Frederick Douglass’ birthday unites students against social injustice

Feb 15, 2018

It was an evening full of celebration as people came together to commemorate Frederick Douglass on his 200th birthday and pay homage to the work that has been done by the Unity House bearing his name at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth campus.

Guy Peartree opened the February 14 event with his portrayal of Douglass, a role he has been doing since 1991. Dressed the part, Peartree gave a speech highlighting Douglass’ fight for equality and the end of slavery.

“The breath of his eloquence and the power of the written word that he was able to wield was incredible,” Peartree said.

In his dialog, Peartree expressed Douglass’ profound regard to educate himself and his fellow man and to free himself and his brothers from the shackles of slavery.

“For one man to enslave another he must strive day and night to destroy the humanity of his downcast brother. In his attempt to destroy the humanity of another he destroys his own,” Peartree said in his portrayal.

The event doubled as an acknowledgment of the Unity House’s use to engage students and further their success.

Natasha Fortes, a senior at the university, said the Unity House has been her second home.

“His vision for greatness within his people is exactly what I feel like the Unity House exemplifies,” Fortes said. “The unity house welcomes everyone with open arms no what ethnicity or even the color of their skin. When I walk into this Unity House I feel a sense of I am home, I am important and I am a leader.”

Fortes will graduate in the spring with a degree in mathematics, and will head to graduate school at Boston College - the first in her family.

Freshman Bryan Nju-ghong also spoke about the Unity House’s impact on his time spent on campus so far.

“It is truly inspiring to my classmates and I as rising students seeing all of these leaders in one place,” Nju-ghong said. “It gives us a model to work toward and a goal to reach and to pass. For me the Unity House is a place of growth.”

Dartmouth alumnus and poet Erik Andrade ended the event with a call-to-action to continue to fight against inequalities in society and question social injustices.

“This is not a time to for celebration, it’s a time for organizing,” Andrade said, stressing the importance of discussing the real issues taking place in society and to agitate action.

The event was a collaborative effort by the Frederick Douglass Unity House on campus, the New Bedford Historical Society, the Black History 4 Seasons Council and the New Bedford NAACP branch.