The 15th Annual Sojourner Truth Memorial Celebration, free and open to the public, will be held on Sunday, May 28, 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 Ingrid Askew, theatre artist and cultural activist. We will also recognize the three recipients of the Sojourner Truth Scholarship for Social Justice, Dorilyn Castillo, Chicopee High School; Mugisha Cutsimpumu, Springfield Central High School; and Bridget MacNeill, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Academy.
Dorilyn Castillo is an active member and president of the Holyoke Youth Commission and serves as student class president at Chicopee High School. Mugisha Cutsimpumu is an active member of the Pioneer Valley Projects’ Youth Committee, and is involved in their efforts to raise awareness about mass incarceration. Bridget MacNeill is active in many social justice causes, including protesting the North Eastern Direct Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline, and working to promote women’s rights.
Most noted for her portrayal of historical Black women, keynote speaker Ingrid Askew has performed throughout the east coast of the United States and as far as Australia and South Africa. Her work has always been inspired by the goal of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to build community and work for social change. She is the Executive Director of Crossing the Waters Institute for Cultural Exchange. Ingrid is also the Co-Founder and Director of the Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage, a 13-month walking pilgrimage that retraced the Transatlantic slave route from Leverett, Massachusetts, and the eastern seaboard of the U.S., the Caribbean, West Africa and South Africa. The Pilgrimage is featured in the PBS series “This Far by Faith: African Americans Spiritual Journeys.”
The celebration will also feature a performance by the Amherst Area Gospel Choir. Before the celebration, all are invited to a walking tour, “Sojourner Truth’s Footsteps in Florence,” which will meet at 12:00 pm at the Sojourner Truth statue. After the celebration, the David Ruggles Center, located at 225 Nonotuck Street in Florence, will be hosting a reception and open house, and all are welcome to attend.
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 Sojourner Truth Memorial Committee’s efforts to honor Sojourner Truth’s legacy in the Pioneer Valley.