwhelming support from the community, they decided to try to build something new, NEU4J was born from these initial community conversations. On Jan 10th 2010 NEU4J was officially birthed with their original location being on Adams St. When they first started as their own Non-profit they were faced with many obstacles, many people were upset about the power building an agenda work they were doing in low income areas of color, so they went after them in every single way possible.
Mimi would not be deterred, she led NEU4J through the initial obstacles and with her leadership and guidance was able to grow the nonprofit and expand their outreach in the community. Mimi believes that “Meeting people where they are at” has been key to NEU4J success over the years. Mimi believes that by empowering the community to think about concerns and areas that need improvement in their neighborhoods they are creating a more engaged community.
Her role is to help people understand the rules and how they can use those rules to help them with their fights and help to provide them solutions in the community. Mimi works everyday to make sure that issues that the community feels are important are being addressed in the political realm. She believes it is crucial to have power and decision making on what change looks like rooted in the communities hands.
Oftentimes Mimi will meet with people who say “ I don’t want to get involved in politics” She tells those people that getting anything done is a political endeavor, if you want new sidewalks or stop signs installed you will have to get involved in politics. She reassures individuals that if they commit to getting more involved that the NEU4J will help them connect the dots. Mime believes “ That we as low income communities of color have more political power then we know” It is her obligation to share this knowledge with others in the community, she knows that “it is not mine to keep” At NEU4J They bring on people who don’t have the perfect resume but are able to connect to the community. Mimi wants to embrace these community members which she believes are “Stars among us, that we don’t really pay attention to”
Mimi is heavily influenced by the strong, independent and resilient women in her life. Mimi’s mother, grandmother and aunt have always been her role models, they taught Mimi at a young age the importance of independence. Mimi credits her mother for her organization skills, her father for her hustle and her grandmother for her bold nature, she also credits the church for providing her with a lot of grounding even though she admits that she is “not really a religious person, but a spiritual person”
Mimi is not your traditional Executive Director, while her role includes fundraising and relationship building work, which is the“behind the scenes work that is the glue that keeps everything together” Mimi still finds herself going to actions, protests, rallies and door knockings, for Mimi “this part of the work feeds my soul, i get a lot of joy in training and developing other organizers” Mimi and the team at NEU4J are working on developing a School that trains and develops folks, to become the next generation of community organizer. It’s important to Mimi that students have a political awareness and understanding of what the work is about, in the history of the work and what the ecosystem of the work is like. It’s crucial to provide space for new leaders to grow, Mimi Added“someone needs to take my job and I need to help them get there.”
Mimi credits her team of young women who recently have stepped into leadership roles with other nonprofits for helping to keep her grounded. This team of young, driven, dedicated and highly motivated women of color have provided each other with a support system that has been beneficial for Mimi, They feed off each other, laugh together, cry together and encourage each other to push forward and to not let anyone slow them down, it’s an important space for mimi. Mimi wants to find the next executive director
In her 11 years with NEU4J Mimi is most proud of the strides that the movement building alliance “right to the city” has made over the last five years. This national organization with a local chapter in Boston has become the glue that brings several grassroots together. It has allowed for there to be 1 collective voice that is hyper focused on a few central issues. Mimi knows that the work is bigger than NEU4J and is encouraged to see many nonprofits collaborating together. The “right to the city” movement has given nonprofits an opportunity to figure out how they can best align with each other and support each other.
So what’s next for Mimi, She is currently working on finding the next Executive Director to fill her shoes. When asked if she had any political aspirations Mimi answered Bluntly “No” Mimi enjoys being a movement leader and loves supporting the community the way she does. Mimi Added “ I Couldn’t see myself in long hearings all day as an elected official” She also doesn’t want to lose the lessons and gifts that movements before them have held onto, she plans on taking a step back, she added “I need time to break and breathe and make sure that what I do next continues to feed and support and grow the movement.
Mimi is also proud to see a lot more intentional relationship building taking place within the black,vietnamese and caribbean populations in the fields corner and ashmont community and with white allies. Mimi doesn’t believe that we talk about class and race in the proper way, oftentimes these tough conversations revolve around data points and have drifted away from personal stories. Mimi added “Dorchester is so diverse’ in Dorchester there are neighborhoods within neighborhoods, with each having their own identity.” Although she worries about housing instability and seeing young people out in the streets with nothing to do” Mimi
is optimistic that the community will continue to grow and thrive because “people are awake in a different way, they have bold ideas that are possible now.” We are thankful to Mimi and her amazing team at NEU4J, they have done incredible work behind the scenes in Dorchester for over 11 years.