Mel King’s familiar messages of love and action rang clear through the words of his family, friends, peers, students and others at a historic funeral Tuesday afternoon — calling on the city to carry the late Boston icon’s legacy forward.
The sold-out, packed-in funeral and celebration took place in King’s South End home neighborhood at the Union United Methodist Church, starting at noon and lasting through nearly four hours of commendations, memories and music.
Speakers included King’s children and granddaughter, Gov. Maura Healey, Mayor Michelle Wu, Rep. Ayanna Pressley, King’s former students, and community and religious leaders, with the eulogy delivered by former State Rep. Byron Rushing.
The hosts remembered their own time being inspired by King and his incredible work — from protesting and pushing the historic Tent City to ensure affordable housing in the South End; to advocating for educational opportunities through his work at MIT, establishing the South End Technology Center and more; to his trailblazing run for mayor in 1983, paving the way for the diversity and ideology of modern day leadership.
“In the leadership of every sector and institution in the city, and in City Hall, and in the halls of the State House, we know that we would not be here without Mel King,” said Wu. “In the hearts that shape everything happening in this great city pulse with the heartbeat of Mel King.”
“We need to understand that Mel was not ahead of his time — Mel was on time,” said Rushing, to thunderous applause. “He was only working in a city where the leadership was behind the time.”
The music — an artistic forum loved and championed by King — was curated to powerfully sweep genres and included West African drummers, the Boston Arts Academy Spirituals Ensemble, local artist and King collaborator Danielle Lee Ruffen and a rendition of King’s own “Bring Out the Music in You,” among others.
King will be remembered in many ways, attendees said again and again — as a poet, songwriter, activist, educator, champion of the South End, legislator, quilter, husband, father, trailblazer and leader.
“May his example be a call to action to fight longer, to think more deeply, and some love harder,” said Pressley.