School 23
Official Obituary of

Sarah-Ann Shaw

November 6, 1933 ~ March 21, 2024 (age 90) 90 Years Old
Obituary Image

Sarah-Ann Shaw Obituary

Sarah-Ann Shaw passed away on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at age 90. She was born November 6, 1933, in Boston. A lifelong resident of Roxbury, MA. She never strayed far from her roots on “Sugar Hill.”  She was the second child born to Norris King of Alabama, and Annie Belle (Bomar) King of South Carolina. She came through the Boston Public Schools and attended high school at Boston’s Girls Latin School where she received an excellent education. She loved to read, and alongside the few Black girls admitted there she developed lifelong friends. Sarah-Ann also studied at Boston University. She grew up in the connected heart of Black Roxbury where people knew one another, where folks were warm, and families were vigilant -- advocating for the future of the race, steering the children to success, and fighting for the community. As the daughter of a man who supported The Roxbury Democratic Club, Garvey, and Trotter, she was always aware of the challenges and blessings of being a person of African descent in America; and she hoped to spur people to work passionately for progress. She loved Boston although she was often heartbroken at the ways the powerful in the city excluded people of color, and poor people. Her life’s commitment was to be of service -- to comfort the downtrodden and to afflict the comfortable.

During her teen years she participated in the NAACP Youth Council as it met at the League of Women for Community Service on 558 Massachusetts Ave., where her mother and Aunt Hattie were active. Politics and organizing were essential to her life. She worked hard recruiting families and tutoring children as a co-founder of the Northern Student Movement. She also volunteered and strategized for many other educational, social, and civil rights organizations. Sarah-Ann learned from Mrs. Melnea Cass, and fought beside many other activists – some still working hard today and some passed on but acknowledged in the Freedom Plaza. Whether the political battle was about: equal education, rights for those trapped in the criminal justice system, or adequate benefits for families on public assistance, she pushed for fairness, decency, and justice. Her ties extended far beyond the Black community as she had friends and allies in every neighborhood of Boston and supported parallel struggles for power occurring in the Asian, Cape Verdean and Latino communities.

Sarah-Ann also benefited from and experienced the beauty of arts and culture. In her childhood she had regular music lessons, and as a teen she attended cultural events and musical teas. She was taught to dance by Ms. Elma Lewis and was exposed to the importance of the arts. She enjoyed and supported dance, poetry, literature, visual and performing arts in her personal and professional life. The programs of the National Center of Afro-American Artists exposed her to world class performers and artists. Often she took friends and family to New York to see the Alvin Ailey Company and the Negro Ensemble Company -- long before these groups toured. Many of her good friends were artists of all genres, and she often sought out jazz clubs-- listening to musicians locally, and nationally. When time permitted she also loved to travel, and she spent amazing times with colleagues, friends and family in Bermuda, Morocco, Nigeria, Italy, Cuba, and South Africa; where she learned about other cultures as she enjoyed the sunshine and the people.

After her community organizing years in the 60’s she worked at Action for Boston Community Development collaborating on the neighborhood representation and participation framework that became the Area Planning Action Councils (or APAC’s). A chance media experience after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination led her to become a contributing host on “Say Brother”, the precursor to “Basic Black.”  While there, she was fortunate to work with many talented media people, especially the early cast, camera people and producers at WGBH (now ‘GBH) who became her lifelong friends. The time spent on Channel Two led to an offer from Channel Four, which she accepted after much thought, because she was concerned about compromising her authenticity.

Sarah-Ann was a working journalist at WBZ -TV for 31 years, and after retirement she continued to be an activist as long as she was able. She was the first Black female reporter at WBZ-TV, where she worked as a general assignment reporter from 1969 until 2000. During that time, she was one of the most prominent reporters covering school desegregation, providing balance during the violence at Boston's public high schools. Her presence was important to many of the Black parents and students as they were assured that the story of what was happening to them as part of the enforcement of the court order was being documented. While at WBZ, Sarah-Ann also covered a wide range of news stories and developed special reports that illustrated positive contributions made by BIPOC residents of Massachusetts. In this way she tried to dispel stereotypes held about people of color, while providing positive images of urban life. Her stories shone a light on those often marginalized by traditional media. Her hope was to ensure that all people were provided with the same social, economic, and educational opportunities. In addition to local activism, she helped support divestment, anti-apartheid work and freedom in South Africa. She never gave up, rarely backed down, and was always honest for good or bad. If she had a motto it was “To thine own self be true.”

