Boston’s local heroes 2012
All week long, Metro has been highlighting our selections of the city’s best — from dining spots to nightlife destinations — of 2012. Today we conclude our series by honoring the best and brightest Bostonians of the year.
GLAD fights for marriage rights
The nation is slowly moving toward marriage equality, and helping to secure those rights for same-sex couples is Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders.
The Boston-based organization’s tireless advocacy on behalf of marriage rights for same-sex couples and its fight against the Defense of Marriage Act is why the staffers at GLAD are some of Metro’s people of 2012.
Not allowing people to marry or have rights because they are the same sex goes directly against the mission of GLAD.
Even President Barack Obama has directed the Justice Department to stop defending DOMA.
DOMA is a federal law that denies federal benefits to same-sex couples that it provides to straight married couples.
“There is no problem that is being solved by DOMA,” Mary Bonauto, the civil rights project director for GLAD said after it was argued before the First Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year.
In May, the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the decision that DOMA was unconstitutional. It was the first time the appeals court ruled against DOMA.
While the Supreme Court has chosen to take up DOMA and same-sex marriage rights in another case, GLAD has been on the forefront of fighting for these rights and followed through to the highest levels of the federal legal system here in Massachusetts.
Elizabeth Warren makes history
Massachusetts has never had a female senator. That will change in January.
But that’s not the only reason why Elizabeth Warren is one of Metro’s people of 2012.
Warren, a Harvard professor, is a consumer advocate who vocally criticized Wall Street and helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. She will take that mind-set and attitude to the Senate, where she has been picked to serve on the Banking Committee.
The Cambridge resident repeatedly made promises during and after her campaign to fight for the middle class, and a lot of people are hoping she makes good.
“Elizabeth Warren is a progressive champion who has dedicated her career to fighting for middle-class families,” Stephanie Schriock, the president of EMILY’s List, said after Warren won the election.
The head of the Human Rights Campaign also called Warren’s victory “inspiring” and said she would be a “dogged leader for LGBT Americans.”
Warren pledged she would fight against the Defense of Marriage Act and push for policies that prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals in the workplace.
Having been elected to the seat once held by Ted Kennedy, Warren has some big advocacy shoes to fill and has made promises to fight for a lot of people. Many hope and believe she will keep those promises.
The Rev. Michel Louis stands with female hostage
It’s hard to imagine anyone offering himself or herself as a hostage to armed gunmen in the Middle East, but that’s exactly what the Rev. Michel Louis did.
The Dorchester pastor was leading a religious trip to the Middle East in July when the group’s tour bus was boarded by armed men who took Lissa Alphonse of Everett hostage. That’s when Louis, 61, stood up and offered to go with her.
It is for his courage and loyalty literally in the face of danger that Louis is one of Metro’s people of 2012.
While the duo and their tour guide spent three days as hostages, their family and fellow worshipers back home held prayer services in churches throughout Dorchester, Mattapan and Everett.
When he finally returned, Louis attended a celebration at Jubilee Christian Church in Mattapan attended by hundreds of joyous followers and Sen. Scott Brown, who worked with the family during the crisis.
Louis’ friends said he told them that he felt a burden to pray for his kidnappers.
“Never in my mind [did I feel] something bad was going to happen to me or my sister [Alphonse],” Louis said.
Joshua Robin, director of innovation for the MBTA brings young blood to the T
Twenty-five year old Joshua Robin is helping to usher the oldest transportation system in the nation into the 21st century.
The New York native, who was named the MBTA’s Director of Innovation in 2010, led the way for the T’s mobile ticketing initiative, which lets smart phone savvy commuter rail customers buy their fare with their Androids, Blackberries or iPhones.
“I see it as revolutionary, not evolutionary. We know this is the beginning of something big,” said Robin of the app, which has exceeded expectations since launching in November. “It really revolutionizes how people buy and use their tickets.”
Robin is the first-ever to hold the title of Director of Innovation at the T.
“It’s exciting. It’s like I have a hall pass to do cool things around the system and open up new doors. My job is to push the envelope.”
This year, Robin was also at the forefront of another technological advancement meant to improve the passenger experience – countdown signs on the subway that let riders know when trains are approaching. Since taking over, he has also made it a point to stay on top of the T’s social networking to foster communication between the transit agency and customers.
Going forward, Robin said he plans to keep forging forward with keeping the T ahead of the curve.
“Lots of people have asked about bringing mobile ticketing to the subway in Boston. We are working hard and thinking about how we can do that. But I can’t say will be anytime soon.”
Nicole Fichera: Helping manage Boston’s most innovative neighborhood
Nicole Fichera, the city’s Innovation District Manager, heads up the section of the Boston Redevelopment Authority that handles plans for a South Boston waterfront neighborhood that is rapidly becoming the hottest place to live, work and play.
On her LinkedIn profile, the Northeastern University graduate said she loves bringing people together and getting them talking and she designs environments where that can happen.
One of the latest accomplishments of the Innovation District push is the construction of hundreds of micro unit apartments for Boston’s working professionals.
“The idea of having a small unit is not a new idea,” Fichera said of the units. “What is distinctive in this case is making sure we’re thinking of it not just as a small unit where you keep your bed, but part of a story about innovative housing that helps people collaborate with each other more effectively.”
“I think we will see that people from all industries and many different ages will have an interest in these places,” she said.
Greg Selkoe: Still shaking things up in Boston
Local entrepreneur Greg Selkoe, founder and CEO of Karmaloop.com, is still going strong mobilizing Boston’s youth culture.
Karmaloop.com is touted as the world’s largest and online retailer of “streetwear,” including footwear, apparel and accessories, with more than 5 million new visitors coming to the site monthly,
Earlier this month, Karmaloop.com hosted a 15-hour telethon style livestream called “FREAK-A-THON” that raised and donating money for OURTIME.org which encourages youth to get involved in politics.
Selkoe has been recognized for his political activism, and his push to awaken Boston’s downtown scene.
Speaking from his post as head of the grassroots organization Future Boston Alliance, which reduces restrictions on Hub bars, entertainment venues and cultural organizations, Selkoe said the goal is to improve Boston and the negative perception people may have about the city.