African-American culture will be spotlighted at Bedford High School on Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. during a community celebration of Black History Month. Everyone is invited and encouraged to attend. The event is appropriate for children and adults.
Authenticity radiates through the agenda, from food to spoken word to an array of step dancers.
Akil Mondesir, the Bedford schools’ METCO director and diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator, said he has been developing the program for more than two months, with help from teachers, administrators, and BHS alumni.
The celebration begins in the high school cafeteria with a return of the soul food dinner, which pre-pandemic was an annual feature delivered to Bedford through families in the METCO program.
“I know how much the community enjoyed it,” Mondesir said.
This year’s menu will be prepared and delivered by professionals –- Cohen Catering, featuring 2008 Bedford High School graduate Jerry Cohen Jr., his father, and two brothers. Jerry Cohen Jr. is a member of the BHS Sports Hall of Fame.
The charge is $15 per person for barbecued chicken, barbecued ribs, macaroni and cheese, Jag rice, green beans, corn bread, and red velvet cake. Members of the BHS Black Student Union will assist with serving and also sell its brand of clothing items, Mondesir noted.
Around 6:30 p.m., the focus moves to the high school’s Buckley Auditorium, where jamele adams will deliver what Mondesir called “spoken word.” Adams was a popular guest speaker at BHS while working as dean of students at Brandeis University. He is now the DEI director for the Scituate schools.
Then step dancing teams, including from BHS, the middle school in Lincoln, and Scituate, as well as some top collegiate dancers, will take over the auditorium stage.
According to the Stepafrika.com website, “Stepping is a percussive, highly-energetic art form. In stepping, the body becomes an instrument, using footsteps, claps, and spoken word to produce complex poly-rhythms.” The website for Morehouse College notes, “Inspired by our journey from the Motherland to today, stepping is a Black tradition all its own.”
Historically Black fraternities and sororities began embracing stepping at college campuses beginning in the late 1960s, and Mondesir said representatives of some of these organizations – known as the Divine Nine – are expected to demonstrate the art form at its highest level.
Mondesir, a member of Omicron Chi Sigma chapter of Phi Beta Sigma, said “stepping enables each organization to show spirit and pride. The audience will have an opportunity to see what it’s all about. Each organization will introduce and talk about what they do.”
Mondesir recruited BHS graduate Edward King, an experienced DJ, to provide the musical backdrop. He added that another alumnus, Chauncey Williams of the BHS faculty, will also demonstrate his steps.
The BHS parent Diversity Council is a co-sponsor of the celebration, along with the METCO program. Mondesir thanked Principal Heather Galante and her administrative team for their support and assistance.
He also cited the contribution of BHS graduate Michael Williams, who secured a significant supporting grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation, as well as support from Andrew Nyamekye, DEI director at Concord-Carlisle High School, who is expected to attend with members of that community.