For some people, dates like Aug. 28, Sept. 11, and Sept. 15, are just days on the calendar.
For others, these dates mark life-altering occasions: the March on Washington in 1963, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., which killed four black girls.
In Berkshire County, colleges and small groups of community activists and compassionate citizens are working to make sure these dates don’t pass unnoticed or without discussion, particularly so that younger generations don’t forget.
On Wednesday, there were no grand 9/11 memorial parades or speeches made in the Berkshires. Some American flags were lowered in honor of those who perished, from the one in the Big Y parking lot in Pittsfield to the one in front of the fire station in Lanesborough, but not all flags were brought to half staff.
On Wednesday evening, the Davis Center at Williams College hosted a special event, "Acts of Terror: From Birmingham Sunday to 9/11." During the event, an abridged screening of Spike Lee’s documentary "4 Little Girls" was shown, followed by a discussion about "alternative responses to terrorism and war."
"We added the ‘and war’ part to the description recently with all that’s going on with Syria," said historian Stewart Burns.
Burns is the assistant director of community partnerships and placements at the Williams Center for Learning in Action, who is also helping to promote the Four Girls Jubilee Project to commemorate Birmingham Sunday on a national level.
"We need to use history in every way possible to try to raise the consciousness of lessons we can learn from these past events which are still so relevant today," said Burns, who was 14 when he attended the March on Washington.
"I took a bus down by myself from Williamstown, because I was very concerned for civil rights," he said. "Then the bombing happened in Birmingham. These were girls who had died that were my own age. It had a huge impact on me personally."
Shortly after, Burns helped form a civil rights committee at his high school, Mount Greylock Regional, and then saw a similar group formed by students at Williams.
He hopes the upcoming events being planned in the Berkshires will bring history back to life.
"Hopefully it will motivate students to begin organizing around voting rights and issues like immigration reform. All these issues are very much interconnected."
This fall, and continuing into 2014, Berkshire County’s four colleges and several area churches and congregations will be the ones to host various events and discussions around such matters of social justice and equality.
The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams will be hosting a talk next week about voting rights. And later this month, it will launch its "Creating Equality" series, exploring civil rights to gay rights and more.
Next Wednesday, Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington will host NPR journalist Michele Norris, who will talk about promoting meaningful dialogue about race and diversity.
Don Lathrop of the Berkshire Citizens for Peace and Justice, who also conducts peace-making programs for the Berkshire Community College community, is facilitating several events this week, including a violence prevention program with the Pittsfield Police Department tonight and a presentation with Burns next Tuesday at BCC.
This past Tuesday, he showed students a PBS film on the March on Washington. "What was interesting to my wife [Marion] and I was that the students really didn’t seem to know who the people involved in the march are," Lathrop said.
"But I was 29 fifty years ago, so I guess it’s relative," he said. "I don’t know much about all the people involved in World War I, for example."
Shirley Edgerton and Don Quinn Kelley of the Lift Ev’ry Voice festival of African-American culture and heritage in the Berkshires are organizing a Sunday morning event and evening candlelight march in Pittsfield to commemorate Birmingham Sunday and youths then and now who have been killed due to violence.
"Because young people don’t know the past, the types of issues they’re confronting now are challenging because they don’t know how to put it into perspective," Kelley said.
"If students become more knowledgeable of what others have done to pave the way," she said, "they might have a great appreciation of the fact that they can go to school and sit next to someone who does not look like them."