CHICOPEE — Mayor John Vieau welcomed the public to celebrate the impact and contributions of Chicopee’s Black community during a Feb. 2 flag raising ceremony.

The event included multiple guest speakers and representation from the local and state Legislature and other organizations along with the raising of the Black History Month flag by Superintendent Marcus Ware.

“I encourage all citizens to join in the celebration of African American history and culture, reflecting on significant impact Black Americans have made throughout history and their ongoing contributions to our community and nation,” Vieau said.

Last year marked the first year Chicopee hosted a Black History Month flag raising, according to Vieau.

A common theme amongst the speakers was to recognize that honoring Black history should be more than just the month itself.

State Rep. Orlando Ramos’s (D-Springfield) Chief of Staff Ayanna Crawford said,

“As we move forward this month, we have to be very thoughtful and thinking through how are we really celebrating Black History Month. It’s not just a popular term, it’s not just a month, it is something that we ought to be thinking about truly in terms of diversity and inclusion and in equity.”

State Rep. Shirley Arriaga (D-Chicopee) reflected on the leadership and sacrifices that spearhead the fight against discrimination.

She added, “We are here not only today to kick off this great celebration, but we are here to hopefully spread the message that we are inclusive and that everybody belongs. As long as we have racism and all these different standards that people use on a daily basis, separation and discrimination will live but I am hopeful that if nothing else you take from today is that here in Chicopee everyone is welcomed. You are part of the community; we are happy that you are here, and progress doesn’t happen overnight; we are definitely on the right track and together we can get there.”

State Sen. Adam Gomez (D-Springfield) talked about how Black History Month is a time to recognize the importance of racial justice and the history of Black Americans.

He said, “I believe that I represent the most diverse district in the commonwealth having Springfield and Chicopee. We celebrate rich and diverse contributions that Africans Americans have made. I am here to emphasis that Black history is American history every single day. The reason why it is important to respect and understand that Black history is not just one month out of the year, but we have to emphasize and reconnect and tell folks that we are still here.”

Western Massachusetts American Red Cross Executive Director Nia Rennix talked about the contributions Black Americans have made throughout history including in the medical field and how it inspires her everyday job.

Rennix added that she is the first black executive director of the American Red Cross of Western Massachusetts.

“When I think about Black History Month and just Black history in general, I am really reminded of my ancestors. My ancestors that if it were not for them, I would not be standing here. What they had to endure, what they had to overcome, so I am reminded of that.”

Vieau also talked about how Black history is not confined to a single month.

He said, “it is woven into the fabric of our daily lives. It is in the stories we share, the connections we make, and the progress we collectively achieve. Every day, we celebrate the richness and diversity of our community, acknowledging the resilient spirit that binds us together. Together, we continue to build a more inclusive, understanding and compassionate Chicopee.”