Amherst celebrating lives, achievements within the Black community
AMHERST, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Wednesday was the start of Black History Month across the country, and one local town marked the occasion with a flag raising ceremony.
It was a night filled with fellowship, song, and celebration on the steps of the Amherst Town Hall as community members gathered to kick off their Black History Month celebrations.
February is Black History Month, a tradition that celebrates and honors the history and achievements of African-Americans.
The Amherst Human Rights Commission, along with community members and other local leaders, braced the frigid temperatures to kick off this month’s celebrations with a flag raising and performance by the local gospel choir.
“It’s an annual celebration,” said the commission’s Co-Chair, Ben Herrington. “It’s like the kickoff of Black History Month. It was started by a woman, Judy Brooks, who has now passed on, and every year, we come out and do the flag raising.”
The annual tradition also included a reading of Amherst’s Black History Proclamation by councilors.
“Whereas, as former President Barack Obama proclaimed, ‘Every American can draw strength from the story of hard-won progress, which not only defines the African-American experience, but also lies at the heart of our Nation as a whole,’” said the councilors.
Black History Month was officially recognized in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations by former President Gerald Ford.
Western Mass News spoke with singers from the Amherst Area Gospel Choir, who told us what Wednesday night’s event meant to them and the Black community.
“Black history belongs because of resilience,” Jacqueline Wallace explained. “We’ve been through everything and we are still here. And contributions – not just to music and basketball, but a plethora of physics, neurobiology…. We are two social workers. There are so many contributions by everybody and we need every piece.”
Wallace went on to discuss why Black History Month is important to the fight against oppression, even year-round.
“It is my life, my love, my work, my truth, and my passion to be a Black human being in this country at this time,” she told us. “I am always grateful to sing that song, read it as a poem…. The work I do is about racial equality and undoing structural racism. This is not just an oppression of Black folks, but of all of us.”
The town of Amherst, along with their human rights commission, will host an event later this month that will tell the story of African-American history here in the United States through music. That event will be held on February 26th.
Amherst will also host a grief circle next week on February 6th for anyone who needs to find comfort in being with others as the nation mourns the death of Tyre Nichols. Trained facilitators will host the event from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. You can find more information HERE.
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