On the cusp of becoming a teenager, Charlie Gargiulo lived through the planned destruction of the Little Canada neighborhood of Lowell, Mass., in the 1960s. This is his story. He went on to become a legendary community organizer who led efforts to ensure people would have decent housing and a fair chance to earn a living and make a happy life for themselves.
Charlie Gargiulo’s writing has appeared in The New Lowell Offering, Spare Change, Merrimack Valley Magazine, The Lowell Review, Atlantic Currents: Connecting Cork and Lowell, and Résonance journal at the University of Maine, Orono.
He grew up in Dracut and Lowell, Mass., served in the military, and graduated summa cum laude from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.
He founded the Coalition for a Better Acre, a nationally recognized community development group. The International Institute in Lowell honored him as one of the 100 most important leaders in Lowell who have worked on behalf of immigrants.
He lives outside of Boston.
“Charlie Gargiulo has unearthed for us a time capsule of treasures—treasures of family, community, and connectedness buried deep by the heartless blows of Urban Renewal’s wrecking ball. With his technicolor remembrances of long-gone neighborhood characters and a wry kid’s-eye-view, we get to navigate the gritty and wondrous streets of Lowell’s Little Canada, excavating young Charlie’s loss and grief as well as his hard-won sense of solidarity, ethical persistence, and justice. Legends of Little Canada is a universal story you’ll want to share across divides of geography, ethnicity, and generation.”
—Michael Patrick MacDonald, author of All Souls: A Family Story from Southie
Charlie Gargiulo’s memoir of growing up in a working-class family in Lowell, Mass., is a poignant story of heartaches and triumphs. He saw the Little Canada neighborhood he grew up in get demolished for urban renewal. When he was an adult, when the same plans of demolition and displacement were announced for the Acre neighborhood of Lowell, Charlie organized the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA) to successfully prevent this and to then lead the renewal of that neighborhood for people of lower incomes including many immigrants. CBA continues as one of the most effective community development organizations in the state. Charlie’s story is one of leadership, commitment, resilience, and vision to provide thriving and affordable neighborhoods.
—Lew Finfer, Massachusetts Communities Action Network