Annual Celebration May 29
The 14th Annual Sojourner Truth Memorial Celebration, free and open to the public, will be held on Sunday, May 29, from 2:00 to 3:30 p.m. at the Sojourner Truth statue, at the corner of Park and Pine Streets in Florence, MA. The celebration will be highlighted by a keynote address by Dr. Trevor Baptiste, Chair of the Amherst Regional School Committee and biology teacher at Springfield’s Putnam Vocational Technical Academy. We will also recognize the two recipients of the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice, Olivia Kan-Sperling, of Northampton High School, and Lanre Thomas, of Amherst Regional High School.
Olivia Kan-Sperling has used art to start community dialogues around women’s issues at Northampton High School. Inspired by her involvement with First Generation and other theater groups, she started a theater project, which provides a safe space for girls to share their personal experiences with injustice and develop a performance piece to give voice to these issues. The culmination of the group’s discussions, readings, and peer interviews is a play called “An Itch in Her Teeth,” which will be performed this May. Olivia will be combining her interest in theater and social justice to study theater and gender studies at Brown University this fall.
Lanre Thomas is active in many social justice organizations at Amherst Regional High School, including People of Color United, Minority Student Achievement Network, and Black Lives Matter. Through his roles in these groups, he has educated elementary school students on issues of racial prejudice and identity and led community dialogues on issues of race, gender, and identity. Inspired by his own experience being mentored by older students of color, Lanre plans to study political science and psychology at St. John’s University this fall, so that he can break down the psychological barriers that prevent students of color from high achievement at educational institutions.
The celebration will also feature a performance by the Amandla Chorus. Based in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and founded in 1988, Amandla sings about peace and justice, using songs from around the world.
Before Sunday’s memorial celebration, all are invited to a walking tour of Sojourner Truth’s Florence, which will meet at 12:00 pm at the Sojourner Truth statue. In case of rain, the celebration will be indoors at the Florence Community Center, just across Pine Street from the statue. T-shirts and other merchandise will be for sale, with all proceeds going to support the Committee’s efforts to honor Sojourner Truth’s legacy in the Pioneer Valley.