Diversity, Service & Solutions: Ramon Norales reflects on his life in Malden

Ramon Norales (center) and Malden River Works volunteers. Used with permission. Photo from the Mass. Memories Road Show collection

By Joy Pearson

In May 2020, Malden Reads planned to host the Malden Mass. Memories Road Show (MMRS), a statewide, event-based, participatory digital archiving program that documents people, places, and events in Massachusetts history through family photographs and stories. Due to the pandemic, the in-person event could not be held. So Neighborhood View, in collaboration with Malden Reads, is contributing photographs and stories online as part of the Malden Mass. Memories Stuck-at-Home Show. The following story continues the series of participant profiles, which focus on photographs and what they mean to that resident of Malden.

It was the cultural and ethnic diversity of Malden that attracted Ramon Norales to move here in 1997.  During the past 25 years, Ramon has devoted his life to family, to work, and to his Malden community through his ethics of service and solutions.

In 1971, 7 ½-year-old Ramon Norales immigrated to New York City from Spanish-speaking Honduras in Central America to be with his parents.  In New York City, he grew up in Harlem   Later, he attended NYC Technical College in Brooklyn at night while working a full-time job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

In the late-1980’s, Ramon says, “New York was too busy, too fast and I felt I had had enough of it.  Although I was ready for a move, I didn’t know where to go. Ultimately, I ended up moving to Boston, which was a 4-hour return trip to New York should I feel homesick. My friends tried to dissuade me by saying that Boston ‘Beantown’ was a racist city. “

“Part of the reason I left New York was because I knew I didn’t want to bring up a family there.” At a gym, Ramon met the perfect woman who would become his wife.  “I was not even interested in her until I saw her smile,” he says. After five years, he and she got engaged, and in 1997 they married.  Very soon, he and Vicki moved to the Maplewood area in Malden to live in a very diverse community.   Ramon’s wife is a German-heritage Caucasian from Iowa; he, Latino and Black from Spanish Honduras. “My wife and I, being interracial, wanted somewhere that was very diverse.  I like the diversity of Malden.”

Ramon and his family right to left – Ramon, daughter Monet, wife Vicki, son Jackson. Photo taken by Ramon Norales. Used with permission. View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection.

Ramon has devoted his life to his family.  His youthful love of soccer has transitioned into his high school son Jackson’s love of baseball.  “My wife and I go to every home game, every away game, including nights and weekends, and every showcase and special tournament game.”  After daughter Monét graduated from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in June 2022, Ramon has been able to increasingly spend time with her.  He is confident her future will be brilliant like her WPI experience had been.

In his early years of living in Malden, Ramon worked as a Director of Fundraising at United Way of Massachusetts Bay in Boston.  He was responsible for campaigning to help raise monies throughout Greater Boston businesses.  He worked in Dorchester, Lynn and in different Spanish-speaking communities.  That continued into 2003. 

“In 2003, I became a sales rep at Oracle Corp.  Oracle acquired NetSuite, becoming Oracle+NetSuite in the acquisition.  I moved into my current position of Principal Global Sales Enablement Advisor.  I facilitated a session 9/28/22 at Oracle Corporation related to Hispanic Heritage month.”  Ramon says, “I want to be a positive influence on others.”

Ramon participates at his workplace as an ABLE (Alliance for Black Leaders) volunteer. Used with permission.

For his job, he travels globally, training and reinforcing its sales reps on how to become successful in sales.  “Part of my role is to teach Soft Skills, such as, Professional Communication, Active Listening, Objection Handling, and the four skills of Emotional Intelligence,” he said. It’s important to him that he practices what he teaches.  Accordingly, his email signature reads, “True Kindness is an Act of Strength.”

 “About four years ago, I decided to get more involved in Malden.  Therefore, since 2019, I have been working with a coalition of community people. They include people of color, youth, environmental advocates and city government stakeholders. The goal is to create a new climate resilient waterfront public park on the Malden River.”  This climate-resilient park will enhance and enlarge the Department of Public Works on Commercial Street and is part of the Mystic River Development Project.

The Malden River Works Steering Committee. Ramon Norales is immediately right of the easel. (Photo by Khalil Kaba). View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection.

“On June 12, 2022, the Malden River Works Steering Committee organized an awareness festival introducing people to this project.  Many people don’t even know where the Malden River is,” he said.   The festival was held on the parking lot of the Cambridge Health Alliance near the Malden River, with singing, drumming, dancing, tables of local organizations, food, and a vaccination site.

He spoke to the festival crowd about the committee’s plans for the park, which include a view of the Malden River, a Greenway Path, artwork celebrating Malden, historical information, a boathouse, plus write-ups about the Malden River and about surrounding nature.

A sketch of the climate resistant accessible park designed by Malden River Works with community input. View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection. Used by permission from M.I.T.

On Sept. 24, 2022, Malden Works collaborated on a festival held behind the DPW building in the space where the park is being created.  Native people led a ceremony honoring the land and their ancestors on whose land Malden now sits.  The event again included Caribbean Island drumming and dancing, and showcased the diversity of Malden.

Ceremony honoring native peoples. Used with permission. View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection.
People from various ethnicities dancing to Caribbean pan drum music. Used with permission. View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection.

Because of his Malden River Project involvement, Ramon was asked if he would be on a committee with Malden’s fire chief to establish an east side Malden fire station to replace the old one which is no longer available for city use.  Since June 2022, he and the committee-in-charge have been narrowing down the number of consulting firms who have bid to do the work.  They are also looking for a suitable site.

On Aug. 13, 2022, Ramon organized and lead the first ever Webber Street (his home street) block party.  Everyone brought food from his/her country to create a mini-world feast with dishes from Argentina, Morocco, Lithuania, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Brazil, the Caribbean, and, of course, Honduras.  Wrapping up the formal part of the event, Ramon declared, “I think this should be an annual event.”

Webber St’s first annual cultural block party. Used with permission. View this photo in the Mass. Memories Road Show collection.

To all of this, Ramon emphatically says, “I like that I’m giving back.  I like that I’m involved in the community.  I like that I’m working on projects that will help our children for tomorrow….that we are making (Malden) a better place to live.  All family things.  There are good people here.  An 84-year-old neighbor whose grass I mowed told me, ‘My mind wants me to get up and do it (mow the grass), but my body won’t let me.’ ” 

Remembering that experience, Ramon says, “I decided whatever I can do, I will do it. I tell my kids, ‘be memorable.’ “

Read other stories in this series:

Linda Zalk: Places we’ll remember all our lives

Neal Anderson makes politics a family affair

Ron Cox stands up for history at a young age

Birukti Tsige on culture, family and community

Finding inspiration in Malden’s history: Inna Babitskaya

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