Melvin B. Miller to Receive Open Door Award on Phillis Wheatley Sunday

Boston, MA, May 2023 - Old South Church in Boston, a historic landmark and vibrant congregation in Copley Square, is pleased to announce that Melvin B. Miller, an esteemed journalist and community leader, has been selected as the recipient of the prestigious Open Door Award. Miller will receive the award on May 14, 2023, as part of the church’s annual Phillis Wheatley Sunday service. 

The Open Door Award is a testament to Old South Church's commitment to fostering inclusivity and celebrating individuals who embody the spirit of diversity and equality. Established in 2014, this accolade recognizes exceptional individuals whose leadership, courage, and dedication have made a significant impact in advancing social justice and equal rights within our society. Miller's selection as the recipient of the Open Door Award highlights his exceptional career and unwavering commitment to social justice.

Melvin Miller has been actively involved in Boston’s political and public affairs for more than 50 years. In 1965, he founded the Bay State Banner, a weekly newspaper advocating the interests of Greater Boston’s African American community. He has been the Banner’s publisher and editor since its inception until his recent retirement. Miller has decades of leadership triumphs, serving as Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts; Conservator of the Unity Bank and Trust Company, Boston’s first minority bank; Chairman of the Boston Water and Sewer Commission; partner in the law firm of Fitch, Miller and Tourse; Vice President and General Counsel of WHDH-TV; trustee of Boston University; director of OneUnited Bank, the largest African American owned and operated bank in the US; and more.

In addition to the presentation of the Open Door Award, Ade Solanke, award-winning playwright and screenwriter and founder of Spora Stories will read the scripture lesson. Solanke’s original new play, Phillis in London, dramatises and re-imagines Phillis Wheatley as an enslaved African Woman writer abroad in Georgian London, 'celebrated’ by the elite of the capital of the British empire, at the height of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Following the scripture reading will be a stirring sermon preached by the Rev. June R. Cooper, Theologian in the City at Old South Church.

Phillis Wheatley Sunday, observed annually by Old South Church, honors the legacy of the remarkable poet, who, as a slave, triumphed over adversity to become the first published African American poet in the United States. It is a day of remembrance and reflection on the resilience and creative spirit of those who have historically faced oppression.

As part of the day’s celebration, Old South Church invites attendees to join special promenades at 10am and 12pm to the nearby Women's Memorial, where they will visit Wheatley’s statue and sing “Happy Birthday”. These joyous moments will serve as a reminder of the progress made and the ongoing work ahead in the pursuit of equality and social justice.

Throughout its rich history, Old South Church has played a pivotal role in promoting social justice and advocating for the rights of all individuals. It draws inspiration from its storied past, which dates back to its founding in 1669, when Boston was still a burgeoning colonial city. The church's early members, including the celebrated poet Phillis Wheatley, defied societal norms and fought for freedom and equality, leaving an indelible mark on the city's history.