Jamaica Plain has lost two of the people who embodied and helped create what “Jamaica Plain” means today.
Carlos Icaza was a classic JP community activist, working both in high-profile leadership positions and behind the scenes to improve the neighborhood for more than 35 years.
Dr. Ángel Amy Moreno was among the many people who transplanted from Puerto Rico to Boston in the 1970s and enriched both JP and citywide culture in every way.
Like many leaders in ethnic communities who serve as bridges to the culture at large, Amy Moreno took a Renaissance man approach to life. He was a professor of history, an artist, a political leader, an active supporter of innumerable social service and arts nonprofits.
Amy Moreno’s long tenure on the Boston School Committee came to a premature end in 2007 amid controversy over a racially tinged email he issued as a joke. But following that public gaffe, he returned to esteemed community activities, including as a correspondent for the JP-based Spanish-language newspaper El Mundo. As a photographer, he exhibited at JP’s UFORGE Gallery and published a photography book in 2009.
Icaza was among the select group of JP’s progressive activists who seem to be everywhere at once and know a little—or a lot—about everything in the neighborhood. He served on the original Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council in the 1980s and headed the JP Business and Professional Association. He also served everywhere from the JP Neighborhood Development Corporation Board to the Sumner Hill Association to the local Problem Properties Committee.
His letters appeared frequently in these pages, usually supporting affordable housing or proclaiming the crucial need for local businesses rather than multinational chains. A carpenter and builder, he also had no problem performing unglamorous, hands-on work, such as hanging holiday decorations or sweeping sidewalks to support the business community. Or, when the situation demanded, defacing an obnoxious advertising display some silly company once left on Centre Street.
Icaza also informed or suggested many of the significant stories the Gazette has reported over the years. A particular pleasure of JP journalism was encountering Icaza working his garden in Sumner Hill and being invited inside to peruse a file or hear some local lore while his dog and cat played underfoot. He was a font of irreplaceable knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Jamaica Plain.
A great way to pay tribute to the memories of these men would be to emulate their multifaceted service to the neighborhood they loved.