By Marilou Barsam
Bedford Embraces Diversity sponsored its third annual Community Breakfast to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and all that he stood for in his ministry against racism on Monday, January 21.
The program opened with a video, “How to Raise a Black Son in America,” presented at the TED2015 Conference by writer, father, and activist Clint Smith. A panel discussion moderated by Selectman Mike Rosenberg followed the Smith’s video.
The panel included BHS students Chaddon Hills, Ibrahim Muhammad-Denson, and Jason Harris; Rev. Darrell Hamilton, a pastor at the First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain; Jason Harris, a BHS graduate, and head coach of the UMass Boston basketball team; Bedford Police Detective Scott Jones; and Bedford METCO director Akil Mondesir.
The men shared personal experiences in either receiving or giving a “Talk” such as the one described in Clint Smith’s TED Talk. They also shared their general experiences as black men and students both here in Bedford or beyond.
The BHS students each described hearing the “Talk” from their parents, as did others. “I feel that in this day and age we should be able to come together and not have to deal with this as black people and as a whole world,” Chaddon Hills said.
Rev Darrell Hamilton, a pastor at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, spoke at length about the way negative messages are continually sent to black youth and referenced how in his own ministry he tries to help them reconnect with the ‘goodness’ of their black identities.
Bedford School Superintendent Jon Sills explained various ways in which the Bedford Schools are working hard to support positive messages with everything from curriculum, to teacher/student and student to student interactions in the Bedford community.
“These gatherings are meant to share different perspectives on how far we’ve come, or not come, in supporting Dr. King’s vision for equality of all regardless of color,” said Marilou Barsam, President of Bedford Embraces Diversity.
“The TED Talk video exposes the bitter truth that most black parents feel obligated to talk to their children at early ages about how to act around white people and police officers to avoid confrontations that can lead to them being hurt or misjudged,” Barsam continued. “Although we understand how the reality of what’s happening in our world necessitates these conversations, it saddened us to learn how prevalent these scary ‘Talks” are, and we can only wonder what Dr. King would say so many years after his death.”
The program closed with gospel singer Karin Parker and her pianist Michael Shea. During her performance of the Black National Anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” Barsam asked everyone to stand and hold hands as a sign of unity and brotherhood.
Bedford Embraces Diversity thanks First Church of Christ, Congregational for hosting the program, along with the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Bedford Cultural Council, and Mimi Henning and Diane Cadogan Hughes of Barrett Sotheby Realtors in Bedford.
Images in the gallery below are (c) JMcCT, 2019 all rights reserved – Click to view larger images