Needham Diversity Initiative, Inc. (NDI), is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable corporation. We encourage, foster, strengthen, and celebrate Needham’s diversity. Our mission is to lead the town of Needham to become more welcoming to all residents and community members regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender (including identity and expression), ethnic identity, socioeconomic status, ability, and age. NDI does not engage in partisan political activities or political advocacy.
NDI’s mission is to foster a welcoming and inclusive Needham. We will break down barriers to belonging through events and programs intended to support and elevate the diversity of the Needham community.
We invite wide grassroots participation by all who are interested in our activities and organization. Community members are welcome at our monthly planning meetings. Our board of directors and administrative officers are all volunteers. We organize events throughout the year to advance NDI’s mission. These events have different formats and structures with significant educational components.
The foundations of our educational programs are to:
Acknowledge the interconnectedness of all people
Eliminate all forms of prejudices
Address acts of injustice
Create positive and genuine relationships, friendships, and amity between individuals, communities, and institutions
Typical programs and events sponsored by NDI include:
The annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Celebration in January
Celebration of Massachusetts Race Amity Day in June
The annual Needham Diversity Summit in November
Various seminars, book club discussions, workshops, films, and performances
NDI Board of Directors
Kim Marie Nicols
Assistant Clerk, VP
In October 2010, Dr. Joanne Allen-Willoughby, Director of the Needham High School METCO Program, met with the Needham Human Rights Committee (NHRC) and the Needham Interfaith Clergy Association (NICA) to discuss the possibility of these organizations joining forces to plan the Martin Luther King, Jr., Day celebration in Needham. Previously, the planning for this event was led by the METCO Program staff, students, and local clergy (read article here). NICA and NHRC members along with Select Board member Mr. Jerry Wasserman and Dr. Allen-Willoughby formed an ad-hoc committee. The committee organized the 2011 MLK Day celebration. This celebration was well received by the Needham community. NICA, in collaboration with others, continued to lead the planning and organizing of an MLK Day observance in subsequent years.
In 2011, Dr. Allen-Willoughby obtained a grant from the Needham Education Foundation for a group of school staff, community members, and a student representative to work with the Cultural Proficiency Collaborative to hold five training sessions. The sessions focused on learning and developing self-awareness about cultural competence. Each participant developed an action plan to be completed in 2012. This program was called “30-Actions”. The plan of action for one of the participants, David Summergrad, was to organize a Needham Diversity Summit (NDS). The first Summit was successfully held in November 2012.
The organizing groups of the Needham Diversity Summit and of the MLK Day celebration had many members in common. Therefore, in June 2014 at the suggestion of Dr. Rebecca Drill, the two groups met and consulted about joining forces. The result was the formation of the Needham Diversity Initiative as a not-for-profit corporation. David Summergrad was elected as its first president. David continued to tirelessly lead NDI as president until 2020. Learn more about David.
Several Needham-based organizations have played key and significant roles by financially contributing and volunteering to support NDI and its many activities. Among the earliest ones were the Interfaith Clergy Association, the Human Rights Committee, the First Parish Unitarian Universalist Church, Temple Beth Shalom, Temple Aliyah, the Friends Meeting House (Quakers), Needham Public Schools and its METCO Program, the Baha’i Community of Needham, and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
MLK Day Celebrations and the Diversity Summits have been successfully held in Needham every year since their inception with hundreds of participants at each. The events have provided rich opportunities for participants to learn about efforts and initiatives happening in the Town of Needham, to meet people with shared interests and passions, and to find ways to get involved in equity and social justice work. A key feature of the in-person events was an EXPO highlighting the mission and work of community advocacy groups representing or working with diverse populations in the Needham Community.
Many new programs and events have been added such as the annual recognition and celebration of Massachusetts Race Amity Day, Diversity Book Group meetings held several times throughout the year, as well as seminars, workshops and presentations.