Framingham Voices: Black History Month Reflections

Written by Erin Gagnon

May 9, 2024

During Black History Month, Downtown Framingham Inc. reached out to some of Framingham’s outstanding community members to hear their thoughts, reflections, and words of wisdom during this significant time of celebration. Our team conducted interviews with several folks and received powerful, insightful responses from each individual. As these messages resonated deeply with us, we felt compelled to share some of our favorite quotes with the community. If you’d like to watch any of these interviews in full, you can check out our Youtube at _____. We would love to see you there!

Rev. Dr. J. Anthony Lloyd Pastor at Greater Framingham Community Church 
Q: How would you suggest people empower their voices or tell their own story?
  • “One part is that it’s important to come to terms with who you are and your sense of identity without being apologetic. Also, for those who want to deny the history, rewrite it, or run from it, when we understand that change happens when we confront that which is uncomfortable, that is the impetus for growth to take place in our lives and in society. And the other part is deciding to celebrate it. The reality is there is an element of resilience, and maybe we don’t give enough credit to our young people for their resilience.
Q: As a leader in the black community, what advice would you have for high school students or younger folks?
  • “Outside of coming to terms with who we are and who God made us, aligning ourselves with someone that is larger than who we are. It’s important. We want to be aspirational in this quest and make a difference in the space that we operate in, so therefore we don’t do it alone.”
Jeffrey ColemanVice President, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Framingham State University
Q: What is the importance of Black History month and what does it represent to you?
  • “To me, Black History Month symbolizes a celebration of our African-American, West Indian-American, African, and West Indian ancestors, brothers and sisters, individuals that came before us — their contributions to American society today and some of the milestones that they paved the way to for us to live in a better society. It is also about the concept of community, enjoying each other, and appreciating difference and thinking about how we can all work together to maximize and support each others’ differences. I think in the current day, that is the work I am continuing to do, even on a level of being an administrator in higher education. I’m very much excited to see black excellence in younger generations, and am amazed and motivated by the strides they’ve made and the potential I see.”
Q: As a leader in the black community, what advice would you have for high school students as they prepare for their post-high school lives?
  • “Be your true, authentic self. Create your cultural identity and cultural experience everywhere you go. We should never conform who we are as we are making societal or career strides. Find opportunities that allow you to be uniquely who you are that challenge you to impact societal needs, and that challenge you to affect change. Go to the places where there is work to be done–places where you feel you can contribute to the greater good.”
Marcia SharpeRetired Army Veteran – DFI board member
Q: What is the importance of Black History month and what does it represent to you?
  • “Black History Month serves as an important time to honor and celebrate the contrubutions, struggles and triumphs of black individuals throughout history. It is a moment to reflect upon creativtity and struggles of the black community while also acknowledging the ongoing journey toward equity and justice.”
Q: As a leader in the black community, what advice would you have for high school students as they prepare for their post-high school lives?
  • “First, I would say to prioritize education as a tool for empowerment and advancement, emphasizing the importance of academic excellence and lifelong learning. Secondly, I would urge them to cultivate strength and determination in the face of challenges. Recognize that challenges will arise, but work to overcome them with perseverance and positivity. Additionally, I would emphasize the importance of community involvement and mentorship. Lastly, embrace their culture, identity, and heritage with pride”
Morgan Johnson, Director at Boys and Girls Club in Framingham
Q: What or who has inspired you to get to where you are today? 
  • “As a young black woman in my career, I am involved in politics, specifically in Worcestor. My great Aunt Betty Price was the first black woman on the Worcestor school committee in 1973. She paved the path for me to do political work, to get involved in local politics, and eventually move forward with that in the future. I’m also inspired by my mother, and really all black women around me who have created community and safe spaces around me which is incredibly important” 
Q: As a leader in the black community, what advice would you have for high school students as they prepare for their post-high school lives?
  • “Continue to be a changemaker in our community. I’m 23 years old, so if you are older, continue to make paths for the younger changemakers, and if you’re younger, never be afraid to be the first changemaker or to be a leader even in places where you feel like the minority. Remember you are important” 
Sincere ReedStaff Member at The Boys and Girls Club in Framingham 
Q: What is the importance of Black History month and what does it represent to you?
  • “To me, Black History Month means taking the time to honor those who have done and sacrificed so much to get us where we are today, and to remember that even if every day is a battle, we have to continue on and keep moving forward.”
Q: What or who has inspired you to get to where you are today? 
  • “I’m inspired by my mom and my grandmother because they taught me how to be a young man, and specifically a young black man in this world. They guided me and taught me ways to maneuver the world successfully.”
Eliana Student in Framingham, 5th Grade
  • “Black History Month is about learning about people’s cultures, about black people and the hard times they’ve been through. It’s about learning about how black people did and what they’ve invented and created.”
  • “Madam CJ Walker inspires me because she built a school where she treated people with hair loss”
Stella Student in Framingham, 6th Grade
  • Black History Month is important so we can remember what black people did to change society, everything they did to change segregation, and everything they did even though they were told they couldn’t do” 
Brandale Randolph Owner of 1854 Cycling Company
As a Business Owner-
  • “I’m reminded how we’ve progressed even though many steps have been taken against us in establishing a business. Many black businesses face this and every time we step forward, we’ve been somewhat undercut, yet our business keeps thriving forward. As a business owner, it’s similar to what’s happening today; black businesses today receive less than 1% of all venture capital and yet we have businesses that are still thriving, still hiring people, still gathering contracts, despite that we have to play but different rules. Black history month speaks to the fact that we’re not the first and we’re not going to be the last but we can be the ones who make it better for those who come behind us.”
Community Focus; Living in Framingham-
  • “The fact that the first antislavery rally was here, then we have Dr. Fuller and his wife and other radical blackness that’s been here for decades and centuries. That has been established and can continue to be established, but we have created a pathway here in Framingham, unlike many surrounding cities and towns, where I personally feel less welcomed. But, I do feel welcome here in Framingham and I think that’s a testament to a lot of things that have happened here”
Jesse Edwards Chief Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Officer, City of Framingham. 
Q: What is the importance of Black History month and what does it represent to you?
  • “We’re not always taught black history in schools, and I didn’t take my first black history course until I went to college. The importance of this month is to educate people about the important contributions that black folks have made to society, and in every facet of life. I always make it a point to talk to my children about black people who have made significant contributions to the world. 
Q: As a leader in the black community, what advice would you have for high school students as they prepare for their post-high school lives?
  • “Seek out mentors and people who can support your career aspirations. Choose people in the community who represent you and represent what you want to do and ask if they can mentor you– even sit down for some coffee with them and get to know more about them and what they do and move forward from there.”

 

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