Rev. Bill Loesch
The Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, Mass. is a long walk from Selma, Ala. But sometimes a great distance can reveal a life’s calling. At least, that was the case for Rev. Dr. Bill Loesch.
One of Corporate Accountability International’s most committed members started his long walk in activism as young man at the side of Martin Luther King on a three-day, 54-mile march to Montgomery. Today, the march is with his four young adult children in a cause that took both his parents.
Twenty years ago, when Loesch became a chaplain at Boston City Hospital it wasn’t uncommon for the children of patients to confide in him about the pain of watching their parents suffer from tobacco-related illnesses.
As Loesch had children of his own, he grew increasingly disgusted with how the tobacco industry targeted children. In a time when few were aware of the lengths to which Big Tobacco was going to deceive and addict their customers, Loesch took action by becoming a member and monthly supporter of Corporate Accountability International.
“When the young people in a community have that ‘light-bulb’ moment, when they realize that they can make a difference in the structure by being bold, it provides the motivation to keep going,”
His concern for young people ran deep. In his first job after seminary, while serving a ministry of six major Protestant denominations, Loesch took up residence within the Columbia Point housing community – the largest public housing project in New England. When the city began busing children from the projects to South Boston High School, Loesch rode along with them.
“(He) served as a volunteer bus monitor as our youth were stoned on their buses going to and from South Boston High for many months,” one former resident wrote in nominating Loesch for a UMass Boston Robert H. Quinn Award.
But it was not until Loesch lost both parents to tobacco-related disease that he worked with his eldest daughter to found BOLD Teens (Breath of Life: Dorchester), a youth-led organization that addresses tobacco-related issues through leadership development, advocacy and activism.
Compelled by his parents’ death and inspired by Corporate Accountability International’s work to pass a global tobacco treaty, Loesch and area teens forced the Boston Globe to end its million dollar advertising contract with Parliament cigarettes. The newspaper no longer advertises any tobacco products.
Loesch’s children and their friends have continued to inspire him throughout his 18-year involvement with Corporate Accountability International.
“When the young people in a community have that ‘light-bulb’ moment, when they realize that they can make a difference in the structure by being bold, it provides the motivation to keep going,” he said.
Loesch himself has given that “light-bulb moment” to many youth in his Dorchester community, not least of which is his daughter Cynthia, at 22 years old the youngest person ever to be elected president of her neighborhood council. While continuing to work alongside her father with the BOLD Teens, Cynthia has gone on to collaborate with Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino on promoting youth involvement in local and state politics.