The Bedford Embraces Diversity group was originally formed in 2014 in response to incidents of anti-Semitism occurring on school campuses and in town. It started off as one of three task forces to represent concerned citizens led by our two co-founders Marilou Barsam and Valerie Rushanan. Whereas Bedford Embraces Diversity (BED)focuses on raising community/multi- cultural appreciation and awareness , another interfaith group was formed to represent the concern of cross-denominational clergy, and a third was organized by school superintendent Jon Sills to support addressing the school system’s curriculum and teacher/student diversity training.
BED , now a fully operational non-profit organization, is opposed to 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.
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 express how the artists interpret what diversity and respecting differences means 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 has organized three independent “Multicultural Events”, which have included keynote speakers, local dance performers, artisan and craft vendors and food purveyors all of whom represent 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 memorial breakfast for the community. These events feature panels or speakers of African –American students, school administrators, or Metco graduates who candidly share 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 Violence Prevention Coalition of Bedford so to support an all- inclusive Bedford community. The quilt, our Facebook page and website and our ongoing work is meant to symbolize unity of all individuals, regardless of orientation, religion, or culture and remind us of our obligation to insure that every adult and child alike feel they live in a safe and welcoming community.