By Satta Sarmah Hightower | June 20, 2018 | 3 Minute Read
Social activism and community advocacy are in the Shaw family’s DNA.
Sarah-Ann Shaw, who grew up in Roxbury, Boston, had a politically-active father who was a part of the Democratic Club of Roxbury. Following in his footsteps, she joined the NAACP Youth Council and became a Girl Scout. Her civic involvement as a young person eventually carried over to her work as a journalist and as the first black woman to be televised in Boston.
“I thought it was necessary to talk about social issues because they really weren’t being covered. When I went to work at Channel 4 in the late 60s, coverage of the African-American community was basically negative coverage,” says Sarah-Ann. “I knew there were other kinds of programs and things happening in the community, and so I thought it was important to try to let other people know about the other things that were going on in Roxbury.”
And just as her father laid the groundwork for her activism, so did Sarah-Ann for her daughter, Klare Shaw. Together, they have championed several causes focused on fostering more equity and justice in the city, especially for minorities.
Their work will be honored when they receive Eastern Bank’s 2018 Community Advocacy Award this month. Though the mother-daughter duo is grateful for the recognition, they both say that the country still has work to do in order to build a more inclusive and fair society.
“It’s like a pendulum,” she says. “At some point, it swings and you think things will really change, but then it kind of swings back the other way. But that doesn’t mean you stop trying to make change happen.”
From her participation in the NAACP Youth Council, her community involvement grew over time.
She worked at St. Mark’s Social Center, was a member of the Boston Action Group, and coordinated voter and housing education efforts as part of a civil rights group called the Northern Student Movement. In her professional career, Sarah-Ann also worked on anti-poverty and community health education programs.
After regular appearances on a local public affairs show as part of her advocacy work, WBZ-TV hired her in 1969—making her the city’s first black female reporter. She stayed with the station for more than 30 years, covering many stories that provided more breadth and depth about life in Boston’s black communities.
Sarah-Ann’s work in front of and behind the camera naturally encouraged her daughter, Klare, to get involved, too.
“There were a lot of protesting, boycotts, and things that I grew up [doing]—either handing out fliers for or carrying pickets for—so I had an understanding about the structural challenges in this country and how they had to be addressed at a very young age,” says Klare.
Today, Sarah-Ann and Klare are involved in several community activities. Klare has spent her career working with foundations, for the state of Massachusetts, and for Boston public schools—bringing a lens to her work that allowed for maximum inclusion and outreach to communities and trying to facilitate the work of other community advocates. Sarah-Ann is on several boards including the League of Women for Community Service, and Klare is on the board of the Urban Farming Institute. She and her mother are also members of the Democratic State Committee.
Both say they are encouraged by the work of young community advocates and professional organizations that have pushed for more inclusion and representation in the city, but issues of equity still remain in Boston—especially when it comes to fair housing, education, and employment.
“Some of the more subtle aspects of racism or exclusion in the city have now morphed into areas that have more to do with access,” says Klare. “The desegregation that was in place around the city in the 60s has now morphed into a struggle for black people and other people of color to be included in some of the more lucrative economic advancements in the city and some of the areas where significant power is wielded.”
Sarah-Ann and Klare say that they hope their example and life’s work encourages more people to get involved and makes them feel that they, too, can make a change in the city and help it become more equitable for everyone.
“People ask me what’d I’d like to see happen,” says Sarah-Ann. “I would like to see a more level playing field. Whether that’s people sitting on boards, people getting jobs, people getting a proper education, people getting a house—a roof over their heads. I think working towards a level playing field is very, very important.”
Learn more about how Sarah-Ann Shaw and Klare Shaw were chosen as Eastern Bank’s 2018 Community Advocacy Award honorees.