My name is Shannon Leonard and I am the organizer of the demonstrations you have been seeing at Bedford Common. I have been a resident of Bedford for 11 years. I moved here from Boston when I was 16.
I attended BHS as a member of the Class of 2011. It didn’t take long to notice the differences between my Boston school and Bedford High School.
The first obvious difference was frankly, the number of white people. I came from a school where 98% of the school was black. Most of the time I was the only white student in my class. Once the school year started I also noticed how far behind I was. Keeping up was a challenge and I quickly started to fall behind. My Boston public education was clearly not up to par with Bedford.
I think it is important you understand that information about where I came from, and why these demonstrations here in Bedford are so important to me and our community.
Bedford is my home now and as close to my heart as my childhood city of Boston. Where I come from has shaped who I am. The black community is my community and I have never seen it differently. The black community in Bedford has told us their stories, I have witnessed first-hand how uncomfortable people of color have felt in our community, where it is clear that hate is present.
The most recent incident of vandalism and the many incidents of racism I have witnessed in town are the reason I had to find a way to speak up in my community.
On the first day, it was me and two Bedford High school METCO alumni. Our presence in the center brought much attention which drove me to create an event on Facebook inviting anyone in the Bedford MA Today Facebook page.
The next day we had almost 200 people on the Common with us. We continued every evening between 5-7 pm.
The number of people is slowly trickling down but the conversation is growing. This drove me to create the Stand Up for Black Lives, Bedford MA Facebook page. This way we can come together as a community to come up with ideas on how we can continue our fight for justice and equality and keep the hate out of Bedford.
Together we came up with the idea to keep the demonstrations going until Juneteenth, Friday, June 19, which was the day the Emancipation Proclamation was read to enslaved Africans in Texas. This is an important day for the African-American community and for us. We decided this would be a good way to end our demonstrations but continue our conversations and approach town leaders with real solutions.