''Eyes on the Prize'’
"It shows a history of the struggle for civil rights. It's the best piece of history that accurately presents what took place during that period in time.''
Leonard Conrad Alkins, Sr. was born August 18, 1944, in Boston, MA, the son of Charles and Barbara (Blizzard) Alkins. He was the third child of nine and a deep bond ran through them all, giving him a foundation of love and a very strong sense of family.
As the third child of his parents' love, he watched his immediate family grow over time and was raised with his siblings, Charles and Barbara Ann, the oldest two, and was followed by Patricia. Then came David, Kenneth, and Stephen followed by the final two blessings, Jeffrey and Brian. All the children were raised to look after each other, with their father serving as the provider for the happily growing family, and their mother as the on-site supervisor of the often "unruly" bunch. Both parents left such an impression that he remembered them fondly as his “heroes”.
Leonard, affectionately known as Lennie, was born and raised in Boston. From 1942 to 1958, the Alkins' lived in the housing projects of Roxbury, known as Orchard Park (O.P.). He was educated at the neighborhood schools in the area, starting with the Arnold Davis School for elementary school, and then moving on to the Dearborn School where he attended 8th grade. Lennie attended the Roxbury Neighborhood House for after-school and recreational activities.
Going to church was a requirement, especially if you wanted to be allowed the latitude to attend any social events. Lennie and his siblings attended the Breezy Meadows Camp one year, run by the Twelfth Baptist Church. On reflection, Lennie spoke of the church’s influence on the lives in his community during that time. He admitted that many parents did not go to church themselves, but they knew their children had to. The church, from Lennie’s perspective, was “Mentoring” in his life, and the lives of others, which helped inform and develop his own later role as a mentor to anyone without even a single question.
Growing up in Orchard Park Housing Projects was where he witnessed and was part of, the “Village” approach to child-raising. This was where the foundation was built that became his motivation and grew the need to fight for others within his community, whether it be for their human rights, education, housing needs, or the blatant injustice towards Blacks in his community. He often reflected on the attempts to hold segregation in place, how racism was evident, and the clear systematic shifts that plagued the Black communities in the 1950s & 60s. Even with the push for integration in 1956 & 1957, Black families in O.P. were relegated to three sections of the projects, positioned to ensure the administration could oversee their living situation. The reality was quickly made clear that if a Black family’s income increased beyond an arbitrarily set standard, they would have to move out of the projects, a restriction not applied to their white neighbors. He watched white firefighters and white police officers rise to affluence but still be afforded the ability to stay in the same neighborhood with their families. Under these regulations, Lennie’s family had to move from a place they called home.
Amazingly, in spite of the daily examples of inequality in the society around him, he described his formative years living in the projects as the “happiest days” of his life. “Everything was a neighborhood” was the underlying theme and basis of the internal foundation on which he stood and from which he built; Lennie’s growth stemmed from his experiences growing up around all of the Black families that lived in the projects.
Despite the strong neighborhood connections, after experiencing institutional policies and racism within the Boston Housing Authority, the Alkins family later found themselves moved to Blue Hill Avenue, where Lennie continued to embrace where he came from, and reflect the values & culture of his upbringing. He graduated from Boston Trade High School in 1962.
That same year, Lennie started working in the Massachusetts State Senate, beginning his public service career as a Senate page. He was the second Person of Color to hold this position. He was elected by Lincoln Pope and appointed by John E. Powers. Lennie then worked as the Personal Administrative Assistant to the Senate President, Floor Leader Kevin B. Harrington, from 1964 to 1968.
While in State service, Lennie married his beloved wife, Carole Ann Wilson in 1966. They first met at the age of 10, while sitting in Sunday School at St. Cyprians Church. This is where they began their life journey, remaining together for almost 56 years of marriage.
