Partnering with Salem United at the Salem Willows Black Festival
The Salem Willows Black Festival began in 1741 as "Negro Election Day," when black people of Massachusetts were able to elect their own Governor. The march and festival were organized this year by Doreen Wade, President of Salem United. http://www.salemunitedinc.org/ We were honored to be included in the parade and festival and proud to support recognition of the historical and continuing contributions of the black community to our society. Their long, often painful history has been full of creativity and strength in the face of adversity.
The two Democratic candidates for Governor, Jay Gonzalez and Bob Massie, mingled with the festival crowd, demonstrating their support for the 277 years of celebration of black civic engagement. Jay Gonzalez heard our concerns about the need for administrative reform as he posed with festival participants.
Doreen Wade is seeking to have the Commonwealth establish the third Saturday in July as a state holiday in recognition of Black Picnic Day formally known as Negro Election Day. We look forward to a partnership with Doreen and Salem United, working to advance the holiday and to educate, inform, and advocate for change.
Our fledgling movement against bullying has much to learn from leaders like Doreen Wade and the generations of black activists in the slow, and still ongoing, advance for civil rights and full equality. Bullying is a plague in our society, yet it is but one symptom of the abuse of power. Our failure as a nation and as individuals to include every person in every aspect of social and political life, coupled with discrimination and segregation, diminishes each of us. We must stand together to assure equality for all. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls."
Experiencing The Salem Willows Black Festival
By invitation of Doreen Wade, the President of Salem United http://www.salemunitedinc.org/ , the Stop Bullying Coalition attended the 277th Black Picnic Day formally known as Negro Election Day on Saturday, July 21, 2018
As I read about last year's Festival online, I looked forward eagerly to participating in this event. Arriving in the morning, Jerry Halberstadt & I got organized in the section designated for community agencies & vendors. We were right near the 'No Place For Hate' booth which was staffed by some very special people, Sarah & Hallah. To say that they were delightful would not cover it: they radiated peace, something I would encounter again during the day.
Next year, we shall have a nice, big table instead of two storage containers on top of each other, draped with a lovely table cloth supplied by Halberstadt. But we were doing fine this year. I had put together a flyer, he had put together a few, so we felt confident in our printed materials. We had a fine banner, attached to a—well, a broom handle—which was an excellent staff. 'Twas not so wide as a barn door but did serve!
We got a ride from Doreen back to the Anchor, opposite the old Custom House, the meeting place for all who would be in the Parade. We met Neil, Organizer Plus, who checked us off his list of marchers & we fell in to conversation with the superb Negro Election Day representatives, the Haunted House ambassadors, the grand Salem Masons (Essex Lodge Ancient Free & Accepted Masons 9th District), the glorious Civil War Re-Enactor Warren Barnet, who stood for the 29th Regiment & who some times marches with the 54th Regiment as he has ancestors who were in each.
Behind us were the youthful, energetic & very funny Park Rangers, followed by a hook & ladder from the Salem Fire Department, whose blasting, honked greetings I eventually got used to.
People along the Parade route stood outside of their shops & took pictures or videos. They waved & we all waved back.
Some stood outside of their homes, waved enthusiastically as we all waved back. As we came along a slope, there was a beautiful child on the corner, wearing braces & using metal crutches. She smiled as she saw our sign: Stop Bullying Coalition but her parents' smiles were even wider. We waved & waved. Then there was an empty road until we got to more empty road but then there was more automobile traffic, directed away from the Parade route by Salem PD motorcycle officers. There were lots of 'thumbs up' out of car windows & even more honking & carrying on, followed by that Salem FD truck's honking back. Eight feet behind me. It hardly caused me to even jump any more.
And almost at the very end, we began to see people again. I looked to my left and saw a woman in a wheel chair who looked right at us, then said: 'We LOVE you people!' It made me wonder. I wished I could find her again in the crowd. That one, tiny woman, not old or young, looking so tired but brightening up when she saw us. Then, finally, I saw that big, beautiful sign: The Salem Willows Park. We were back.
Chatted a bit with the incomparable Neil, with the dynamic Warren, then off to The Pavilion on the far side, across the shady green expanse of park. I walked by toddlers up in their parents' arms who waved 'hello,' bigger children who smiled, young adults dressed in colorful, light Summer dress, with happy grins & hands entwined. I passed tables full of families who had been here for life times, food on grills going full tilt, old ladies & gentlemen seated & served by their children or grandchildren.
Getting to The Pavilion, we stepped up the stairs to see Doreen & hear: "Please! Help your selves! Thank you for coming today!" Each dish was just as delicious as the dish next to it: chicken entrees, greens, pasta salads, tortellini salad, sweet potatoes, green beans, beef franks, burgers, et cetera! Doreen's Deviled Eggs are as good as mine: I'll never recover from that.
There were times during the Parade that I thought the route was 'not so long.' There were other times I thought quite the opposite. Moving along the more deserted sections of road way, I had an opportunity to think about what I was doing there. Supporting Salem United was high on my list that day & this day. Their mission statement & work is worthy of our help, every chance we get.
To let the black community know about the Stop Bullying Coalition remained my primary objective that day & this day. Letting people know that the need is recognized, that we are working on a bill to provide stronger safeguards for them—that's what I am doing.