The vibe and energy inside the packed Fitchburg High School auditorium was absolutely electric at the Black History Month celebration on Feb. 17, a high energy program featuring a fashion show, interpretive dance, and lip syncing performances.
Black History Month
LUNENBURG — Jackie Robinson has been a lifelong hero of Ted Reinstein, however, over the years Reinstein has become fascinated with the back story of breaking the color barrier, the unsung heroes who really paved the way for Robinson, but who never really got the credit.
Just in time for opening day of the 2023 baseball season, the community is invited to learn about the lesser-known stories of color barrier breaking players in the early years of Major League Baseball history.
Author and local TV reporter Ted Reinstein will present his latest book “Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier” at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 9, at the Lunenburg Public Library, 1023 Massachusetts Ave.
“This book tells the story of the little-known heroes who fought segregation in baseball, from communist newspaper reporters to the Pullman car porters who saw to it that black newspapers espousing integration in professional sports reached the homes of blacks throughout the country,” said Reinstein. “It also reminds us that the first black player in professional baseball was not Jackie Robinson but Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1884, and that for a time integrated teams were not that unusual.”
And then, as segregation throughout the country hardened, the exclusion of blacks in baseball quietly became the norm, and the battle for integration began anew.
“What really struck me was that they were everyday people,” Reinstein added. “They were drawn from all walks of life, they weren’t famous, they weren’t powerful, some were negroly baseball players, and no matter how great they played, they stayed in the shadows.”
Lydia Gravell, Adult Services Librarian, at the Lunenburg Public Library, said she and the staff are excited to be hosting this upcoming baseball program.
“It’s really awesome that we have the opportunity to book speakers who are recognizable on other media outlets, like Ted Reinstein,” said Gravell. “We are fortunate to have the support from our town and the Friends of the Lunenburg Public Library nonprofit organization to be able to provide talks like this for free to anyone in our community.”
“We are particularly excited for Ted’s presentation on ‘Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier’ because it ties into the start of the MLB 2023 season later in March,” she added.
“Baseball fans gearing up for the season can join us for a deep dive into a part of MLB history they may not know much about, get a chance to talk to Ted, and purchase a signed copy of his book that this lecture is based on.”
Reinstein is best known in New England as a journalist and reporter for “Chronicle,” WCVB-TV/Boston’s award-winning nightly news magazine.
While he appears occasionally in the studio at the anchor desk or delivering an opinion commentary, it is out in the field where viewers are most familiar seeing him.
From every corner of New England, he’s found the offbeat, the unique, the moving, and the just plain memorable, all while telling the enduring colorful stories of the region’s people and places.
In addition, he has been a contributor for the station’s political roundtable show and sits on WCVB’s editorial board.
Reinstein also hosts the Discovery channel’s “Popular Mechanic” show as well as other shows on HGTV and the Travel channel.
His first book, “A New England Notebook: One Reporter, Six States, Uncommon Stories” (Globe Pequot Press/2013) was selected by National Geographic Traveler as a “Best Pick.” He is also the author of “Wicked Pissed: New England’s Most Famous Feuds” (GPP/2015), and co-author, with his wife, Anne-Marie Dorning, of “New England’s General Stores: Exploring an American Classic” (GPP/2017). Now with his most recent book “Before Brooklyn: The Unsung Heroes Who Helped Break Baseball’s Color Barrier” (Lyons Press/2021).
“Jackie Robinson will rightfully and forever be known for his courage and landmark achievement,” Reinstein said. “But, he didn’t achieve it all by himself. These unsung heroes fought back for 60 plus years before Brooklyn so that Robinson was finally able to break through. This finally is their story.”
FITCHBURG — The vibe and energy inside the packed high school auditorium was absolutely electric at the Black History Month celebration on Feb. 17, a dynamic program featuring a fashion show, interpretive dance, and lip syncing performances.
Fitchburg High School instructional coach Dan Kirouac spun hip hop mashups and dance tunes as the students filed into the auditorium and throughout the show. Theo Demosthenes, or “Mr. D” as he’s called, welcomed students, teachers, and staff to the event put on by the Black Student Union before student emcees Neveah Hurley and William Coleman, also known as “Mr. CoCo” took over to launch the fashion show.
