Immigration Highlights Keynote Address At Belmont’s Annual MLK Breakfast, Jan. 20

Photo: Ragini Shah, founder and director of Suffolk University’s Immigration Clinic will be the keynote speaker at the annual MLK Community Breakfast.

The bond linking civil rights leader Martin Luther King and the struggle immigrants experience in today’s adverse environment will be the focus of this year’s keynote address at the 26th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Community Breakfast.

The event sponsored by the town’s Human Rights Commission and Belmont Against Racism will be held Jan. 20, 2020 from 8:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Belmont High School cafeteria.

Ragini Shah, clinical professor of law at Suffolk Law School and founder of Suffolk’s Immigration Clinic will talk on “Uplifting the Human Personality: Martin Luther King and Immigrants’ Rights Today.”

Music will fill out the program

There will be pastries, fruit, juice and coffee as well as supervised activity for children under 12.

Tickets: $5 for individuals; $10 per family. Pay at door or with eventbrite (

All proceeds and donations will be go to support the Belmont School’s METCO Support Fund which funds late transportation for METCO high school students who participate in after-school activities at Belmont High School and across all Belmont schools for programs that bring our Boston and Belmont students together.

Donations to the METCO Support Fund can be made by cash or check to: Belmont Against Racism, P.O. Box 649, Belmont, MA 02478

For info on the community breakfast, contact the Human Rights Commission at 617-993-2795 or

Belmont Against Racism Honored By State Teachers Association

Photo: (from left) Louise Gaskins, the eponymous educator of the award for her leadership on issues of women and people of color in education, with current and former BAR Board members, Meg Anderson, Bev Freeman, Charlene O’Connor, Kathryn Bonfiglio, John Robotham, and Mike Collins.

Belmont Against Racism will be in the spotlight on Friday, June 15, as the group is presented with the 2018 Louise Gaskins Lifetime Civil Rights Award from the Massachusetts Teachers Association at its 36th annual Human and Civil Rights Awards dinner held in Westborough.

Belmont Education Association members Carla Hawkins and Karen Duff nominated the group for this year’s award.

Duff, a Chenery Middle School librarian, said she has reached out to the group many times, including for help with funding, “to invite local authors of color and authors from the LGBTQ community to come in and provide writing workshops.”

Hawkins, a Chenery school counselor, said, “As is the sad and disturbing truth everywhere in America, Belmont has its share of racial, homophobic, religious intolerance and other incidents of hate and intolerance. BAR is the leader in the community that, in a timely and mindful way, organizes the community by providing a space and forum to address the issue and open a dialogue. Belmont is becoming a safer and more accepting community as a result of BAR’s existence.”

Belmont Against Racism is an all-volunteer organization started 26 years ago after the Rodney King verdict with an emphasis on anti-racism work.  In 2001 it broadened its mission to address all forms of prejudice and bias. With its partner programs, The LBGTQ Alliance, and The Stand-Up Campaign, BAR’s stated mission is to strive “to build a diverse, inviting community-based on fairness and mutual respect.”

BAR organizes and co-sponsors programs and films related to social justice issues, race relations, and identity. BAR also funds grants to the schools and community, including support for after-school transportation for Belmont High School METCO students.  BAR started and continues to fund the annual Belmont Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Breakfast.   BAR is the sole fundraiser for the METCO Support Fund that provides after-school transportation for Belmont High School METCO students who participate in after-school activities, for activities sponsored by the Boston Belmont Friends Group, and for programs across the schools. 

Examples of programming supported by BAR in  the Belmont Public Schools this past year include a Thanksgiving luncheon for English Language Learners and their families at Winn Brook School, funding for Belmont teachers to attend an IDEAS Educator Conference that explored the impact of race, culture, and equity on student engagement, learning and achievement, support for diverse authors at the Chenery Middle School, bringing award winning slam poet, Regie Gibson to Belmont High School for presentations and writer’s workshops and funding for Belmont High School students to see the play, “Unveiled.” 

Community support by BAR has included funding for Story Starters, a program for children and their parents that uses literature to talk about race and racism, co-sponsorship with the Belmont Public Library to bring Gish Gen to speak about her book The Girl at the Baggage Claim: Explaining the East-West Culture Gap and funding for Teen Empowerment to do a diversity workshop with Boy Scout Troop #304.  BAR also distributes lawn signs that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor.”

“We try in our small way to make a difference in our community, with a particular emphasis on supporting efforts to make our METCO students feel welcome and appreciated in our town,” BAR’s President Kathryn Bonfiglio told the MTA audience. Bonfiglio said that while it has been a discouraging few years given the increase in bias incidents, the rise of student activism country-wide has been inspiring. Bonfiglio commended local youth groups including Black in Belmont students, Muslim students who spoke at a recent Iftar dinner at Beth El Temple Center, and Belmont High Students who marched in the Boston Pride Parade as examples. 

