Well over 75 community members and Donna Summer fans gathered at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School to celebrate the launch of a mural tribute to the famed disco queen.
Created by the Dream Builders Youth Project, an empowerment initiative designed to motivate and equip kids to pursue their passions and desired careers, through a mural unveiling, concert and party June 13th was officially declared Donna Summer Day.
Smiles and cheers decorated the faces of the extremely diverse crowd that varied in ages and ethnicities. City officials joined in with locals and a live disc jockey as the youths of the program spearheaded an evening showcasing arts and entertainment as a commemorative way of honoring Donna Summer’s legacy.
The mural was painted to honor Summer who was raised in Boston and attended the Burke.
“The program was really started when Donna Summer passed away and it started off as a conversation of how can we preserve her legacy? How can we do programming under her name to inspire the next Donna Summers? The next Denzel Washington? although he’s not from here,” said Justin Springer, co-founder of the Dream Builders Youth Project. “Her nephew is someone I grew up with in the music industry so when she passed away I called him because I felt like it was just another story in Boston and the conversation led to us to starting Dream Builders [this spring].”
“It’s turned into life coaching and really teaching our youth to follow their passions but to attach a purpose to it. I’m glad we could do that in her same; as a Bostonian it makes a difference for kids to learn about someone who came from where they did and exceled,” Springer added.
With Jelani Lynch as the MC, the audience was encouraged to help teach students to take ownership of their lives. Sharing pieces of his own story, he stressed the need for adults to support them in making those initial steps and assisting them along their journey.
“We’re always taught that someone else has control and as young people we don’t really have control so the message is ownership. We teach them to take what they have, take their natural gifts and abilities and seek out resources to become a productive citizen and take their dreams to the next level,” said Lynch, head facilitator of the project.
After the unveiling, students from the Dream Builders Project shared poetry, did a dance routine, showed a video clip of the Burke’s principal, students and faculty as well as Maya Angelou giving inspirational words and more. Audience members gave standing ovations and nodded in agreement as the evening progressed on. Bittersweet facial expressions washed over her family members’ faces as clips of Summer were shown next, leaving the eager, active crowd in total silence.
But before long Summer tribute singer Rainere Martin was standing center in the room, performing some of her greatest hits as the concert began and the air in the room was jovial again.
“I wanted people to take away from the event that anyone can accomplish anything. Also, Boston has to acknowledge their own. There are a lot of great artists and great people who come out of this city but we gotta start recognizing it and making sure that we preserve legacies; and not just celebrities either, anybody could leave a legacy, you just have to apply yourself and make it happen,” said Robert Grant, co-founder of the Dream Builders Youth Project and nephew of Donna Summer. “Overall it was a big event and I think it went well.”
“I wanted to support and encourage our young people and this has been a great opportunity to do that. This was about reclaiming their history and legacy because Donna Summer is from this community and they have the potential to be that and to achieve even more so I think this is a great first step,” said Rufus Faulk community member.
“I went to the Jeremiah E. Burke, class of 2003, and I came to support the movement, donate; I just see a lot of good things coming out of the Burke and a lot of good things being put into the Burke,” said Alex Owumi, community member, international pro basketball player and author.