James Bonds and Bill Coleman at the WW II Vets of Color Honor Roll meeting. Make it happen, people! photo submitted.
By Gordon Davis
Actions speak louder than words and good actions have good effects. The City of Worcester, organized labor, the Department of Transportation and the Worcester Public Schools have acted in a good and anti-racist manner. They and other are cooperating to ensure the restoration of the “Honor Roll of Colored Veterans.”
The Honor Roll was a monument listing of the Black veterans who were in the military during World War II. It was removed by the State during the 1950s and seemingly lost forever.
Other ethnic and racial communities rightly have monuments. Recently, some in the Worcester Irish community honored the Easter Uprising by the Irish Republican Army against British rule in 1916. This was done at the Hibernian Cross at Worcester City Hall.
The efforts to replace the Black vets Honor Roll has been led by James Bond, a commander of a Veteran of Foreign Wars post and by Bill Coleman, a long time Worcester community activist and city booster.
In the Black community there is some anxiety about whether the Honor Roll would be replaced. It was only a week or so ago that a Worcester City Councilor Konnie Lukes attacked Bill Coleman for bothering the Worcester City Council with his petitions. City Councilor Michael T. Gaffney has made it his misguided mission to close a Black-run social agency among his other actions that some say are racist.
To be fair this project was approved unanimously, including votes by Councillors Lukes and Gaffney.
Councilor Morris “Moe” Bergman has worked on the planning and supported the project. He also supported the placement of a plaque honoring Worcester’s first Black City Councilor – Charles Scott.
The City of Worcester will help pay for the new Honor Roll, as well as allow it to be placed on a triangular plot near the Worcester Police Station. The land is on Belmont Street.
This is sort of a disappointment, as the original proposal was to put the Honor Roll at Worcester City Hall where it could be more easily seen.
Students from Worcester Technical High School will donate labor and build the Honor Roll.
The Central Mass. Labor Council, headed by Joseph Carlson, will help pay for the monument and donate the materials. The Department of Transportation will also contribute to the funding.
Hopefully, this will be a good sign for race relations in Worcester, which have suffered several hits in recent years. The City forced former Worcester Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone out of her job … the political retaliations against Blacklives Matter … and the intransigence regarding Worcester police accountability have left a bad taste and ill feelings for many.
I am thankful for the efforts of Messrs. Bonds and Coleman. I am thankful for the support of the City of Worcester, the State, organized labor and our techical high school students. I know that all are sincere and generous and working for a better society.
The next test for us is harder: There are real problems that have disparately bad impacts on the Black community and other communities of color or communities of low-income.
The replacement of the Honor Roll is a good thing in and of itself. Is it also a harbinger of better race relations.