Bedford Embraces Diversity opposes all acts of discrimination or hate, regardless of time, place, or group being targeted. While such acts prevail throughout the country and world, our position is that no-hate communities like Bedford cannot accept these in any shape or form. The Bedford Embraces Diversity group was originally formed in 2014 in response to incidents of anti-Semitism occurring on school campuses and in town. One of three task forces formed to represent concerned citizens, Bedford Embraces Diversity (BED), co-founded by Marilou Barsam and Valerie Rushanan, focuses on raising community awareness and multi-cultural appreciation. A second interfaith group was formed to represent the concern of cross-denominational clergy, and a third group was organized by school superintendent Jon Sills to focus on the school system’s curriculum and teacher/student diversity training.
One of Bedford Embraces Diversity’s first projects was to lead residents of the Bedford community in creating a “Diversity Quilt,” consisting of individual drawings that expressed the artists’ interpretations of what diversity and respect for differences meant to them. Children and adults worked on these during Bedford Day and the Bedford Public library hung the completed quilt in the community exhibit area for several weeks. Since that initial event, BED, now a fully operational non-profit organization, has organized three independent “Multicultural Festivals”, which have included keynote speakers, local dance performers, artisan and craft vendors and food purveyors representing the many varied cultures and backgrounds of people that live in Bedford. Now the multicultural festival is a permanent fixture of the town’s Bedford Day. Additionally, for the last three years BED has sponsored a Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial breakfast for the community. These events have featured panels of African –American students, school administrators, or METCO graduates who candidly shared their perspectives on the state of interracial relations here in Bedford and in the country in general.
Currently, the group is focused on building stronger relationships with the Bedford school district and town agencies like the Violence Prevention Coalition to further support an all-inclusive Bedford community. The quilt, our Facebook page, and website, and our ongoing work are meant to symbolize the unity of all individuals and remind us of our obligation to ensure that every adult and child alike feel they live in a safe and welcoming community.