 Although spiritual and generous, throughout her life Sarah-Ann had a complicated relationship with organized religion. This was true even as she counted many activist preachers and pastors as friends and colleagues. Her parents frequented St. Mark’s Congregational Church, Gloucester Memorial Presbyterian Church on Mission Hill, and Twelfth Baptist Church. However, church felt a little confining and she rebelled against the disregard for women’s contributions, the homophobia, and the rigid hierarchy she saw in many denominations. She was an early supporter of rights for LGBTQIA people and contributed to many organizations battling the HIV-AIDS crisis and substance abuse across Boston.

 During her lifetime Sarah-Ann Shaw was acknowledged by a variety of organizations. Most recently, in January of 2023 she was honored to be included in the “1965 Freedom Plaza” that surrounds “The Embrace” sculpture on the Boston Commons. That was a special moment as she saw so many of her colleagues in the struggle finally receive their recognition. The 2022 Roxbury Unity Day car caravan made her smile during COVID-19, as she saw so many dear friends stop by, honk and wave. 2022 also brought recognition from the Sri Chin Moy “Peace Run” as she received one of its international medals. Eastern Bank honored her in 2018 with its Community Advocacy Award alongside her daughter Klare. In 2016, Old South Church presented her with the “Open Door” award on its Phillis Wheatley Sunday. Mount Ida College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters Degree in 2014; and Simmons University awarded her an honorary Doctorate from the Gwen Ifill Media Center in the school of Journalism in 2018. In 2014, ABCD, Boston’s anti-poverty agency added her to its Lifetime Hall of Fame. In 2008, she was inducted into the MA Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The New England Society of Newspaper Editors awarded her the Yankee Quill award in 2000. Also in 2000, Emerson College Radio Television News Directors Association honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award. Her contributions to women’s issues were also notable -- and in 2006 she was honored with the “Take a Stand” award by the Boston Women’s Fund. The Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus saluted her with its Abigail Adams Award in 2003. She also received a very precious award from the Garrison Trotter Neighborhood Association. (The family apologizes for any omissions -- the awards are too numerous to mention them all).

 In 1979, Shaw served as the Region One Director of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). NABJ recognized her contributions as a journalist with a Lifetime Achievement Award at its 1998 conference. Always the worker bee, her memory was that she did not sign the founding charter for NABJ because she was out doing an errand for the organization. She is also a past President of the Boston Association of Black Journalists, which recognized her with an award in 1993. In the early 1970’s Shaw taught journalism briefly at Simmons College, and among her students she is proud to count Gwen Ifill. During her career she was a mentor to many working in media, including reporters, videographers, camera people, and journalism students. She was an active member elected to the MA State Democratic Party and she had many colleagues and collaborators across the State.

In 2014, she was featured in Don West and Kenneth Cooper’s book, “Portraits of Purpose: A Tribute to Leadership,”. In 2007, Sarah-Ann and her daughter Klare received an Intergenerational Activist Award from “Teen Voices” magazine. The Advent School presented her with the Mona Hull Founder’s Award for Education for Social Justice in 2006. In 2004, she was given a Community Legend Award by Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. Shaw was recognized again in 2001 with the “A Hero Among Us" award presented by the Boston Celtics. The NAACP Boston Branch honored her with the Drum Major for Justice Award, the Cambridge YWCA, Rosie's Place, the Irish Immigration Center, the Greater Boston Food Bank, and others have also honored her, and she received commendations from Mayors, Governors, the Boston City Council, the MA State Legislature, and other elected bodies.