In March of 1967, Lennie entered the United States Army where he became a Marksman, but he also possessed the ability to process photos as he documented the history of the time. His service to his country provided mutual benefits: it allowed his existing technical skills and knowledge to shine in the field and opened the path to complete military education, including specialized training obtained from the USA Engineer School with the U.S. Army Corps. in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
During this time, he took a position as the Second Assistant Clerk in the Boston Juvenile Court in Roxbury. In 1970, Kevin B. Harrington requested Lennie’s service once again as he was moved from his position as Personal Administrative Assistant to Scheduling Secretary, and ultimately his most visible role as top Administrative Assistant until Senator Harrington’s retirement in 1978.
In May of 1972, Lennie was honorably discharged from active duty and entered the Army Reserves.
In 1979, Lennie, in recognition of his achievements to that point received two honorary doctorate degrees, Doctor of Public Education from the New England School of Law, in Boston, MA, and Doctor of Law from the New England School of Podiatric Medicine in New York City, New York.
“Dr.” Leonard C. Alkins was then appointed Senate Clerk of the Committees of Joint Rules, a position he held until his retirement in 2002 at the age of 57, having served under Senate Presidents John Powers, Morris Donahue, Kevin B. Harrington, William Bulger, and Thomas Birmingham.
His years of service, advocacy, loyalty, and commitment were his example of how to serve the needs of the community while also having an extremely productive and influential career in the Senate. Lennie recognized the significance of his position and career in the State Senate and upon his retirement, he secured two Senate page positions, specifically for African-Americans, so others who looked like him could have the same opportunities from which he grew and was able to help so many.
Over the decades, Lennie was well known as the face of the Boston Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During his tenure, it has been written that Lennie, “made an indelible mark on the lives of many people in Massachusetts and boldly carried the torch for civil rights from defending equal opportunity and affirmative action programs to Championing the causes of the many disenfranchised citizens who live in the greater Boston area.” It is clearly understood that his deep determination and “constant voice will continue to echo through our communities for years to come”, now known as his Legacy.
Highlighting his contributions to the NAACP, many articles have been written listing his years of involvement and efforts in the Community. In 1995, he was elected President of the Boston Branch and soon thereafter became a member of the NAACP‘s National Resolutions Committee. In addition, he served as a member of the Sovereign Bank Community Advisory Group, as Chairman of the New England Area Conference’s (NEAC) Committee on Internal Affairs, and as an Executive Committee Member and Chairman of NEAC ‘s Labor and Industry Committee. He has also served on numerous other committees, and boards in advisory groups, and received many awards and citations for his service in the community.
Under his leadership, the Boston Branch NAACP led the “Knock Across Boston”
Campaign in 2000, and that contributed to record voter participation in communities of color. The campaign involved a collaboration with over thirty community and advocacy groups and the launch of persuasive, door-to-door voter education and registration campaign, incorporating provocative images from the 1960s.
Lennie’s knowledge of his community ran deep and wide. Congressman Barney Frank invited him to testify before the House Finance Service Committee on Predatory Lending. Throughout his service as Boston Branch NAACP President, the organization has had a vast and well-rounded focus on housing, banking, economic development, voter empowerment, gang, violence, and education.
In 2008 Lennie was honored, as the former president of the Boston branch, with the Distinguished Service Award for his leadership in the Greater Boston area.
Lennie is lovingly remembered by his wife, Carole Ann Alkins; son Leonard Alkins Jr.; daughter Pamela Alkins; beloved grandsons Nathan and Simeon Henry; siblings Charles (Sandra) Alkins Jr.; Patricia (Alkins) Clark; David Alkins; Kenneth (Myra) Alkins; Stephen (Gloria) Alkins; Jeffrey (Deborah) Alkins; Brian (Donna) Alkins, and numerous nieces, nephews, great-nieces, great-nephews, great-great nieces, and nephews.
Lennie will be reuniting with his loving family who proceeded him in death; his parents, the late Charles and the late Barbara Ann (Blizzard) Alkins; his Sister, Barbara Ann (Alkins) Cassis, and his Brother-in-Law, Joe Clark.