By John Lynds
There are very few people whose name is synonymous with East Boston. For over 50 years East Boston APAC Executive Director John White has selflessly given back to the community he grew up in.
It’s hard to find a family in Eastie that White hasn’t helped through the numerous social service programs APAC runs from a small office on Meridian Street. From fuel assistance, to summer jobs, to tax help to just being a friendly ear that listened to the struggles of Eastie’s families, White has never turned away a request for help.
“What stood me in good stead is that I knew the turf,” White has been quoted saying. “This work is very intense. You have people sitting across from you with some very serious problems. I wanted to use the tools I had to help them.”
On Saturday the 29th Annual Eastie Pride Day will kick off at 3 p.m. at Piers Park. The day-long event will celebrate the neighborhood’s community spirit, talent and diverse cultures with music, food and activities for the entire family.
At 5 p.m. the Eastie Pride Day Committee will honor White for his dedication to the Eastie community.
“In October John (White) will be celebrating 50 years working at APAC so it was appropriate to honor him at this year’s Eastie Pride Day,” said Eastie Pride Day Founder City Councilor Sal LaMattina. “He has helped countless families in the neighborhood and dedicating this year’s Eastie Pride Day in honor of him is just a small gesture to the monumental work he has done in the neighborhood. We want as many people that have been touched by John’s work to come down and help us celebrate this Eastie icon.”
Longtime Eastie Pride Day organizer, Larry Smith added, “We are very excited to be celebrating our 29th annual Eastie Pride Day, especially to celebrate John White’s 50 years of service to the people of East Boston. Every year we have had wonderful crowds in attendance and we are anticipating the same this year.”
Once again the entire event is free and open to the public, thanks to generous sponsors, especially the East Boston Foundation and Massport.
“This is the type of event that brings people together – all ages, races, and cultural groups so that we all can enjoy each other and celebrate the best of East Boston,” said Smith.
Eastie Pride Day was launched in 1988 in response to the wave of urban flight from Boston during the 1970s and 1980s. In Eastie, many Italians and Irish took off for the suburban towns of Saugus, Peabody and Revere while the burgeoning new Latino and Asian population were stripped of mentors and neighbors to teach them of Eastie’s rich history.
Seeing this trend having a potentially devastating impact on the neighborhood’s future, LaMattina thought it would be better to hold a yearly event where all of Eastie’s resident, old and new, could come together and celebrate their love for the neighborhood and meet each other during a friendly and fun festival.
This, LaMattina said, gave resident the opportunity to understand their neighbors and the different cultures in the neighborhood. Those who attended the first few Eastie Pride Days were less inclined to look for another place in which to live once they saw the neighborhood’s mix of cultures a positive and not a negative.
“I remember 28 years ago we many residents were leaving for a variety of reasons,” said LaMattina. “It’s growth over the years is evidence that the majority of East Bostonians are proud to be in this neighborhood and love their community and love all their neighbors. Each year I always bump into somebody that left in the 1980s and they always say how much they regret leaving and wish they could move back.”
LaMattina said the vision he had 28 years ago that is now a reality would have never been possible without the help of all the donors and volunteers that pitch in year after year.