“Turn to the person next to you and say, ‘You look good!’ Turn to the person behind you and say, ‘You look good!’”
On Thursday night, jamele adams, the spoken-word artist, brought Black history to a couple of hundred people of all ages and races gathered in the bleachers of the Bedford High School gymnasium. The annual Black History Month celebration was sponsored by the Parents Diversity Council and Bedford METCO.
Weaving his messages into participatory activities and answers, adams drove home the point that Black history is part of universal history.
“We are Black history,” he said in a call-and-response with the crowd. “Black history is world history and American history.”
He asked the crowd, “Who is the godfather of Black history,” and someone said it was the educator and author Dr. Carter Woodson, who originated Black History Week in 1926. Fifty years later, adams said, President Gerald Ford expanded it to Black History Month. Then adams declared, “Every month is Black History Month.”
“It was great to see so many people across the community, from our youngest students to parents and grandparents, graduates and residents, join in such a joyful celebration of Black history,” said Kelley Korenak, president of the Parents Diversity Council.
Added Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang, “It was very nice to see folks from throughout the Bedford community and Boston come out to celebrate.” He said he enjoyed all aspects of the evening, including “the engagement of the kids in the crowd.”
Chuang’s predecessor Philip Conrad also was on hand.
Akil Mondesir, METCO director for the Bedford schools, took the microphone to recount the School Committee’s approval of naming the BHS rear entry foyer in honor of Irene Parker, who for more than two decades served as one of his predecessors. He invited three of Parker’s children, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren to assemble at the center of the court.
“Many people are deserving of this honor,” Terrence Parker said on behalf of the family. “If our mother was here, she would want me to say that when the plaque goes up, it is as if everybody in the community is on that wall.”
He spoke about how Parker and his father, her husband Manny Parker, believed that “everyone has a right to a quality education.” He added, “She never called kids in the program the METCO kids. They were always ‘her’ kids.”
Adams told the audience, “You’re talking about Black excellence? This is what we’re talking about.”
The program also featured a step demonstration by four experienced practitioners, members of historically Black college fraternities. One of them was Chauncey Williams, a BHS graduate who is now the METCO coordinator at the Job Lane School.
“My involvement in the Bedford Black History Month celebration serves as a symbol of all the hard work that has come before us and the work that will continue after us,” Williams said after the event. “It is always a pleasure to take part in such a powerful tradition that sheds light on the past and present-day history of people of color in our country.”
“Black History Month is not only a celebration of our notable pioneers, but one of our bus drivers, teachers, bankers, cashiers, lawyers, mail distributors, and blue-collar workers.”
Korenak said, “Events like these give us opportunities to connect, learn together, and celebrate each other, and these bonds make our community stronger and more inclusive.”
Chuang added, “The Bedford Public Schools is grateful to our METCO program staff, the Parents Diversity Council, the Boston Bridges Initiative, and all of the talented Bedford alums who shared their talents to host this wonderful event.”