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Saundra Mae (Postell) Graham was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on September 5, 1941, to the late Roberta and Charles Postell, and raised in the Riverside neighborhood—locally referred to as “the Coast”. She was educated in the Cambridge Public Schools—the Houghton School and Cambridge High & Latin School—followed by the University of Massachusetts and Harvard Extension School. Saundra married Carl Graham, Sr., in 1958 and moved to Boston, MA, where they welcomed five children. In 1968, she returned to Riverside to live, raise her children, and spend time with family.
The youngest five of Saundra’s eleven siblings were raised at the same time as her own children. She relished being able to do things with these siblings as if they were her own: weekend sleepovers, rides in her old-time wood-paneled station wagon, trips to parks, Revere Beach, drive-in movies, and Magazine Beach for cookouts and swimming.
Saundra was a stalwart of her community. She was a champion for all and spent her lifework ensuring that family, neighbors, the community, and the people of the State of Massachusetts were seen, heard, valued, and uplifted. She was the voice of the people and a beacon of change.
A natural organizer, Saundra was a life-long public servant who created lasting change. It was Saundra who:
§ fought the expansion and neighborhood encroachment of Harvard University and MIT, stopping them from pushing out and evicting neighbors on all sides.
§ was the first woman of color elected to the Cambridge City Council in 1971, serving as Vice Mayor for the city.
§ helped to procure parks, playgrounds, and open space in Cambridge—providing recreation and respite for all. Ten parks in mid-Cambridge exist due to her efforts and she helped ensure that encroachment of public spaces did not negatively impact her neighborhood.
§ in 1976 was elected a State Representative, a role held for 12 years, during which time she became an active member of the legislature’s Urban Affairs Committee and served as Secretary to the National Black Caucus of local elected officials.
§ spearheaded the renovation of Cambridge’s major public housing; funded over a dozen new low-moderate and elderly developments; got Section 8 subsidies expanded; sponsored a State first-time homeowners’ program; and brought in State money for homeowners’ rehab.
§ in 1985 was House Chair of the Committee on Federal Financial Assistance, a move that assured Cambridge fair access to the millions of Federal/State dollars needed for its programs.
§ led the development of Cambridge’s affirmative action policies; fought successfully for integration of police and fire departments; increased funds for linguistic minorities; established the University of Massachusetts’ Monroe Trotter Institute; sponsored legislation on anti-discrimination, minority business development, fair housing, and accessing of apprenticeships.
§ became a specialist in daycare legislation and was the principal sponsor of the 1988 childcare linkage bill. She pushed hard for the big increase in the State’s daycare appropriation, and founded the Massachusetts Child Care Coalition.
§ repeatedly protected Cambridge’s health care services.
§ created the Riverside–Cambridgeport Community Corporation and the Multicultural Arts Center; renovated the Cambridge Community Center; procured a children’s center for the Margaret Fuller House; co-sponsored the creation of the Cambridge Commission on the Status of Women; and worked to establish the Cambridge Civilian Police Review Board.
§ found concrete new options for training and employment for youth and minorities; was instrumental in the opening and dedication of the Willis Moore Youth Center (located in Hoyt Field, Cambridge, MA).
§ was recognized for her work in Cambridge in 1989 with the naming of The Graham & Parks Alternative Public School—an honor shared with Rosa Parks.
§ served on numerous boards and was recognized through countless awards.
§ supported human rights for all.
Saundra’s love of family meant that doors were always open, seats always waiting, and love and laughter never-ending. She leaves a legacy of love for family, strength of community, and support for all people on which generations to come will stand.
In her later days, she enjoyed her hobbies: sewing and putting puzzles together.
She stayed verbally active, while sitting in her window watching her community change. She always said, “change is necessary, but keeping the quality of life is more important.”
Saundra also made sure her family got together for various gatherings on a monthly basis, from the oldest to the youngest. Saundra quoted: “It is good to be around family; family matters, so don’t think you don’t matter. I love each and every one of you.”
Saundra was preceded in death by her parents, Roberta (Betts) Postell Headley and Charles Postell; stepfather, Esric Headley; and brothers, Charles Postell, Don Postell, and Val Postell.
Saundra leaves in celebration of her life: her children, Carl J. Graham, Jr. and wife Natassa Mason-Graham, Rhonda L. Graham, Tina M.A. Graham Everett, Darrell B. Graham and wife Aminta Graham, and David A. Graham. Grandchildren: Carl J. Graham III (“Tre”), Christopher J. Graham, Ravyn A. Ortiz Graham, Joey A. Everett, A’Nye N. Everett, De’Anna Graham, Fallyn Graham, D’Rae Graham, Egypt Graham, Pierre Erickson, Kasandra Rodriguez Graham, and Carringten Graham. Great-grandchildren: Lisa Marie Erickson, Romeo Erickson, Nariah Utley, Kassari Graham Lyons, Kamani Graham Lyons, Chance Graham Jenkins, Devyn Brown, and Quinton Martin. Great-great-grandchild, Nazir Graham. Brothers: Shawn Headley, Kevin Headley and wife Maria Headley. Sisters: Marlene Crawford, Cheryl Headley Moore, Sharon (“Tami”) Freeman, Sheila Headley Burwell and husband Cleveland Burwell, Sonja Scoby and husband Charles Scoby. Sister-in-law Eva Postell. Special sister-in-law Martha Postell. In addition, she will be greatly missed by a host of nieces, nephews, other relatives, and friends. Special to her were: Velmer Brooks, Barbara Porter, Abby Moon, Betty Robinson, Carla Gonzales, and Atianna Rodrigues.