From 1990 on Shaw served as a member of many non-profit boards and civic planning groups that were important to her including Central Boston Elder Services, The Boston Neighborhood Network, The Friends of the Dudley Library Inc., and The League of Women for Community Service. Other opportunities to serve on governing boards were Ford Hall Forum, Boston Senior Home Care, The Greater Boston Food Bank, the Executive Service Corps Inc. (now Empower Success Corps), Boston University School of Medicine Dean’s Advisory Board, and the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

 Sarah-Ann is survived by devoted relatives and friends who will miss her dearly. Surviving family are her birth daughter Klare Shaw (Michael Claytor), her two “children by love and choice” Linda Palmer and Eric Meza, three adult grandchildren Eric Shaw-Moss (partner Leatha Bennett), Caroline Amina Shaw-Moss (partner Anthony Merrell Grant), Kai Palmer Dunning (partner Arsema Abegaz) and one great-grandson, Nyzohn Eric Small. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is also a caring sister to the family. Leo Moss, Klare’s ex-husband, is a resolute friend. Sarah-Ann was predeceased by her ex-husband “Kwame” (Donald Melvin) Shaw with whom she shared a passion for music, art, and civil rights. Her parents Annie and Norris King, and her brother Norris Bomar King passed away some time ago. Sarah-Ann enjoyed the great love of our kinship families of Bomar, Stroud, Shaw, Rushing, Bayne, and Perry. As her peers passed away the next generation of nieces and nephews kept watch--Michelle Bomar Jones (Charles and their son Kevin), Lamar Bomar Jr. (Sue), Donna Bomar, and Sharon Bomar, Sona Shaw Desmangles (Gregory), Nyanza Shaw, Bijan Bayne and Stuart Perry all checked in on her regularly from around the country. Niece Susan Perry visited often and helped with care. Klare’s Godmother Andrea Rushing, and other long-time friends would brighten her days with phone calls and laughter. Some very dear pals go back to the early Roxbury families she grew up beside on Munroe St. She will be remembered and lifted up by scores of folks who gave her real affection during the years when Alzheimer's, infirmities and COVID-19 radically altered her life. Very, very special thanks to Linda Palmer for her care and agape love. Sarah-Ann’s village was large and if she liked you it was evident, and she welcomed you in. 

The family appreciates Pastors Rev. Dr. Ray Hammond and Rev. Dr. Gloria White-Hammond and the Bethel AME Missionary group for concern, prayers, cards, and comfort. Thanks to all who have recently checked in, called, and visited making her life so much richer. We appreciate Stenia and Suzeline of the Bayada Care team, the incredible Dr. Heidi Auerbach and the Gerontology and Pulmonary Departments of Boston Medical Center, and Dr. Alexandra Golby, Nurse Mary Beth Anketell and the team at MA General Brigham's Neurology. The medical treatment and professional advice from all of these sources undoubtedly helped extend her life and allowed her to remain comfortable much longer. She shifted to Sherrill House in June of 2023, and the staff people there were kind and compassionate throughout. The family thanks everyone for their support and kindness over her lifetime, and especially in the last two decades.

 In lieu of flowers, donations in her honor would be appreciated by:
The League of Women for Community Service or c/o M. Jones 608 Massachusetts Ave. Unit Four, Boston, MA 02118.

Also contributions in memoriam recognizing S.A. Shaw would be accepted by:
Friends of the Dudley Branch Library

via Venmo ( [email protected] ),
dropped at the Roxbury Library Branch 149 Dudley St, Roxbury MA , 02119
or mailed c/o E. Nagarajah, FODBL 46 Dudley Street Roxbury, MA 02119.
In her memory the family urges everyone to VOTE, VOLUNTEER, and ORGANIZE.

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April 26, 2024

5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Davis Funeral Home
89 Walnut Ave
Roxbury, MA 02119

April 27, 2024

10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Bethel A.M.E. Church
40 Walk Hill St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

Memorial Service
April 27, 2024

11:00 AM
Bethel A.M.E. Church
40 Walk Hill St.
Jamaica Plain, MA 02130

This event will be live-streamed


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