Future programs for BAR include a forum on Nov. 15 on “Bringing Restorative Justice to Belmont” with speakers, Middlesex District Attorney Marion Ryan, State Sen. Will Brownsberger, Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin, Arlington Police Chief Fred Ryan, and members of Communities for Restorative Justice. 

Stand Up to Bullying: Bystander Intervention Workshop This Saturday

Photo: Poster

Witnessing a person – particularly a stranger – being harassed can be an uncomfortable or confusing experience for many people. Without having a strategy to safely de-escalate a situation or to support the person being attacked, many people choose to not intervene.

To provide people with the appropriate tools in this scenario, The Stand Up Campaign and the Belmont Council on Aging will co-sponsor an interactive workshop, Bystander Invention WorkshopWhat You Can Do When Witnessing Harassment on Saturday, March 18 from 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Beech Street Center, 266 Beech St.

The Stand Up Campaign, a program partner of Belmont Against Racism, promotes kindness, respect, and civil communication.

The workshop content will be led by experienced actors from an Arlington-based theater group, True Story Theater, who will improvise realistic situations and lead participants in role play scenarios.

The workshop is non-political and non-partisan and is appropriate for ages 16 years and older. The event is free, but registration is required here.

For questions, contact Donna Ruvolo at or 617-489-5446.

A Community Contemplates, Comes Together After A ‘Terrible’ Week

Photo: Participants at the rally Tuesday. 

In the warm twilight of Tuesday, more than 250 men, women, families and children arrived at the courtyard of St. Joseph Parish in an act of community contemplation after what Belmont Police Chief Richard McLaughlin described as “a terrible week.”

The residents came to demonstrate, in the truest sense, their concern to the violence inflicted onto two African-Americans – in Baton Rouge and Minnesota – and five Dallas law enforcement officers that left them dead and a nation in shock.

But the night would not be filled with slogans or protest placards, rather a quiet reflection and the light of more than a hundred candles.

“This event was prompted because there were a lot of conversation that ‘We need to do something and do it soon and to say really how much Belmont cares’,” said John Robotham, a leader of the Belmont Religious Council which with Belmont Against Racism and the Belmont Police Department organized the rally for hope and healing. 

The event began with prayers for the victims, survivors and for courage and understanding.

“Spur us to root out the demons of anger, hatred and racial disparity from our hearts and minds and our society,” said Parish member Suzanne Robotham.

Rabbi Jonathan Kraus of the Beth El Temple Center noted while “there is holy work for us to do” in acts of kindness and the pursuit of justice to help heal ourselves and the country, “before we can reach across the chasm of hurt, misunderstanding, distrust and violence, we must open our eyes with those we share communities but who, if we are honest, we really don’t know very well.”

“Even as we confess the legacy of racism and bigotry that continues to be a poison thread in the fabric of America, we must find the courage, the faith, and the strength to proclaim along with Anne Frank, ‘I simply can not build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.'”

Quoting from a passage from the Quran – “O mankind. We created you from a single pair of male and female, making nations and tribes, that you may know each other” – Furqan Sayeed, who graduated one month ago from Belmont High School, said what struck him is the phrase “know each other.”

Those words connote mutual respect and understanding “and that’s very important to keep in mind when we hear when those horrible things happen that attempt to divide us. I pray to God that we don’t get divided, and we face any challenge as a community together.”

McLaughlin quoted US Attorney General Loretta Lynch who called for “action; calm peaceful, collaborative and permanent … we must continue working to build trust between communities and law enforcement … and guarantee every person in this country equal justice under the law.”

“Above all, we must remind ourselves that we are all Americans and as Americans, we share not just a common land but a common life. Those we lost this week have come from different neighborhoods and different backgrounds. They are mourned by all of us,” said McLaughlin, who said his department is “here to serve you … to work with you, to make our community the best community we can.”

As the candles were lit, Robotham read from Dr. Martin Luther King’s Nobel Lecture, and the gathering sang verses from “We Shall Overcome” and “America the Beautiful.”

While Belmont is far from the despair and confrontation occurring in other parts of the country, Robotham said this demonstration was necessary “because sometimes we do need to protest and speak loudly.”

“There are times in our town when there is a racial divide or divisions along ethnic or religious lines and we need to call that out and to make a statement that we do care about dialogue and living with and knowing each other and not just tolerating our neighbors,” said Robotham. 

IMG_3525 IMG_3529 IMG_3531 IMG_3535 IMG_3538 IMG_3539 IMG_3540 IMG_3546 IMG_3547 IMG_3553 IMG_3554 IMG_3555 IMG_3557 IMG_3563 IMG_3564