Boston's 2nd Fierce Urgency of Now Festival Celebrates Young Professionals of Color in a Big Way

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke in his "I Have a Dream" speech of the "tranquilizing drug of gradualism". He implored Americans to uphold responsibilities to democracy, and to progress with a spirit of the "fierce urgency of now". City Awake (a program by the Boston Chamber of Commerce) is commencing the 2nd annual Fierce Urgency of Now Festival on Sept. 4-8 with 40 events in the City of Boston to highlight the opportunities and challenges of young persons of color - and to spark equitable action from business, civic, and government leaders.

Fierce Urgency of Now Festival - Young Professionals of Color Activism in Boston

​​​​​City Awake is calling on the city of Boston to wake up...and to wake up ​now​.

In his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King addressed a crowd amassed along the National Mall to declare: "We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. There is no time [...] to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism."

This Sept. 4-8, individuals and organizations from across greater Boston will gather together to remember, renew, and recommit to the mission that the time of fierce urgency ​is ​now. For five days, both learners and leaders will build connections and community during the aptly titled Fierce Urgency of Now (F.U.N.) Festival. The second-ever annual event is first of its kind in the nation - a festival meant to highlight the experiences of, challenges, and possibilities for young professionals of color in Boston.

The idea for F.U.N was born out of the results of the 2017 report City of Millennials, a collaboration between Boston Indicators, the Boston Foundation, and City Awake. Results from the report identified a divergent experience for millennials of color living and working in Greater Boston, and demonstrated a disproportionate amount of challenges in issues of affordability, overall economic security, and the continuous narrative of Boston as an unwelcoming city for young professionals of color.

“To address the reputation and realities of Boston as a city that is unwelcoming to people of color, we need to bring people across sectors, backgrounds, and perspectives together for meaningful dialogue that leads to change,” said Justin Kang, executive director of City Awake and vice president of Economic Growth for the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce (GBCC). “Young professionals of color are critical to this work, and through FUN we are giving a platform to lead in creating a Boston where all can thrive.”

James E. Rooney, president & CEO of the GBCC, shares “For greater Boston to maintain and grow its economic standing, we must ensure that we are addressing the challenges holding us back as a city, particularly challenges that impact our ability to attract and retain a talented workforce. Our region’s population is younger and more diverse than at any time in our history, so it is imperative that we provide connecting opportunities and discuss issues that will make us a better, more welcoming, and more competitive city. FUN is a way to have those important conversations while also having a good time and building stronger connections between the business community and young people of color.”

“At John Hancock, we aim to build a healthier, more equitable Boston, and we are committed to fostering an inclusive work environment that welcomes diverse talent,” said Sofia Teixeira, head of U.S. Diversity & Inclusion at John Hancock. “We are proud to partner with the Chamber on its economic opportunity initiatives and this F.U.N. festival will enable important conversations and connections that can help drive important change to move our city forward.”

“Young people of color have a right to feel like they not only belong and are welcomed but that they are truly valued and supported where they live and work,” said Dani Monroe, Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Partners HealthCare. “As employers, we know how imperative it is that they have opportunities to build their professional skills and presence in the workplace but their ultimate success hinges on much more than we can accomplish within the walls of our organizations. It is vital that we work together as a community to build up this critical segment of Boston’s workforce and Fierce Urgency of Now does just that by providing spaces for people of color to have the opportunity to grow both professionally and socially, and build meaningful connections that will allow them to have a stronger presence in the workforce and in their own personal lives.”

Festival programs will be hosted across the city by various partner organizations. The festivities will kick off on Sept. 4 at the historic Fenway Park with “After 5 @ Fenway,” a pregame party followed by a Red Sox versus Minnesota Twins matchup. On Friday, Sept. 6, City Awake and P&G Gillette will partner to present the festival keynote event – a fireside chat with Tristan Walker, founder & CEO of Walker and Company Brands, a company that strives to make health and beauty simple for people of color. P&G acquired Walker and Company in 2018, and Walker continues to operate as CEO. In a discussion moderated by Boston Globe culture writer, Jenee Osterheldt, Walker will speak about his journey as a young black entrepreneur, the opportunities and challenges that can come from large corporations and startups joining forces, and running a business as a millennial father of two.

Other events include a professional development session hosted by the New England Aquarium and the Boston Public Health Commission focused on how climate change impacts communities of color; a panel discussion led by “Googlers of Color” at the Google office; an inclusive and nostalgic 90’s Night at the Boston Children’s Museum; a showcase for queer artists of color hosted by Citizen Schools; an Afrobeat fit session at Hibernian Hall; and the Bostown Music Festival hosted by Darryl’s Corner Bar & Kitchen, to name just a few. A complete listing of events can be found attached and online.

The 2019 FUN event is made possible by Presenting Sponsors: Arnold Worldwide, John Hancock, Partners HealthCare and Contributing Sponsors: The Boston Red Sox, P&G Gillette, The Boston Foundation, TSNE Mission Works, and Tufts Health Plan.

About City Awake

City Awake is the leading platform for next-generation leaders in the Greater Boston area. A program of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, City Awake empowers next-generation leaders through programming that builds community and fosters dialogue about the most pressing issues facing our region. Through this work, City Awake aims to deepen young professionals’ connections to the broader business and civic communities and recognize their important contributions to our economy. Learn More at

 About the Greater Boston Chamber

The Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is the convener, voice, and advocate of our region’s business community, committed to making Greater Boston the best place for businesses and people to thrive. It helps its members and Greater Boston succeed by convening and connecting the business community; researching, developing and advocating for public policies that contribute to our region’s economic success; and providing comprehensive leadership development programs designed to grow strong business and civic leaders. Learn more at

Media Contact:

Katie Hauser, Vice President, Marketing and Communications
(617) 227-4500

Source: Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce

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