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The Frederick Douglass Neighborhood Association has a dream – and a plan - to

enhance the community garden so it becomes a place of hope, a place of reflection,

a place of  peace, an oasis in a challenged section of the city.  Most importantly, it should

be a place for folks to learn how to connect heroes like Frederick Douglass and

Martin Luther King Jr. to the tapestry of cultures that live in Brockton today –

Haitians and Toussaint L’Ouverture; Cape Verdeans and Amilcar Cabral; women and

Susan B. Anthony; the Irish and Daniel O’Connell. 


In the early days of 2015 we worked diligently on a grant proposal and submitted it to

Mass Humanities.  As the spring started to melt this year's record snowfall, and warm

the garden's ground, we were informed that we have been awarded $10,000!!!


MassHumanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy,

and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts.


The 2015 MassHumanities thematic focus is on exploring how Americans participate in creating the basic social and economic relationships that shape our society – and the challenges to this process past and present.


There are two major components of our "Stride Toward Freedom" Project - first, a community conversation about civil rights and justice and our role as citizens, and then art and signage in the Garden that reflects that conversation.  This will be held on September 20, 2015, from 2 pm to 4:30 pm, at the

War Memorial Building on West Elm Street in Brockton.


Using the title of Dr. King’s 1958 book about the Montgomery bus boycott, “Stride Toward Freedom” our goal is to create a garden pathway so that visitors to the garden can walk the path of Douglass and King and learn from interpretive panels designed by different ethnic groups in our community.  The meaning of freedom, equality, nonviolent civil disobedience, the transformative nature of education are all themes of the panels.  Highlighting civil rights activists from other cultures, the ultimate goal of the garden’s pathway of footsteps is to inspire residents to learn more about the history and diversity of their city, how our freedom fighter icons are connected, and to encourage them to be actively engaged participants in our civic process.


The Frederick Douglass Association is thankful to have the support and partnership of Mayor Bill Carpenter and the City of Brockton as we work on this exciting project.  In addition, we are honored that Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School students, under the dedicated supervision of carpentry teacher Roy Blanchard, are already engaged in the building of the signs, and will assist in the installation.   We could not accomplish this without the generosity of the owners of the land that hosts our garden, Mr. Robert Howard and Mr. Jimmie Thomas, members of Messiah Baptist Church.


Donations have been received from the Just Checking In Foundation, and the Eastern Bank Charitable Foundation.  Our scholars are Willie Wilson of the Brockton Historical Society and currently a teacher at Cardinal Spellman High School, Dr. Joao Rosa, professor at Bridgewater State University and Executive Director of the Pedro Pires Institute for Cape Verdean Studies; Charlot Lucien, founder and co-director of the Haitian Artists Assembly of Massachusetts; and Lee Farrow, Adjunct Professor and Community Scholar at Stonehill College.  We look forward to working with our scholars, their students, our members, volunteers from the BAWIB WAVE program, Helping2Unite Brockton Clean-Up crew, and most importantly our friends and neighbors to make this program a success.


The pathway will lead the visitor through the existing planting beds to the murals.  Each will have a special QR code on it, so that visitors can go to a website and read the narrative in their own native language.  We will also explore the use of a 1-800 call in number posted on the signs that will offer verbal descriptions of the panels to those who are visually impaired.


One goal is that plants used in the garden will be reflective of those in the garden Mr. Douglass maintained at his home, Cedar Hill.   The choice of building and hardscape materials must also keep the challenge of high durability and low maintenance in mind. 


The end result of our “Stride Toward Freedom” project will not only be a garden of information, reflection and quiet respite in the middle of a bustling and diverse city, but also a place where citizens can find common ground and  be inspired to participate in the re-creation of a city that will be beloved by all.











More about Mass Humanities:  Massachusetts Foundation for Humanities and Public Policy, now simply known as Mass Humanities, was established in 1974 as the state-based affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).  It is an independent programming and grant-making organization that receives support from the NEH and the Massachusetts Cultural Council as well as private sources.  Visit or contact Rose Sackey Milligan, Program Officer, at  or at (413) 584-8440  ext. 101












/ Stride Toward Freedom Project
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