Black History Month event begins local observances

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
NaTale Chester, left, and Destiny Frantum were two of the dancers who performed at the event.

CAMBRIDGE — Dramatic performances, dances, audio-visual presentations, music and speeches were all part of the Black History Celebration at Dorchester Center for the Arts (DCA) on Friday. The event began this year’s countywide observance of African-American culture, history and contributions to local life.

Robin Stanley and Omeakia Jackson welcomed guests who filled DCA’s George B. Todd Performance Hall, many of them having traveled considerable distances to take part.

Adrian Green of Alpha Genesis Community Development Corporation then spoke on African history and influences, followed by an evocative dance, “Stand Up,” performed by local youth.

A re-enactmet of the Dizzyland Restaurant protest in 1963 then took place. It recalled the actions of Gloria Richardson and three men who staged a non-violent protest at the segregated business, and were not only refused, but assaulted.

A monologue was presented based on Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling while the national anthem is played. The performance, and Mr. Kaepernick’s actions, were intended to bring attention to authority figures’ violence toward black men, which has often gone unpunished.

Charlene Jones introduced the next speaker, North Dorchester High School graduate Ferdinand Vilson, who drove eight hours from his Ohio medical school to attend the event.

As a young student, he said he realized he wanted to make an impact in his community. Then, while still in middle school, he met Dr. Ben Carson, who rose from poverty to become one of the most prominent surgeons in the world.

“I realized that doctors can be advocates for change,” Mr. Vilson said.
He shared stories of his own youth, growing up in a minority neighborhood, and how his two brothers have also embarked on medical educations. His advice for others?

“Do not let your environment determine who you will be,” Mr. Vilson said, as the audience gave him a standing ovation.

Yogananda D. Pittman came from Washington, D.C., where she is achieving notable success in her law-enforcement career. Assistant Chief Pittman was recently promoted to her current post in the United States Capitol Police.
She told the audience she came from a family of modest means, and she had lost both her parents by the time she reached her early teen years. But rather than surrender to difficulties and misfortune, she continued to expect the best from herself, while having positive role models to help show her the way.

“I never had to look past my living room to know what courage looked like,” she said.

“Dorchester County, your heritage is so great, so rich, all you have to do is carry on its traditions,” Asst. Chief Pittman said. And to the young people present, she added, “It is your right to be successful.”

Ms. Jackson ended the evening with a call to action, on behalf of local youth.

“It is our job to be setting the stage” for the next generation, she said. “We need adults who are willing to step up and step in.”

Performers at the event were Joseph Manokey, Eric Davis, Kevin Partridge Jr., Jaden Ferguson, Jamece Molock, Gianna Stanley, NaTale Chester, Destiny Frantum, Andre Hampton, Michael Bryant, Janae Keene, Cotina Murray, Laura Weldon and Maris Wicker.

The celebration was sponsored in part by the Dorchester Banner.