“Put some pep in that step, let’s get this show on the road I’m excited!” Demosthenes said, which drew loud applause and hollers from the crowd.
Several students donned traditional African garments, sleek modern apparel, and streetwear and sashayed on stage to the music.
“We all know how important fashion is when it comes to Black culture,” Coleman said to the excited audience.
When sophomore Isis Harrison walked down the runway sporting a green dress and blew a kiss to the audience, the crowd went wild.
“Wasn’t that good, guys? It was pretty amazing!” Coleman said.
Next up was junior Aszalise Vacca, who performed a somber and moving interpretive dance to Nina Simone’s cover of “Strange Fruits,” a song originally recorded by Billie Holiday that Coleman called “an allegory of lynching in the south.”
The last part of the program was a fantastic lip sync segment and before it kicked off Demosthenes got on the mic and encouraged the students in the audience to “get up and dance” and sing along. The students delivered in a big way and nailed songs by Snoop Dogg, SWV, Destiny’s Child, Drake, J. Cole, and Burna Boy.
The audience continued to vigorously clap and cheer and sang along to all the songs. Staff and teachers lined the ramp on one side of the auditorium and Demosthenes stood off to the side of the stage along with the fashion show models and cheered their fellow students on.
Tyrell Timothee brought down the house with his high energy lip sync performance of “No Role Modelz” by J. Cole, a performance that began with him bounded down the center aisle from the back of the auditorium in a Bulls jersey and running around giving high fives. At one point he grabbed a phone from a student sitting in the front row and videoed some of the performance.
Demosthenes, who is the interim advisor for the Black Student Union, is connected to the students through his role as the GEAR UP Counselor for the Division of Access and Transition at Mount Wachusett Community College. Most of the class of 2024 and 2025 students in the union are part of the GEAR UP Cohort.
Mr. D thanked everyone for coming to the event, including Fitchburg Public Schools Superintendent Robert Jokela, Mayor Stephen DiNatale and his Chief of Staff Natalia Oliver, state Rep. Michael Kushmerek, and the students and administration.
“We always hear about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X. We wanted to celebrate what’s happening now,” Demosthenes said of the inspiration behind the Black History Month celebration.
He went on to say that “black and brown people have been making contributions to the American culture since its inception.”
“We’ve been here as long as anybody else and you’re making great contributions. I’m talking about science … I’m talking about music, talking about art, talking about fashion. Black and brown people have been impacting the world. Black and brown people have been making history every day.”
After he spoke the dance party resumed on stage, with more students jumping up there to join in, and the kids in the audience danced and clapped in their seats before they were dismissed for February vacation.
GARDNER — In honor of Black History Month, the Student Government Association at Mount Wachusett Community College is hosting a day of entertainment featuring singer/songwriter Rocky Peter and speaker Ron Jones.
The event will be held at 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 8. The event will begin with a performance from Rocky Peter and after a break for refreshments, Ron Jones will give his “Hellfighter” presentation and the event will conclude with a question-and-answer session.
Rocky Peter is a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and music producer. He was born in the U.S. and raised in Nigeria. His musical style is highly influenced by folk, pop, reggae, soul, and blues. He has an outstanding vocal range and poetic song writing skills. His message is centered around love, unity, motivation, and empowerment.
Peter sings both original music and cover songs. His life story is nothing short of inspiring. Peter was born in America but abandoned in West Africa at the age of two. By the time he was eight years old he was a child slave and a subject of physical abuse and extreme labor. Peter escaped and educated himself. Through his rough upbringing, composing music gave him solace. As a result, Rocky uses his music to entertain, heal, and inspire.
Jones has been an educator, writer, actor and social activist for over 25 years. As a founding member of the program Urban Improv, he did no less that 250 workshops each year throughout new England for young people using improvisation as a tool for self-expression and violence prevention. He is currently executive director of Dialogues on Diversity, a social justice and diversity awareness theater company performing more than 100 performances, lectures, and workshops across North America annually. Learn more about Dialogues on Diversity at dialoguesondiversity.com.
This event is open to the community. All attendees must adhere to all COVID Policies for Visitors. Current students and employees may RSVP on InvolveMOUNT, community members and those without access to InvolveMOUNT are asked to RSVP at tinyurl.com/45zcnwrf no later than Monday, Feb. 6.