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Springfield commemorates Black History Month with flag raising

For the past 38 years through snow storms and even the pandemic Springfield has commemorated Black History Month with a flag raising and ceremony at City Hall.

Gloria Williams and her husband State Rep. Bud Williams, D-Springfield, led the event in honor of Ruth B. Loving, a civil rights pioneer in the city.

Among the speakers at the annual celebration was the city's first-ever appointed Black police superintendent.

Lawrence Akers will take over the department's top leadership post later this year. He spoke about racial discrimination and other hardships the city's Black community has faced over the years.

"We still have a long way to go. Our struggles are still in front of us, but when we do moving to these positions, it makes that struggle just a little bit easier," he said.

Akers said when he begins his new role he'll attempt to right some wrongs in the city from a police standpoint. And he said he needs community input to do that.

"I need your input because I don't know everything. And when you talk to me, I learn," he said.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a proclamation at the event.

"Springfield is very lucky. We have a rich African American and Black history dating back to the 1850s. Strong roots here which build branches on a tree," he said.

School Committee member Barbara Gresham thanked the large crowd in attendance and reminded them of why the Black American Heritage Flag is raised each year.

"To respect and remind us of the struggles, the bloodshed, the pride and identity that our forefathers encountered," she said.

There will be Black History Month events held throughout the city for the month of February.

Elizabeth Román edits daily news stories at NEPM as managing editor. She is working to expand the diversity of sources in our news coverage and is also exploring ways to create more Spanish-language news content.