By Sarah Cook, President and CEO
At 18 Degrees, we celebrate Black History Month by acknowledging that Black history is American history, and its celebration cannot, and should not, be confined to just one month. We hope that the wealth of information and activities available throughout the month sparks conversations, enriches experiences, and ignites a curiosity that can only be filled by a lifelong engagement to celebrate Black Americans’ contributions and the many rich heritages that make up America.
Here in Western Massachusetts, there are many opportunities to learn about and honor the contributions of Black area residents, from the founding of the nation to the present day. Sites to visit include the Sojourner Truth Memorial in Florence and the Du Bois National Historic Site in Great Barrington, along with the African American Heritage Trail in Springfield.
Here are some other interesting resources in honor of 2022’s Black History Month in the Berkshires, including a talk on Elizabeth Freeman, after whom Pittsfield’s Elizabeth Freeman Center – an 18 Degrees partner – was named.
You can also watch a recording of the Barrington Stage production of Celebration of Black Voices: Ain’t I A Woman – YouTube, co-written and directed by Shirley Edgerton, an 18 Degrees board member. Read an interview with Ms. Edgerton about the piece here: A spotlight on Black women who helped shape US – The Berkshire Eagle. As we sought to expand our own understanding, the 18 Degrees Board and Senior Team launched a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion bookclub in 2021, and read the powerful book Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019, which provides ninety authors’ perspectives on well-known and less discovered stories of Black History in America. Finally, free for the month of February is a Masterclass with powerful scholars: Black History, Black Freedom & Black Love (masterclass.com). Watch with me!
However you choose to celebrate, may the opportunities available to learn, reflect, and contribute lead you to new discoveries this year.