A 'new paradigm': State Rep. Byron Rushing calls for continuation of W.E.B. Du Bois' legacy


GREAT BARRINGTON -- A day of history and memory honoring local icon W.E.B. Du Bois peaked when state Rep. Byron Rushing, D-Boston, called for "a new paradigm" of cultural awareness and acceptance -- the continuation of Du Bois' legacy.

Speaking at First Congregational Church on Saturday, Rushing said people must forgo "cultural amnesia" and build a new way of thinking inclusive of all groups who founded this nation.

"All the founders -- red, white and black -- must be included in this new paradigm if it's to approach the truth," Rushing said. "We do not need to give up [our founding documents]; however, this new paradigm will always have space enough for us to ask, ‘Who is this ‘our'? Who is included in this ‘we'?" Rushing said.

The co-founder and first executive director of Boston's Museum of African-American History continued, citing America's twin birth defects of slavery and destruction of the Native population.

"We can't talk about who we are without talking about invasion, slavery and imperialism," he said.

It won't be until 2111 that African Americans will finally have equaled in freedom the 247 years their ancestors spent enslaved, Rushing pointed out, while the Native American civilization outlasts ours by thousands of years.

In order for a "new paradigm" to hold sway, all must internalize and incorporate this history so it "need not be lived again," said Rushing, channeling Maya Angelou.

To forge ahead, "it is necessary to abolish the artificial concept of race -- a construct invented in the 15th and 16th centuries in order to make slavery more efficient," Rushing added.

"The memory of W.E.B. Du Bois that we honor today must become incorporated into our memory," Rushing said.

Rushing spoke at the third and final honorary ceremony held in town Saturday honoring the civil rights leader and Great Barrington native.

First, a headstone was placed at the previously unmarked final resting place of Du Bois' daughter, Yolanda Du Bois Williams, at the Mahaiwe Cemetery on Main Street.

A new interpretive trail was then opened to the public for the first time at the W.E.B. Du Bois Homesite on Egremont Road.

"It takes visitors to the footprint of the house, and along the way highlights Du Bois' accomplishments and journey from Great Barrington to the world stage as a brilliant scholar, activist and champion of justice, civil rights, democracy and world peace," Dolores Root, anthropologist and museum program specialist, said.

The event at First Con-
gregational wrapped things up Saturday evening with the town icon's two great grandsons, Arthur McFarlane II and Jeffrey Peck, in attendance.

"I really believe when I come to Great Barrington that I'm coming home, because the people here have treated me so well -- as if I was not just the great grandson, but W.E.B. Du Bois himself," McFarlane said. "Which is always an honor."

He added, "Every time I go somewhere I'm totally amazed by the impact [Du Bois has] had on people's lives and the way they respond to what he has done to change the world."

To reach Phil Demers:
or (413) 281-2859.
On Twitter: @BE_PhilD


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