Marine Biological Laboratory celebrates Black History Month

Woods Hole will host their annual "Harambee," a celebration of diversity. —Photo Courtesy of Shelley Dawicki

Looking for a quick winter break from the Island? The Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole will be hosting events throughout February to honor Black History Month. The festivities will include a talk on civil rights by author Richard Taylor and a Harambee festival celebrating diversity.

Black History Month has been honored with a variety of cultural and educational events in Woods Hole since 1980. This year, the committee is following the official theme of “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories.”

“We generally follow the national theme,” Ambrose Jearld, director of academic programs at the fisheries and founding member of the Black History Month planning committee, said. “We try to put together a program that honors history and also brings in science, and we invite individuals who are African-Americans to give presentations.”

A talk by Pulitzer prizewinning columnist and photographer Derrick Z. Jackson kicked off the monthlong celebration on Feb. 1. The topic of the talk was drawn from the title of his new book, “Project Puffin: The Improbable Quest to Bring a Beloved Seabird Back to Egg Rock.” The talk was very well attended, according to Mr. Jearld.

Next up, on Thursday, Feb. 18, Richard Taylor, executive in residence and director of Suffolk University’s Sawyer Business School, will give a talk titled “Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard: Civil Rights Front Line.” Mr. Taylor is the author of the forthcoming book “Martha’s Vineyard: Race, Property, and the Power of Place.” In the 1990s, Mr. Taylor served as Massachusetts secretary of transportation. Among the many construction projects that he has overseen or been involved with are the Ted Williams Tunnel, the new South Station Bus Terminal, and the Big Dig project. Mr. Taylor currently serves as chairman of the Taylor-Smith Companies, where he manages multiple real estate business entities.

On Thursday, Feb. 25, Woods Hole will host the annual Harambee, an ethnic potluck feast and festival celebrating racial and ethnic diversity. Harambee, which means “let’s pull together” in Swahili, refers to the Kenyan tradition of community self-help events, and is also the official motto of Kenya.

The Woods Hole Harambee will feature singing, chanting, arts and crafts, and a mini market with a variety of vendors. The featured entertainer for this year’s festival is Vivian Male of Boston. Ms. Male is a smooth jazz and R&B vocalist who is a fixture of the Boston-area nightclub scene. The “Steppin’ Out” Hall of Fame inductee performs annually on Martha’s Vineyard, and has sung the National Anthem for the New England Patriots multiple times. Ms. Male recently performed a sold-out show at Gospel Uptown in Harlem, N.Y.

“People come from all over for the Harambee,” Mr. Jearld said, adding that there are always at least a few visitors from the Vineyard. The celebration begins at 4, giving Islanders plenty of time to party and still make it back to the ferry. The Marine Biological Laboratory, where the Harambee will be held, is a five-minute walk from the Steamship Authority building.

The Black History Month celebration is sponsored by all of the science facilities in Wood Hole (the Marine Biological Laboratory, National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center, Woods Hole Research Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and Sea Education Association).

The partnership also hosts an annual celebration for Juneteenth — the holiday that commemorates the abolition of slavery in the U.S. — and partners with the Woods Hole diversity initiative on other events throughout the year.

For the past eight years, the Woods Hole Partnership Education Program has sponsored a summer internship program for youth drawn from underrepresented, underserved communities. The aim of the program is increasing diversity in the ocean and environmental sciences.

Fifteen teens spend two weeks in Woods Hole each summer participating in various activities and educational opportunities, including a trip to Martha’s Vineyard where, for the past three years, they have enjoyed a luncheon and talk at the Oak Bluffs Senior Center. Mr. Jearld notes that the program is always looking to attract new sponsors and supporters.

Talk with author Richard Taylor Thursday, Feb. 18, at noon. Harambee potluck and celebration Thursday, Feb. 25, starting at 4 pm. All events are free and open to the public and will be held at the Marine Biological Laboratory, 7 MBL Street, Woods Hole.