Kenneth (Ken) E. Reeves
Born Feruary 8, 1951
Cambridge City, Massachusetts
Elected City Council Member November 1989
Came out December 1992
Re-elected 1993, 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005
Elected by the City Council to serve as Mayor 1992-1995, 2006-2007
Speaking to students at Harvard University in 2007, Ken Reeves' alma mater, he explained his decision to leave St. Pauls AME Church in 2004 because of its hostility to same-sex marraige. "I got to the point where I was sitting on the edge of the pew, wondering when the denouncement was going to come," Reeves said. "I wasn't going to be denounced without having something to say back."
Biography from Ken Reeves' 2007 reelection campaign
Kenneth E. Reeves, (Ken) is currently serving his eighth term as a Cambridge, Massachusetts City Councillor. An attorney, Ken is also a former Vice Mayor and two-term Mayor of the City. Ken was the first African American Mayor in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, as well as the first openly gay African American Mayor in the nation. For four years he served as the Chairman of the Cambridge School Committee.
If there are unifying themes of Ken’s work on behalf of his City over the past two decades, most worthy to note include the celebration of diversity; and the building of strong, safe, and healthy communities for young people and families. Much of his work as an elected official has been bringing people together to work cooperatively. This work has resulted in resolving numerous zoning disputes, neighborhood issues and interface issues between the City and various business and educational institutions. Ken’s list of accomplishments during his tenure as a Cambridge City Councillor is both diverse and extensive. They include:
- Preserving Affordable Housing Options in Cambridge. The demise of rent control in 1994 threatened to drive longtime Cambridge families out of the city, as housing prices began to rise astronomically—beyond even the reach of middle-income families. Ken led efforts in the city to ensure that affordable housing options remained available. His impassioned advocacy has indeed borne fruit, in the form of $10 million invested by the city to preserve affordable housing in Cambridge, as well as in the production of nearly 1,000 new affordable housing units in the city.
- Leading the revitalization of Cambridge’s Central Square by appointing the “Mayor’s Commission on the Enhancement of Central Square Now!!!,” during his first term as Mayor. As a result of Ken’s work, the City has invested $3.5 million in this effort. Today Central Square--once regarded as an undesirable business, residential and entertainment location--is a bustling and attractive destination—and it’s busiest on the weekend, when residents like to hang out at one of the Square’s several outdoor cafes, or browse through its enhanced retail offerings (bookstores, furniture retailers, and others). Ken also led efforts to organize the “World’s Fair in Central Square,” a citywide celebration of ethnicity, food and music, which has grown into a signature city event attracting upwards of 150,000 people annually.
- Leading efforts to establish the city’s first Office of Tourism. As Mayor, recognizing the potential of tourism as an economic engine for Cambridge, Ken convened the “Commission on Cambridge as a Destination”. In doing so, he initiated the first formal citywide conversation on launching a sustained effort to generate revenue for the city through tourism. As a result of his efforts the City established its first office of Tourism, which today leads its marketing efforts.
- Leading downzoning efforts for Massachusetts Avenue and a citywide Interim Planning Overlay district, which resulted in a building moratorium throughout the City.
- Giving a voice and a platform to established and new immigrant communities in the city. Recognizing the challenges that Cambridge’s established and growing immigrant communities faced in negotiating City services and articulating their needs, Ken established the city’s first Latino and Haitian American Commissions, to review issues facing these communities. Both commissions developed a set of recommendations that have to this day served as a blueprint for the City’s efforts to be inclusive of these communities, not only in designed services but also in the decision-making process.
- Fostering greater inclusion of gay and lesbian communities in the city. Ken organized Cambridge’s first Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, inspired largely by the exclusion of gays and lesbians from the annual Saint Patrick’s Day parade in South Boston. In addition, Ken was a principal co-sponsor of Cambridge’s domestic partnership ordinance, which provides health and dental benefits to domestic partners of City Employees, and allows all citizens of the city to register as domestic partners. On May 17 th, 2004 Ken championed the opening of Cambridge City Hall prior to midnight so that gay and lesbian couples seeking marriage intentions could have immediate access to marriage equality. Ken has been recognized by the Cambridge Lavender Alliance for his leadership on issues affecting the gay and lesbian community.
