Charles “Chuck” Henry Turner, 79, of Roxbury, MA passed away peacefully at home on December 25, 2019, following a long battle with cancer.
Chuck was born on June 10, 1940 in Cincinnati, Ohio to the late Darwin R. Turner and Laura C. Turner (Knight). He was raised by his aunt, Mamie K. Faulkner, and his grandmother, Laura Troy Knight. He graduated from Harvard University in 1963 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in government. He pledged Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated in 1960. After college, he worked as a reporter in Washington, DC at the Afro-American newspaper. In 1964, he joined a civil rights organization called the Northern Student Movement, working in both their Hartford, CT and Harlem, NY chapters before returning to Boston in 1966 to join the South End Neighborhood Action Program (SNAP), where he assisted families that were being displaced due to gentrification.
From there, Chuck broadened his focus on community organizing and activism to include economic development. In 1969, he became the Founding Director of the Northeastern University Afro Institute (now called the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute), where he secured financing for and coordinated the development of the institute. In 1970, he co-chaired the Greater Roxbury Committee on the Transportation Crisis, a regional coalition that successfully stopped the planned expansion of I-95 into and through the Boston area. He then founded and co-chaired the Southwest Corridor Land Development Coalition, a group of organizations and individuals that developed a plan for the vacant land intended for the proposed highway, later adopted and implemented by the state. In 1975, he founded the Third World Jobs Clearing House, a community-based employment agency for construction workers of color in the Boston area. In 1977, Chuck founded the Boston Jobs Coalition, a city-wide organization that fought for the policy that tied affirmative action for residents of Boston, regardless of race, to affirmative action for workers of color and women on city-sponsored construction sites. This policy was adopted by the City of Boston in 1979. In 1982, the United States Supreme Court denied the challenge by the unions and contractors to this policy. This decision set the stage for the policy to be extended to all major private construction contracts in the City of Boston in 1985. Over the next 10 years, Chuck worked tirelessly to organize around issues affecting the people of Boston, but specifically his beloved adopted home of Roxbury. In 1985, he became the Vice-Chairperson of the Greater Roxbury Neighborhood Authority (GRNA), an organization that focused on the development of community authority over the planning and development of land in Greater Roxbury. He was also a member of the Interim Roxbury Neighborhood Council (RNC), a 21-member body established by the mayor and the community to oversee the city’s development actions in Roxbury. In 1991, he became the Co-Director of Emerge, the nation’s first counseling program for men who batter. Emerge continues to provide these valuable services to this day. While Chuck was working at Emerge, he felt there was still more that he could do and thus continued his community work. In 1999, he was asked to and successfully ran for and won the District 7 seat on the Boston City Council, covering Roxbury, the South End, the Fenway area, and parts of Jamaica Plain. From 1999 to 2010, Chuck dedicated himself to providing services to the residents of District 7. He assisted in or led initiatives that directly impacted all Boston residents. He opened the first fully staffed satellite city council office in Dudley Square (now known as Nubian Square). This much utilized satellite office was not funded by the city. While carrying out his city council duties, Chuck continued his focus on developing jobs for community residents. From 2013 until his passing, Chuck worked with renewed vigor to continue aspects of his previous work, notably working with the Boston Jobs Coalition, Warren Gardens Co-Operative, the African-African Master Artists-in-Residency Program (AAMARP) and the Nubian Square Coalition. Chuck worked for 56 years to secure the liberation of his people, his community, the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed.
What we have briefly laid is but a portion of the work that Chuck focused on during his lifetime. His commitment to humanity and his presence will be sorely missed.
Chuck is survived by his beloved wife of 25 years, Terri Small Turner of Roxbury, MA; his daughters, Stephanie Bonner-Lyons of Roxbury, MA and Alana Maddox (Small) and her husband, Marcus, of North Providence, RI; his son, Levar Small of Fitchburg, MA; his grandson, Jacob Estremera of North Providence, RI; his niece, Pam Turner Welch of Austin, TX; his great-nephew, Reginald J. Welch of Austin, TX; his cousins, Yvonne Ewing (Knight) of Cincinnati, OH and Clara Martin and husband David of Cincinnati, OH; and his sister-in-law, Maggie Jean Turner of Iowa City, IA. He was preceded in death by his parents; his grandmother Laura Troy Knight; his aunt, Mamie K. Faulkner; his brother, Darwin T. Turner, a literature critic, poet, and professor; his nephew, Darwin (Keith) K. Turner; and his grandfather Dr. Charles Henry Turner, a prominent animal behavior biologist and entomologist.
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