- Leading educational and youth development efforts, Ken founded and led the Commissions on the ‘Potential of Students’, ‘The High School of the 21 st Century’ and the ‘Commission on Black Male Student Success’. These wereefforts to establish benchmarks by which city leaders might ensure that all students know about and have access to the variety of resources Cambridge schools have to offer. As well they were intended to improve retention and graduation rates through high school for young people. Ken served for ten years as a member of the Cambridge Kids’ Council, helping it to thrive despite internal opposition.
- Leading the expansion of the City’s Youth Centers. Here Ken shepherded the development of the $3 million Area IV Youth Center, the $4 million Frisoli Youth Center, the rebuilding of the Gately Youth Center, and renovations of the Hoyt Field and Mission Youth Centers.
- Fostering historical and cultural development and preservation, Ken established the Cambridge African American Heritage Trail at 20 Cambridge sites important in the progress of African American and the nation’s history. Ken helped to found the W.E.B. DuBois Academy, a Saturday school enrichment efforts for young boys aged 7-14 in communities of color. Ken supported the initiation of a citywide Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration, as well as a Citywide Holocaust Remembrance, and fostered greater Cambridge participation in the Greater Boston annual Gay Pride celebration. He furthered established month-long Black History and Women’s History celebrations in City Hall. Ken established the Cambridge Community Chorus—a 200-member group that has gained a regional reputation for its work and has performed internationally as well. In addition, its annual performan! ce of Handel’s Messiah has become a holiday mainstay not only in the city but in the Greater Boston area. Ken launched the Cambridge Caribbean Carnival, an annual August celebration that focuses on the breadth of the Afro-Caribbean culture and heritage in the City. Ken has led City of Cambridge “Sister City” delegations to Gonieve, Haiti; Gaeta, Italy; Dimbokro, Cote d’Ivoire; Cotonou, Benin; Accra, Ghana; Tskuba, Japan and twice to Cienfuegos, Cuba. Finally, during the Democratic National Convention in Boston and Cambridge Ken led Cambridge’s “Destination Cambridge” initiative which sponsored eight different events, including a Willie Colon concert, Harvard Square arts fair and an event attended by Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Ken Reeves is a Cum Laude graduate of Harvard College and a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. Upon graduation from Harvard he received the Michael Clark Rockefeller Fellowship through which he studied and traveled extensively in Africa. He has also spent a fellowship-sponsored year in Stockholm, Sweden, studying social welfare legislation. In 1997-1998 he held a M.I.T. Fellowship in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. He has completed executive programs at Harvard’s J.F.K. School of Government. As an attorney he served as the Managing Attorney of the General Motors/United Auto Workers Legal Plan and as an attorney specializing in insurance, utility and banking regulations for the National Consumer Law Center in Boston. He has also been in private practice as a principal in the law firm Singleton, Reeves, Bowzer & Huggins.
His current and former organizational affiliations include:
- Cambridge Community Chorus
- Men of Color Against AIDS (MOCAA)
- Concillio Hispano
- Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC)
- Roxbury Children's Services
- National Black College Alliance
- National Black Lesbian & Gay Leadership Forum (NBLGLF)
- Massachusetts Halfway Houses, Inc.
Ken is a founder of Men of Color Against AIDS (MOCAA) in Boston, the Men of Color Health Task Force in Cambridge, and the Gay and Lesbian Elected Officials (GLBLO) Caucus of the National League of Cities. He is a member of Christ Church, Episcopal in Cambridge where he is involved in various social justice endeavors. He and his partner of 36 years, Greg Johnson, first met at Harvard College, where they were roommates. Greg is a non-profit executive.
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.